Sophie Hatter

Sophie Hatter is a fictional character who is the heroine of Diana Wynne Jones' novel "Howl's Moving Castle", published in 1986 and is also a character in the sequels, "Castle in the Air" (1990) and "House of Many Ways" (2008). She was portrayed in 2004 in an animated film adaptation of "Howl's Moving Castle" by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. She is voiced by Chieko Baisho in the Japanese version and Jean Simmons (old Sophie) and Emily Mortimer (young Sophie) in the English version.

Biographical summary

Howl's Moving Castle

In "Howl's Moving Castle", Sophie is the eldest of three daughters of Hat maker, Mr Hatter, in the magical kingdom of Ingary, where many fairy-tale tropes are accepted ways of life. When Sophie's father dies, her step-mother Fanny sets her to making the hats in the family hat shop. Sophie, being the eldest, is convinced that she'll always fail at everything she does, and accepts her doomed fate. However, Sophie turns out to be a brilliant hat maker as she has a rare magical ability of speaking life into things.

Sophie's magical talents attract the attention of the Witch of the Waste who mistakes her for her sister, Lettie Hatter, and believed Sophie had some information she needed about Howl, she turns Sophie into an old woman. Her desire to return to her true age takes her to the moving castle belonging to Wizard Howl. Howl is said to suck the souls out of young girls and eat the hearts of beautiful ones. No longer seeing this as a threat to her person, Sophie enters the castle and takes the job as his cleaning lady. She meets Calcifer, the fire demon and learns of a contract that binds Howl and the demon together. The demon promises to break the spell on Sophie if she frees him from the contract with Howl. Occasionally, Calcifer drops Sophie hints to how to break the contract, though she often misses them.

When the King decides to appoint Howl to look for his brother Prince Justin, Howl attempts to "weasel out of it" by having Sophie pretend to be his mother and petition against the appointment, but to no avail. Howl happens to have his own reasons for avoiding the Witch of the Waste; the witch happens to be one of Howl's many ex-lovers. Sophie soon learns that Howl is not so much a wicked wizard, as opposed to a young man who takes joy in making young girls fall in love with him and then ditching them once they do. Even having first-hand knowledge of Howl's fickle attentions and less-than-appealing qualities, Sophie ends up falling in love with him as well, although she is too stubborn to admit it.

Howl tries to avoid falling in love because of the curse the Witch has put on him; when he does fall in love, he must return to the Witch. Howl falls in love with Sophie (having known she's under a spell) and therefore activates the curse. On the day the curse is said to come true, the Witch tells Sophie that she has kidnapped Miss Angorian, a schoolteacher who Howl has been courting. Thinking that it is Miss Angorian who Howl loves, Sophie goes to the Waste to try and save her before Howl hears about it.

When Sophie gets there, the Witch reveals that it was all a trap to get Sophie to come to the Waste, which has proven successful. Realising that the Witch has taken Sophie hostage, Howl rushes out to the Wastes to retrieve her and fights the Witch of the Waste, overcoming his reluctance to do so out of love for Sophie, and wins.

However, the Witch's own fire demon, (who is actually Miss Angorian), tries to take Howl's heart as the Witch's heart was old and weak. Sophie breaks the contract between Calcifer and Howl and returns Howl's heart. By defeating Miss Angorian, Sophie is able to break the curse and free both Wizard Suliman and Prince Justin. Howl and Sophie admit how they feel about each other and agree to live together.

Castle in the Air

In "Castle in the Air", Sophie and Howl are married and have a son together, Morgan. While she is still pregnant, Howl turns Sophie into a cat to protect her (And their unborn child) from djinns who have stolen the moving castle. Sophie gives birth to Morgan while she's still a cat and, naturally, he is born a kitten. Forced to live in the wild, she feeds him on mice and birds. They meet the protagonist, Abdullah (Who has lost his true love, Flower-in-the-Night, to the djinns) and a strange soldier. While the soldier takes a liking to Sophie as a cat and names her "Midnight", Abdullah hates her and is terrified of her strange powers.

Once Abdullah reaches Ingary in his quest to find Flower-in-the-Night, he learns who Sophie really is. Wizard Suliman turns her back into a woman. However, the soldier runs away to the moving castle, taking Abdullah's genie and Sophie's baby with him. Abdullah and Sophie take a magic carpet to the castle and discover that the djinns have kidnapped all the princesses from around the world including Ingary's princess, Valeria, and Flower-in-the-Night. Sophie finds Morgan who has been looked after by the princesses. Valeria burst into tears from the stress of being kidnapped, but calms down the moment she sees Sophie.

