Way back in.... whatever year the fi;m version of howls moving castle came out, a friend of me asked if i wanted to go check it out.
I had never heard of it but i figured why not.
and in the end i really enjoyed it, i seem to be one of a few who liked that movie... it's not perfect by any means and from the stairs scene to just before the end it gets a little stupid and the pacing grinds to a halt... but the ending is utterly adorable and i love the character arc. Also the animation and music are really well done but thats to be expected from studio Ghibli.
Now... i am going to have to spoil both the book and the film in order to talk about this cause i can't talk about what i like without spoilers.
So recently i was at a different friends house and i notice she had the novel on her bed. I thought to myself "i have nothing to read on my kindle right now... it's probably not expensive" so i asked her if it was any good and when she said it was enjoyable i ordered a copy for myself.
However when i opened the book and read the first line i was worried. i am having a hard time describing the feeling it gave me but it was almost like it was trying to be the most whimsical thing you have ever seen. now for a fairy tale that's not a terrible thing, at first it was feeling like it was trying WAY too hard. However once i got used to the "sing songy" structure of storytelling i grew to accept it and by the end i enjoyed it.
So is the book different from the film?
to a point.... no. The first chuck is pretty much exactly the same except we have two sisters instead of one.
essentially Sophie bumps into howl in town (though the books encounter is much much shorter) goes to see her sister and then when she heads back to the hat shop the witch of the waste turns her old for 'some reason'. Sophie, who doesn't want to frighten her family, runs away before they see her as a 90 year old woman. Then she comes across the moving castle and bullies her way on board.
so yeah... pretty much identical in both however at this point there is already one massive difference. The turnip headed scarecrow does not stay with her in the moving castle at all. he does re-appear late in the story but for the most part he is not there.
now i can understand doing things in a different order because film is a much shorter and less inside someones head type of medium... but even knowing that i was perplexed for a long time why such a key character was missing from the source material.... yes i felt in the film his resolution was rushed and pretty stupid but still.... i wondered how they were going to accomplish certain things if he wasn't there.
but as i mentioned that was when i thought the stories were fairly similar.... pretty much after that point there was a drastic change.
Again, pretty major spoilers so... yeah
So in the film the second half of the film focuses on the witch who has lost her power, the war and how howl is going to have to fight it, howls true form and how to break sophies curse.
yeah..... none of that, except the curse breaking though it's more focused on howl then sophie, happens in the book.
there is a war that is spoken about but it is not a plot element. Howl is not a bird, he is from wales... we never really hear about how he gets to this land film with magic but who cares... he's from another time and place. the witch does not lose her powers... in fact the witch it the catalyst for the climax.
now... that seems like a pretty massive change... when you take the main antagonist and the cause of everyone's suffering and turn her into a weak old woman simply so you can have the main antagonist be war.... yeah this actually kind of pissed me off. I always felt the "and now howl must fight war cause of reasons" was rushed, unexplained and just silly... it threw off the pacing of the film completely... so to learn that it was never a part of the story.... yeah, not cool ghibli.
the Actual climax is, as i mentioned, the wicth has put a curse on howl as well and it's so that she can steal his heart and create the perfect man to be king and she would be his bride. Sophie, who is also a witch though only recently found out, does everything in her power to try and save howl from it even if it puts herself at risk. she goes to break calcifers contract with howl but worries it'll kill him. however her magic is special and she's probably the only one who can have them both survive.
After giving howl back his heart calcifer is free and sophies curse is broken as well (or at least partially, we are in her head most of the time so when she mentions that she seems a chunk of her auburn hair but ignores it i figure thats when the curse broke but there is no fanfare so it could have broken slightly earlier or later) Howl defeats the final form of the witch and then the rest of her curses are broken and howl goes back to the arrogant guy he was before but you can still tell he cares deeply for sophie and the feeling is returned.
Now i mention this as just kind of popping up but no... it is steadily built over time as her respecting him, her being curious, her being jealous and then finally admitting to herself that she does have feelings for him despite looking like and old lady.
oh and calcifer comes back with the proviso that he can leave at any time to go exploring since he has been tied to that fireplace for so long.
then the book does something i think was handled better in the film. Hwls hair is still unnaturally blond and sohpies hair is back to 'red gold' as she called it.
i liked that in the film her hair ended up silver and his was dark... if hers had gone back to normal nad his had gone natural as well i would have been okay with it but yeah... that was one aspect i thougth was sweeter in the film.
I really enjoyed this book, i don't think i'll read the next one "castle in the air" (which has nothing to do with castle in the sky) for a while cause i have a huge backlog of fantasy novels that have been recommended to me. still i am glad i took the time to read this, it's not very long [makes sense as it is technically a childrens book] and even though it's got whimsy at every turn it never feels pretentious.
also if you haven't seen the Film by Studio Ghibli go see it, it may not be your cup of tea but i still think it's enjoyable.
Howl's moving castle is written by Diana Wynn Jones and you can get it in a variety of ways but i got it as an ebook
also despite my spilers i skimmed a lot of details so yeah... go read it!