Saturday, November 26, 2011


A few Christmases ago, I brought home a book to share with a sister: Howl's Moving Castle.  This sister had recently been into the movie because it was dubbed in English by Christian Bale.  Another sister picked it up with some interest, read it, and summed it up as, "It's dumb.  Nothing happens.  What is even the point of it?"  I couldn't really answer her question or explain even why I was drawn to it.  But I loved it and still do.

I picked up that book again recently.  Howl's enigmatic character in this and subsequent books always keeps me coming back for another read.  This time I thought about my sister's comments and wondered, "What really is the point of this book?"

I've decided it is this:  You are looking at a magical world where you don't quite know all the ins and outs as related by a person who equally doesn't know the ins and outs but thinks she does.

For one, she constantly underestimates Howl as a wizard.  She never seems to think of magic as his profession.  Ripped suit?  "How would Howl ever learn to mend it without me?"  Except, one minor detail - He's a wizard and can magically fix it.  Dirty Room?  "I'll just wait until Howl leaves for the day and then clean his room"  Except, again - He's a wizard and can show up again any time he so chooses.  Spell on Sophie?  "He'll never figure it out."  Except, you get the picture - HE'S A WIZARD; he can recognize magic from twenty leagues away.

Likewise, she underestimates his intentions and his personality.  She comes into it thinking that he's a ladykiller (eats girls' hearts), a "slitherer-outer" (avoids commitment), and does nothing but gallivant around the countryside (lazy).  How much of this is really true?  It's hard to gauge.  Countless women and mothers and aunts have shown up at his moving castle angry for leading innocent girls on.  Yet, Howl also spends one scene crying because he fears that from one bad decision, he will be barred from ever loving.  He keeps multiple aliases so that it's harder to be pinned down and he even sends Sophie to the king as his aged mother to blacken his name so that he won't be named the king's decreed Magician.  However, the result of all of this is only that he serves three times the amount of people but the book relates several accounts of his aiding the king in the past.  He makes a big show about what he's NOT accomplishing.  However, in the process, he looks for Prince Justin and Wizard Suliman, resolves Sophie's old age aches and pains, works on countless spells, attends a funeral, fights the Witch of the Waste, and puts a lot of effort and thought into helping everyone else's problems around him.  It's hard to just write it all of as untrue but likewise hard to claim that it is definitively true.

It's a fascinating game I play every time, trying to draw closer to the truth and understand what really is going on.

It's like life.  Every day, I hear the stories of people.  It's a hard game to figure out what is true and what is perceived truth.  It's equally hard to take off my own lens and biases to understand the heart of the matter.  I wish I were better at it.

I rather feel like Sophie - getting it completely wrong.

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