Howl’s Moving Castle: Movie vs. Book


Mackenzie White

Growing up, there is one movie production company that has had nonstop success creating in classic movies loved by children and adults alike: Studio Ghibli. Many staple films made by the studio are My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Ponyo. But one of the movies made by Ghibli that is a personal favorite of mine is Howl’s Moving Castle.

In a world known as Ingary, a young woman named Sophie is cursed by a witch into an elderly age and seeks the help of the young wizard Howl to help rid her of the spell. Imagine my surprise, as an avid book reader, to find out that Studio Ghibli adapted their movie from a book of the name, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne-Jones. I decided to read the book, re-watch the movie, and compare the two and see how the two versions of the story resemble or differ from each other.

One of my favorite aspects of media are characters. Both the movie and the book include the main character Sophie. The book version of Sophie is much more explicit in her character development, yet the movie Sophie has substantially more traits that are admirable. Though book Sophie isn’t unpleasant to read, her stubbornness and normality in her situation are excessive in the book, thus leaving movie Sophie more optimistic and cleverer than her book counterpart.

Another main character featured in both versions is Howl. In the book, Howl is lazier and more dramatic than in the movie. Howl’s development in the movie is crisp and clean, while in the book his arc is foggy and unrefined. However, I did enjoy both versions of Sophie and Howl’s relationship, if only a little more in the movie.

While many elements from the book were central to the movie as well, there were important differences worth noting. The book’s story hinged on Howl stopping an upcoming war with another wizard. On the other hand, the movie expanded on this idea with the kingdom Sophie lives in already in the depths of the war hinted in the book. As always, there are many adventures and side plots that the movie didn’t have time to include. One interesting change between the movie and book is the mysterious location of the black door. In the movie, the door is never really explained, mainly used to transport Howl to the place of the war. Meanwhile, in the book, the door is a portal from the world of Ingary, to real-life Wales. This difference impacted the ending in different, but interesting ways that were entertaining to watch unfold.

Speaking of the endings, I will not give away the endings, but I will say that both endings are mainly open-ended, with a few simple things answered, but other things were either implied for the audience to interpret themselves.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the movie more than the book, especially the characters. However, that doesn’t mean that both versions aren’t amazing and deserve to be enjoyed by others as well. I fully recommend either version for readers or watchers to take a chance at Howl’s Moving Castle.