[DWJ] Hello again, and beards

Janet Eastwood janet.eastwood at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 15 01:08:15 EDT 2014

Me too! I got to his age in years and days, and then the problems of midsummer, leap years, and months (30/31 days) defeated me. Math is not my strong suit. 
Sophie also is given an unusually precise age, although she isn't actually 18 for most of the book. Charmain's age is given by inference as well - she has just completed year 10, which places her at 14 or 15 during her adventures, depending on whether her birthday is before or after the summer. (This is assuming that House of Many Ways takes place during the summer, but this seems logical as Charmain is not in school at the time, there are abundant flowers on the mountains and blossoming hydrangeas outside Great Uncle William's house, and she is able to convince her mother that her letter from the king is her leaving certificate, just in case she leaves school after year 10.) 
Actually, I wonder whether as Old Sophie her age is 78 or 90. We know that Sophie is 18. Calcifer tells her that the Witch of the Waste's curse has taken 60 years from her life, which would make Sophie 78. However, Sophie repeatedly claims to be and refers to herself as 90. Sophie's conversational magic makes what she says come true, and Howl and Calcifer confirm that the age-curse has two layers, the Witch's and Sophie's own. This can be read as the first layer (the Witch's) being reinforced, but not otherwise altered by the second (Sophie's). It can also be read as the first layer (the Witch taking 60 years) being augmented by the second (Sophie making herself 90, i.e. taking a further 12 years off her own life). 
Anyway, thanks, Eleanor, for calculating so precisely! I enjoy celebrating, if quietly and by myself, the birthdays of fictional characters, which does depend on having a known birth day :)
Are there any other books where the ages and dates are given so precisely? My impression is that DWJ mostly keeps age implied, and adjustable according to the reader's preference. 

> ------------------------------
> Message: 8
> Date: Sun, 14 Sep 2014 18:41:16 -0400
> From: Nic W <eawil3 at email.wm.edu>
> To: Diana Wynne Jones discussion <dwj at suberic.net>
> Subject: Re: [DWJ] Hello again, and beards
> Message-ID:
> 	<CAP47DS6gq47B12fkLKCt0bau0pfFLmA2ga3ByBq0V-BHYkLYHg at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
> Haha, I once worked out his age, too, though I didn't go so far as his
> birthday.  Hats off to you!
> - Nic
> On Sun, Sep 14, 2014 at 6:17 PM, Eleanor Joslin <eleanor at dreamvine.org.uk>
> wrote:
> > OK, the Witch of the Waste's curse on Howl is based on that John Donne
> > poem, one line of which is "Ride ten thousand days and nights".  This is
> > where I use my inborn talent for opening books at exactly the right page
> > without trying, and find the end of chapter 11, just after Miss Angorian
> > has been reading him the poem:
> >
> >         "Oh, nothing," Howl said airily, leading the way back to the
> > yellow house called RIVENDELL.  "The Witch of the Waste has caught up with
> > me with her curse, that's all."  He seemed to be calculating or doing sums
> > in his head while he opened the garden gate.  "Ten thousand," Sophie heard
> > him murmur.  "That brings it to about Midsummer Day."
> >         "What is brought to Midsummer Day?" asked Sophie.
> >         "The time I'll be ten thousand days old," Howl said.  "And that,
> > Mrs. Nose," he said, swinging into the garden of Rivendell, "is the day I
> > shall have to go back to the Witch of the Waste."
> >
> > Now 28 years is 10,227 days (the number of leap years is fixed at 7 -
> > since the Wales bit is clearly modern, we can ignore the 100-year rule).
> > Midsummer Day is defined in different ways - I picked 23 June.  Howl's 28th
> > birthday falls 227 days after that, which takes it to 5 February the next
> > year.
> >
> > Eleanor


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