12 Small Details Fans May Have Missed
16 mins read

12 Small Details Fans May Have Missed


  • Howl has been looking for Sophie for a long time, which explains why he tells her he’s been searching for her when they first meet.
  • Sophie is voiced by two different actors in the English version of
    Howl’s Moving Castle
    , reflecting her age difference, but this change contradicts the casting decision in the Japanese version.
  • The Witch of the Waste is a spurned lover of Howl’s, which is why she places a curse on Sophie out of jealousy.



Howl’s Moving Castle explained the story of Sophie, a young woman cursed with old age by the Witch of the Waste, and the wizard Howl she falls in love with — who, as it happens, lives in a moving castle. Inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’ novel, Howl’s Moving Castle is an animated masterpiece, but there are quite a few details in the movie that fans might not catch the first time around. When looking for a cure, Sophie works for Howl in his extraordinary castle. The curse causes Sophie’s age to change, magic connects Howl to his moving castle, and more.

Howl’s Movine Castle explained its many themes in a subtle and charming way, from aging, to love, to war. As such, there can be a lot to keep track of, both for longtime fans of Hayao Miyazaki and casual viewers, making it likely that audiences may have missed some of the film’s many details. Discovering such details can enhance the magnificent story, and give viewers deeper insight into the movie’s characters. When these aspects of Howl’s Moving Castle are explained, they don’t detract from the magic of the movie at all.

Howl’s Moving Castle is available to stream on Max.


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12 Howl Looks For Sophie In The Past

Sophie Traveled Back In Time

At the beginning of Howl’s Moving Castle, Howl seemingly meets Sophie for the first time. He says he’s been looking everywhere for her, and it makes sense for the audience to believe he only tells her that as a ruse because he’s being followed, and it also throws off the two guards who are harassing her. The real reason Howl tells Sophie he’s been looking for her, however, is very different.

Howl’s Moving Castle explained that Howl has been looking for Sophie for a long time. Sophie travels back to the past, and the Howl of the past tells her to look for him in the future. He doesn’t know exactly when she’ll find him, and he’s been looking for her ever since.

11 Sophie Is Voiced By Two Different Actors In English

Sophie Is Voiced By Emily Mortimer & Jean Simmons

A split image features the three actresses to voice Sophie in Howl's Moving Castle in English and Japanese: Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, and Chieko Baishô

Howl’s Moving Castle Main American Voice Cast

Sophie Hatter

Emily Mortimer & Jean Simmons


Christian Bale

Witch Of The Waster

Lauren Bacall


Billy Crystal


Josh Hutcherson

The younger version of Sophie and the older version of Sophie are voiced by two different actorsin the English-language version of Howl’s Moving Castle. Emily Mortimer (Don’t Look Deeper) voices the younger version of Sophie and Jean Simmons (Guys and Dolls) voices the older version. While this was done to reflect the age difference, the Japanese-language movie didn’t do this.

In the original Japanese-language Howl’s Moving Castle, one actor voices Sophie, no matter her age.

In the original Japanese-language Howl’s Moving Castle, one actor voices Sophie, no matter her age. That is Chieko Baishô, who has since received a lifetime achievement award for her work in Japanese cinema. This was done because even though Sophie was cursed to appear old, her true age hadn’t changed. The change for the English-language film contradicts the reasoning behind the Japanese casting decision.


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10 The Witch Of The Waste Is A Spurned Lover Of Howl’s

Howl & The Witch Dated In The Past

The Witch of the Waste places a curse on Sophie that causes her age to change because she sees Sophie with Howl. While it initially seems that she does this simply because she’s jealous and a generally bad person, Howl’s Moving Castle explained that the Witch of the Waste and Howl used to date, but once Howl realized who she was, and what an ugly personality she had, he left her. The Witch of the Waste never got over Howl, and still sought out his heart for her own, which is why she is so jealous of Sophie.

Towards the movie’s end, the Witch of the Waste’s desperation even leads her to set herself on fire by holding Calcifer, realizing that Calcifer is Howl’s heart. Though smaller details of the Witch’s story, these moments are how Howl’s Moving Castle explained the Witch of the Waste’s true motivations.

