This post includes a character analysis of Sophie Hatter, the protagonist of the 2004 film “Howl’s Moving Castle”.
The 2004 animated fantasy film is based on a novel of the same name written by Diana Wynne Jones. Today’s post is solely based on the film, not the novel.
Howl’s Moving Castle
In “Howl’s Moving Castle”, Sophie Hatter is a young hat maker who runs into a mysterious wizard named Howl, who charms her with his magic and beauty. However, this also inadvertently put Sophie in a difficult situation. Out of jealousy, the Witch of Waste cursed Sophie with old age.
Afraid, Sophie runs away from home. During her journey to break the curse, Sophie finds a magical castle that belongs to Howl. There, she also meets Calcifer, a fire demon who powers the castle, and Markl, Howl’s apprentice.
During her time at the moving castle, Sophie learns that the king’s sorceress, Madame Suliman, is after Howl. She wants the wizard to fight in the war, but Howl doesn’t want to be part of the conflict. In order to escape war, Howls often transforms into a bird-like creature, but his methods slowly cause him to lose his humanity.
Sophie tries to break Howl’s curse by finding his missing heart, which is Calcifer. Meanwhile, Sophie also broke out of her own curse. In the process, Sophie runs into a familiar face, Turnip Head. She gives him a kiss, and he becomes human again.
It turns out that Turnip Head is Justin, the missing prince from the other kingdom. Justin’s return brings peace again, and the war ends. Sophie is in love with Howl, and the feeling is mutual. Together, they build a new life around a new castle that has flying capabilities.
Note: For those who are interested, here is a more in-depth analysis about what happened at the end of “Howl’s Moving Castle”.
Sophie Hatter Character Analysis in “Howl’s Moving Castle”
“Howl’s Moving Castle” presents Sophie Hatter as a young woman who works in a hat shop. Unlike the other girls her age, Sophie prefers to dress down. As a result, the young hat-maker’s choice of clothes is rather simple and plain.
In terms of personality, Sophie Hatter is shy and kind. But she is also incredibly insecure about her appearance. Sophie Hatter is a young woman but she has the attitude of an old lady who often denies herself the chance to feel some happiness in her life.
When her sister Lettie warned about Howl’s weird habits of eating beautiful girls’ hearts, Sophie simply brushed it off. The young woman said she is not pretty enough for Howl, and therefore, she wouldn’t be in danger.
Another instance of Sophie’s low self-esteem was the hair dye incident. When Howl threw a fit because of his hair colour, Sophie got mad and rushed out of the castle, crying about her “awful” appearance. However, Sophie’s real problem was never her looks but how she views herself.
Having said that, Sophie Hatter’s self-esteem and level of confidence were pretty low before she discovered her true potential. Nonetheless, everything changed once she embarked on an unforgettable adventure with Howl and his team, Calcifer and Markl.
The significance of Sophie’s curse in “Howl’s Moving Castle”
The Witch of Waste turned Sophie into an old woman because she was jealous of her relationship with Howl, her ex-boyfriend. This was the curse that changed Sophie’s life in “Howl’s Moving Castle”. Sophie didn’t love herself very much, so the curse lasted longer than it should have. She only broke free from it when she realized her own beauty and fell in love with Howl. Her life became brighter and happier, and she regained her youth.
Sophie Hatter’s Character Evolution
Sophie Hatter and her character go through major changes as “Howl’s Moving Castle” unravels. At first, the young hat maker wasn’t very confident in herself or her abilities. That pessimistic attitude also prevented Sophie from taking risks and following her dreams.
However, everything changes when the young woman meets Howl. She gets to know the mysterious and handsome wizard better and eventually becomes a valuable addition to his moving castle. When Howl needed her help, Sophie did not hesitate and saved him.
After her unbelievable adventure with Howl, Sophie became a completely different person. The “new” Sophie is brave, assertive and someone who is not afraid to speak her mind, which is a stark contrast from her old-self. Seeing Sophie Hatter grow was like watching a butterfly break out of its cocoon.
Along the way, Sophie fell in love and made new friends. While helping Howl overcome his fears and weaknesses, the young woman discovered that she too had magical powers. After facing obstacles and overcoming them, Sophie finally came to terms with the idea that she could also be beautiful in her own way.
Sophie Hatter and Howl (Relationship Analysis)
Sophie Hatter and Howl are two very different people. Nonetheless, their personalities perfectly complement each other. In the beginning, they were just two strangers. However, the two grew closer as they learned more about each other. Sophie and Howl’s bond strengthens throughout the story.
Howl emanates charisma and confidence, which is something that Sophie desperately needs. Meanwhile, the hat maker can teach the wizard one or two things about being more organized and practical in his daily life.
Towards the end of the story, Sophie and Howl confess their feelings for each other and decide to stay together. Things look bright for the couple as they live happily in the moving (and flying) castle.
It took a long time for Sophie Hatter to break the curse because, in a way, she was cursing herself with her own poor attitude. The curse that the Witch of Waste put on Sophie was not only physical, it also reflected how Sophie felt inside: like an old lady.
Fortunately for Sophie, things turn around when she falls in love with Howl. The young woman started doing what she really wanted instead of what people expected of her. In the end, Sophie matures and becomes a completely different woman.
With her newfound mindset, Sophie became a much more confident and happy person who was ready to embrace love and friendship. She has grown from a passive and insecure individual to an active and self-assured heroine with a purpose.