This year I watched the Studio Ghibli film Howl’s Moving Castle for the first time and to put it simply I fell in love. It’s probably tied with Ponyo as my favourite Studio Ghibli film, which is pretty amazing because Ponyo is based on the story of The Little Mermaid, a story which has buried itself so deep into my heart that it is essentially a part of me – and not just the Disney version, Hans Christian Anderson is my guy. I’ll try and give you a spoiler-free run down of the story – set in world where magic is practised by witches and wizards, Sophie, the oldest daughter of a hat maker, finds herself on the receiving end of a curse from the very powerful Witch of the Waste. In an attempt to lift the curse, Sophie hitches a ride in the Moving Castle of the dark Wizard Howl, who is rumoured in her home town to eat the hearts of beautiful young women. I admit it sounds a bit dark, but it’s a really sweet story full of humour, magic and general loveliness. Also at one point Howl has a tantrum about accidentally dying his hair the wrong colour and proceeds to cover his entire self with slime, which is something I can relate to on a personal level.
So imagine my absolute joy when I discovered that this wonderful tale was not simply dreamt up by Hayao Miyazaki, but actually based on a book by an English author called Dianne Wynne Jones. The very next day when I rolled up to work at the library I put in a request for a copy (gotta get that library promo in. They made me in charge of the displays the other day, I’m basically one step away from running my own marketing department). The book is equally as lovely as lovely as the film, and I would argue a touch wittier. It’s aimed for older children or younger YA readers (although if you too are a 22-year-old university graduate I’m sure you’ll be hype about it too) and would be enjoyed by readers of Harry Potter or other fantasy stories. If you really fall in love, the characters also reappear in two other books by Diane Wynne Jones; Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways. And that’s not even mentioning her many many other books.
Yesterday, I finished the book and I’m not quite ready to start anything new yet. I mean how can you move on from that? That story had magical transporting doors and a talking fire demon, I can’t just switch back to normal fiction! In fact my only criticism (which might be a bit of a spoiler, although a bit of a predictable one) is that Sophie and Howl are actually a little bit in love with each other, despite the fact that they grumble about each other almost constantly. I’m not really about that ‘they fight because they’re secretly in love’ vibe, and I would argue that the film makes it a bit more of a natural development, but that’s just me. If I’m honest, writing a blog about it was mostly just therapy because I miss it already.