With the help of the other princesses, Abdullah, Sophie, Flower-in-the-Night and the moody Genie, they manage to trick the djinns with the powers of the genie, Sophie's talking powers and Morgan's crying, and take back the castle. Sophie and Morgan are both reunited with Howl (who was the Genie) and Calcifer (who was the magic carpet).

House of Many Ways

"House of Many Ways" takes place two years after "Castle in the Air". Sophie is described as being an "intimidating sorceress" who is invited to aid in the search for the Royal Wizard of High Norland. While she is formally asked to help, Howl is overlooked prompting him to come in a disguise.

Miyazaki's animated film

In 2004 Studio Ghibli released a Japanese animated film based on the novel. Just as in the novel, Sophie is eighteen-years-old, timid and unconfident, forced to run the family hat shop while her stepmother spends the money in Kingsbury. There are some differences though from the novel. In the novel Sophie has fiery red hair and blue-green eyes whereas in the film she has brown hair, which later turns silver, and hazel-brown eyes. In the novel Sophie knows she is pretty, but in the film she doubts her looks and thinks she's ugly, but she actually is not. Instead of having two younger sisters, she has only one stepsister who is a merge of both of the original sisters.

Sophie is turned into an old woman not because of mistaking her for her nonexistent sister, Lettie Hatter, but because the Witch mistakes her relationship with Howl who saves her from the harassment of two soldiers. Her curse appears to weaken whenever she is distracted from, or not aware of it, only to strengthen and return when reminded in some way of the elderly body she is trapped in. This element was absent from the book.

Characterisation

Howl's Moving Castle

Sophie is eldest of three sisters, and because of this, has low self-esteem, believing that she is destined to fail at everything. Therefore she resides herself to a boring life in the family hat shop. Although she is unhappy she is too scared of the outside world to go out and seek a better life. Sophie describes herself as "an old woman or a semi-invalid". She can be strong-minded and has notable authority over her two sisters, receiving praise from Fanny. She is also bad tempered to a point where she insults a customer who is rude to her and the Witch of the Waste who uses it as an excuse to turn her into an old woman. She knows she is good-looking enough to be threatened by Howl, and at first fears that if Howl lifts the spell he will eat her heart "before she can even turn around".

As the novel goes on Sophie begins to become possessive of Howl, exhibiting overly jealous behaviour whenever she thinks Howl is going out to see a woman, such as checking to find out how long he had spent in the bathroom (Because of Michael's earlier remark, "The day [Howl] forgets to do that will be the day I believe he is really in love!") and scoffing the portal to Wales is down (Assuming it's because Miss Angorian is there.)

Sophie is hostile to Miss Angorian by being rude to her, making fun of her "beastly throbbing voice" and refusing to let her into the castle, despite having entered the castle much the same way "and had been twice as nosey". When she becomes distressed over the way she looks compared to Miss Angorian she kills the daffodils by turning the water into weedkiller.

Sophie becomes very confused about her feelings for Howl and assumes there has to be an explanation for them because she knows how faulted he is. At first she assumes that her attraction, as well as everyone else's, is caused because Howl's mourning suit is the grey and scarlet suit that she accidentally charmed into "pull [ing] in the girls". When she discovers the blackened suit Howl is wearing is the blue and silver suit she is furious with herself. Because she is so strong-minded her unwillingness to accept her own love for Howl makes the curse tougher as she starts to think of herself as a real old woman. This is because she believes her looks are a barrier for Howl although he falls in love with her nonetheless.

After finding out that Howl already knew that she was under a spell and attempted several times to take it off, he teases her saying "I came to the conclusion that you liked being in disguise!" Sophie takes this as meaning he not only knows about her feelings but is making fun of her. Sophie falls into a sulk, showing that despite looking like an old woman, she still has the same vulnerability and behaviour of an eighteen-year-old girl. As she begins to come to terms with her feelings for Howl, she reflects on earlier behavior, too. She even wonders whether her attempt to savotage Howl's relationships was out of concern for Lettie, whom he appeared to have been courting, or out of jealousy.

Sophie accepts that she is in love with Howl towards the end of the novel as well as the belief that Howl doesn’t love her and is prepared to leave, pretending that she doesn't care whether the Witch gets Howl or not. It is ultimately her love for Howl convinces her to risk her own life to save Miss Angorian who she thinks Howl is in love with. This is arguably the first truly selfless action she makes in the novel. Howl, in turn, reciprocates this love by facing his fear of the Witch to save Sophie.