9 Christian Bale Voices Howl

Howl’s Moving Castle Is One Of Christian Bale’s Few Animated Voice Roles

Split image showing Howl from Howl's Moving Castle and Christian Bale from The Dark Knight.

Howl is a complicated character. Part of him is miserable and wants to hide from the world, and part of him is juvenile and self-centered. However, a part of him also cares deeply for others. The film shows Howl opening up and learning to be vulnerable to others. In the Japanese and the English dub, Howl’s voice is charismatic, but it’s easy to miss that the actor who voices Howl in the English dub is A-lister Christian Bale. Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the few animated projects he’s done in his career.

Christian Bale also voiced Shoichi Maki in the 2023 Oscar-winning animated movie The Boy and the Heron.


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8 The Curse Turns Out To Be A Great Thing For Sophie’s Character

Sophie Discovers Who She Really Is

The titular moving castle in Studio Ghibli's Howl's Moving Castle roams the countryside

Howl’s Moving Castle can be explained as a coming-of-age story for Sophie as much as a love story.

When the Witch of the Waste first curses Sophie, she is devastated and embarrassed. She leaves her home, which leads her to Howl’s castle. In many ways, though, the curse is a positive moment for Sophie. Not only does it lead her to the castle and her new family, but being elderly also gives Sophie the confidence to be herself.

Sophie finds that, in her elderly form, she doesn’t have anything to lose, and because of this, she can be true to herself without concern for what others think of her. This is a much-needed change for Sophie, who was previously very reserved and struggled to stick up for herself. Howl’s Moving Castle can be explained as a coming-of-age story for Sophie as much as a love story.

7 The Witch Of The Waste & Sophie Are Opposites

The Two Characters Juxtapose Each Other

Split image showing The Witch of the Waste and Sophie in Howl's Moving Castle.

Despite the movie’s titular character being male, Howl’s Moving Castle largely focuses on its female protagonists. While Sophie is initially meek and shy, she grows into a confident woman throughout the story. On the other hand, where the Witch of the Waste is initially extremely outspoken, she becomes softer and gentler through her experiences.

Howl loves Sophie when she appears older but is very young. In contrast, Howl does not love the Witch of the Waste when she appears young, but hides her true age. Sophie and the Witch of the Waste are in some ways mirrored images of each other, and Howl’s Moving Castle subtly explained that their journeys have a lot in common.


What Happened To Howl & Sophie After Howl’s Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle ended when Howl regained his heart, and Sophie’s curse was broken, but their stories continued in the books.

6 Sophie Has Conversations With A Dog

Sophie Thought The Dog Was Howl

Heen the dog sits underneath a table in Howl's Moving Castle.

When Howl convinces Sophie to meet with the King to convince him that Howl is too cowardly to fight in the war, he promises Sophie he will be close behind her. When a dog starts following her, Sophie assumes it’s Howl in disguise, and, in a scene that includes one of the most memorable quotes in Howl’s Moving Castle, spends the walk to the castle talking to the dog, before having to carry it up the palace’s many steps.

Sophie realizes she went out of her way for a dog she’d never met before.

It turns out, however, that the dog is Madam Suliman’s errand pet rather than Howl in disguise. The revelation is one of the rare funny moments in the film, as Sophie realizes she went out of her way for a dog she’d never met before. In subsequent viewings, Sophie’s conversations with the dog (Heen) are all the more comical when the audience knows that he is truly a dog and not a wizard in disguise.

5 Sophie’s Age Changes (A Lot)

Sophie Looks Younger When She Becomes More Confident

After the Witch of the Waste curses Sophie, she ages dramatically. She stays this way for a long time but also looks younger at other times in the movie. When Sophie looks younger, she does not always look the same age but appears as a range of different ages. When Sophie sleeps, she also looks like her younger self.

While fans will most likely have noticed this, they will probably not have noticed why. While it is never explicitly explained why Sophie looks younger when she sleeps, it can be seen that Sophie appears young in moments in Howl’s Moving Castle when she is confident and advocating for herself and her loved ones. It seems to be this which gradually weakens the curse and, by the end of the movie, when Sophie is happy and confident in herself, her curse is almost completely gone.


