Howl's Moving Castle

Gili Bar-Hillel gbhillel at
Thu Dec 16 04:38:41 EST 2004

Now that I'm translating "Howl's Moving Castle", so soon after translating
"The Wizard of Oz", I'm once more made acutely aware of the little homages
to Oz scattered throughout Howl. The Wicked Witch of the Waste is such an
obvious play on the Wicked Witch of the West, it hardly needs mentioning.
Several other hints and parallels are clear, such as the animated scarecrow,
the dog companion, the journey to see a mysterious wizard, the significance
of colors as geographical markers. But I'm discovering new bits I hadn't
been aware of before. Compare the following two excerpts, descriptions of
Sophie and Dorothy setting out on their respective journeys:

Sophie: ..."'This grey dress is quite suitable, but I shall need my shawl
and some food.' ... She hobbled to collect her shawl, and wrapped it over
her head and shoulders, as old women did. then she shuffled through into the
house, where she collected her purse with a few coins in it and a parcel of
bread and cheese. She let herself out of the house, carefully hiding the key
in the usual place, and hobbled away down the street, surprised at how calm
she still felt."

Dorothy: "Dorothy had only one other dress, but that happened to be clean
and handing on a peg beside her bed. It was gingham, with checks of white
and blue; and although the blue was somewhat faded with many washings, it
was still a pretty frock. The girl washed herself carefully, dressed herself
in the clean gingham, and tied her pink sunbonnet on her head. She took a
little basket and filled it with bread from the cupboard, laying a white
cloth over the top. ... She closed the door, locked it, and put the key
carefully in the pocket of her dress. And so, with Toto trotting along
soberly behind her, she started on her journey."

Note how matter of fact and calm they both are, both diligent about the key,
both with a mind to practicality. Dorothy has a blue-and white dress,
because she was previously described as the only spot of color in her grey
surroundings. Sophie is just the opposite: the only patch of grey in the
multi-colored May Day celebrations of Market Chipping. I've always though
"Howl" to be the Ozziest of DWJ's books, and being a big Oz fan, I find this
very endearing.


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