Castle in the Air

Since the events of "Howl's Moving Castle" Sophie is lively and confident. She appears to like being the centre of attention as in her form as Midnight the Cat. She is adored by the soldier who travels with Abdullah, feared by Abdullah while at the same time establishing a hold on him, while only putting Morgan's needs above her own.

Her negative traits are that she is bad-tempered, short-tempered and meddling. She bullies Abdullah, the genie, the soldier, and anyone or anything else into doing what she wants. Abdullah is terrified of her as a cat and a woman, seeing her as awkwardly strong-minded. However he is grateful for her being that way as she managed to get them out of tight spots and take charge of the situation. She is a moralist who is very strong-minded and confident. She is clearly held in high respect with the king, who apparently listens to Sophie when she talks to him, and is adored by the king's daughter, Valeria, who calms down once she seems Sophie is there and asks her to take her home. Valeria only obeys the princesses properly once Sophie assures her it was alright.

Throughout the novel her main target is to find Howl, who others have given up for dead, and has faith that she will find him ("I refuse to believe he's dead!"). According to her sister Lettie, she often argues with Howl over anything they disagree on. Nonetheless, Sophie is clearly ardently and sincerely in love with Howl. Despite his faults, she acknowledges them and speaks of him proudly and lovingly. Abdullah describes her as being "most loving of ladies" as he cannot understand why she speaks so lovingly of Howl due to his vices. Sophie reacts in a hostile manner to Abdullah's statement that Howl is viced, showing that she not only accepts his faults but no longer sees them as faults. Instead she sees them as just part of Howl's personality.

Hauru no Ugoku Shiro

In "Howl's Moving Castle" (ハウルの動く城, "Hauru no Ugoku Shiro") she is very similar to her novel counterpart in terms of her background. Her self-esteem is so low that she doesn’t have confident in either her looks or abilities. It is only when she becomes an old woman she feels confident enough to seize life.

Much like Howl and other characters from the original novel, they have been changed to suit traditional Miyazaki characters. Sophie motives are less selfish and her love for Howl is more vocal and traditional.

Magical talents

Sophie discovers she is a witch and has a very special magical talent. She can talk things into coming to life, or doing what she wants. During the book she manages to:

"Howl's Moving Castle"

*"You’re as young as a spring leaf," Sophie says. Mayor’s wife buys the hat and looks like a schoolgirl.
*"You have a heart of gold and someone in a high position will fall in love with you," Sophie says. Jane Farrier buys the hat and elopes with the Count of Catterack.
*"You’re going to have to marry money," Sophie says. Fanny wears that hat and she marries Mr. Smith, a very rich man.
*She talks life into the scarecrow after pulling it out of a hedge.
*She talks life into her stick, which she uses for many things throughout the book.
*She talks life into the human skull on the bench by asking it rhetorical questions.
*She charms Howl’s grey and scarlet suit, saying that it will attract many women. Subsequently, she cuts up the suit believing it would put a stop to her romantic feelings for Howl.
*She talks cayenne power into making a duel a fair fight for the Count of Catterack who later wins this duel despite the fact he was sure to have lost otherwise.
*She talks seeds into growing into strange flowers.
*She talks flowers into staying fresh longer
*Her anger causes water to turn into weed-killer.

"Castle in the Air"

*She changes herself into a larger cat to scare Abdullah and any other enemies in her cat form.
**She appears to charm Abdullah into allowing her to ride on his shoulders - although this might be Sophie's cunning, rather than her powers.
*She talks to the air, ordering oxygen to allow her to breathe better when travelling upward to the moving castle on the magic carpet.
*She stops sound from passing through the walls of the castle when she and the others are plotting their escape.
*She makes the sound of Morgan and Princesse Valeria's cries treble in volume to startle the djinns.

References

*"Howl's Moving Castle", Diana Wynne Jones
*"Castle in the Air", Diana Wynne Jones
*"House of Many Ways", Diana Wynne Jones

ee also

*Wizard Howl
*Witch of the Waste
*Howl's Moving Castle
*Castle in the Air
*House of Many Ways

External links

* [http://howl.fanventory.com/ Howl's Moving Castle fanlisting]
* [http://www.hiiragizawa.net/fan/howlsophie/ Sophie and Howl fanlisting]
* [http://www.lunargoddess.net/fanlistings/sophiehatter/ Simply Sophie - fanlisting]
* [http://sophie-lou.tripod.com Shooting Stars - Howl's Moving Castle Fansite]


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