10 Behind-The-Scenes Facts About Howl’s Moving Castle

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4 The Castle Mirrors Howl’s Character

When Howl Cleans The Castle, She Reveals Its True Nature

The moving castle floats in the dark sky in Howl's Moving Castle.

Howl’s castle stays hidden and shows different faces to the rest of the world. The castle appears as several different-looking buildings and masks itself to fit in at different locations. The castle is constantly on the move. It moves very difficultly, weighed down by its many compartments and baggage. Howl’s moving castle can also be used to explain Howl himself.

Like the castle, Howl has different aliases in different places, tries to hide from others, and is heavily weighed down by his past. The castle reflects Howl’s multi-faceted character and when Sophie cleans the castle, she also cleans away the layers that hide Howl’s true personality.

3 Calcifer Loving Sophie Is Howl Loving Sophie

Calicfer Shows Howl Learning To Love Sophie

Sophie holds out her hands to Calcifer in Howl's Moving Castle

One of the most likable Studio Ghibli characters, the fire demon Calcifer, takes to Sophie very quickly. Calcifer does what Sophie asks him. This is something that Markl notes Calcifer never normally does. When Sophie tells Calcifer she likes Calcifer’s spark, the fire demon appears to blush and then beams with delight, making the castle move at a greater speed. Throughout the movie, viewers see Calcifer caring for Sophie in a way that is unseen between Calcifer and any other character.

Calcifer is Howl’s heart.

Howl’s Moving Castle explained that Calcifer is Howl’s heart, so when Calcifer learns to care for and love Sophie, it is Howl’s heart learning to love and care for Sophie. It’s easy to miss this detail, as for much of the film, Howl and Calcifer are presented as two distinct characters, but the connection between the pair means that their emotions are linked in some ways.


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2 Sophie Might Be A Witch

Sophie Has Powers In The Howl’s Moving Castle Novel

Howl and Sophie cook over Calcifer in Howl's Moving Castle

One of the biggest changes for Howl’s Moving Castle when adapting the book to a movie was the absence of any explanation of Sophie’s abilities. While Sophie jokes to Markl a few times in the movie that she is a witch, this seems to be just a joke. However, there are several times in the movie that it’s hinted that this could be true; Turnip Head comes to life when Sophie speaks to him, and when Sophie whispers to Calcifer, Howl’s heart returns to his body.

The novel version of Howl’s Moving Castle explained Sophie’s magical prowess as a more prominent storyline.

While this is never confirmed explicitly in the movie, Sophie having powers makes sense. The novel version of Howl’s Moving Castle explained Sophie’s magical prowess as a more prominent storyline, but the subtext does remain onscreen.

1 Calcifer Appears As A Heart Early On In The Film

Howl’s Moving Castle Foreshadowed The Calcifer Twist

When Sophie is cleaning Howl’s castle to be allowed to stay, she removes Calcifer from the fireplace to sweep out the ashes. Sophie puts Calcifer in a pot while she does so, and ignores Calcifer’s pleas to be put back. Calcifer’s flames dwindle, and when Howl picks Calcifer up, he is shown as a beating heart surrounded by a blue flame in Howl’s palm.

Later in the movie, it is revealed that Calcifer does contain Howl’s heart, but on first viewing of the film, this early clue to his true identity can be easy to overlook. Howl’s Moving Castle is full of those easily overlooked details that allow the movie to foreshadow and explain different story points.

Howl's Moving Castle Poster official movie poster depicting Howl and Sophie, and well as his castle.

Howl’s Moving Castle

From Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, Howl’s Moving Castle is based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones. The story follows Sophie, a shy hat-maker living in a fictional magical kingdom who is cursed by a witch into looking like an elderly woman. Leaving her home in search of a cure, Sophie encounters Howl, a powerful magician, and becomes the housekeeper for his magical ambulatory castle. The English dubbed version stars Emily Mortimer and Christian Bale as Sophie and Howl. 

Release Date
November 19, 2004

Diana Wynne Jones

Chieko Baisho , Takuya Kimura , Akihiro Miwa , Tatsuya Gashûin , Ryûnosuke Kamiki , Mitsunori Isaki


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