Help with Howl: Rugby, Welshisms and saucepans

HSchinske at HSchinske at
Wed Mar 16 14:29:46 EST 2005

In a message dated 3/16/2005 5:40:12 AM Pacific Standard Time, Gili writes:

> And one last shot in the dark: there's a bit where Howl says to Sophie,
> "Busy old fool, unruly Sophie". I got that that was a John Donne allusion.
> There are also allusions to Hamlet in a later chapter, where Howl says "alas
> poor Yorrick" to the skull, and later "something is rotten in the state of
> Denmark". I'm wondering if there are any other such allusions I might have
> missed. This is the sort of thing us translators dread, the potential for
> humiliation is vast. There wouldn't happen to be anyone here who's prepared
> a List of Obscure Literary Allusions and other Translation Pitfalls in
> Howl's Moving Castle? Sigh. Didn't think so.

I can't think of anything you wouldn't already have noticed, like Sophie 
asking if the land of Wales is under the sea (because of the whales), which is of 
course funny in part because Wales has notably wet weather. Oh, and Gaston 
being the sort of name that a child might think was pronounced Justin. Witch of 
the Waste sounds something like Witch of the West in an awful drawl. "We can't 
all be Mad Hatters" from the Mad Hatter in the Alice books.

Penstemon is the name of a flower. If I had to guess, I'd say she picked it 
(no pun intended) because it was a nice dignified-sounding word and rather like 
Pendragon. I don't know why Mrs. Pentstemmon has two T's and two M's. 

Howl telling himself he is dishonest is also based on Hamlet, I think -- "I 
am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it 
were better my mother had not borne me."  The fair hair and black suit are of 
course also typical Hamlet indicators, and I suppose you could say Howl has 
his Hamlet-ish moments (indecision), though mostly he's plain ham (as in ham 
actor, hamming it up).

By the way, why do Sophie and Michael understand what submarines are (when 
Neil is talking about the poem rhyming "wind" and "finned")? (This is of course 
a joke on the poem having a visual rhyme.)

What sort of name is Angorian supposed to be? I've always thought of Miss A. 
as looking Armenian, but maybe I made that up.

Helen Schinske

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