Howl’s Moving Castle & Earwig and the Witch are adaptations of Diana Wynne Jones’ books, but only one of the Studio Ghibli adaptations is faithful.
Studio Ghibli has a history of adapting Western literature into feature films, with films such as Ponyo, When marnie was there Y Tales of Earthsea all are adaptations of western books. However, of the various authors that Studio Ghibli is based on, one writer stands out: Diana Wynne Jones. Studio Ghibli has twice adapted the late fantasy writer’s work. The first adaptation, Howl’s Moving Castle, was directed by Hayao Miyazaki, while Jones’ latest work, Earwig and the witch, was adapted by Miyazaki’s son, Goro Miyazaki.
Suppose you have never read the novels on which the movies are based. In that case, you might believe that based entirely on which movie was best received by critics, Howl’s Moving Castle it is the most faithful adaptation. However, the opposite is true. Howl’s Moving Castle diverges dramatically from the source material, while Earwig and the witch it is a totally faithful adaptation.
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Howl’s Moving Castle differs completely from the book
When they are doing Howl’s Moving Castle, Hayao Miyazaki took components from the original novel and then rewrote the story to fit his interests. There are still faithful elements of the original book, mainly in the first act. Sophie is a hat maker who is condemned to be an old woman by the Witch of the Wasteland, a former lover of the wizard Howl. Sophie goes to work at Howl’s moving castle as a caretaker. Calcifur, the fire demon under Howl’s command, promises to break Sophie’s curse if he can void the contract he signed with Howl.
However, everything after the first act of Miyazaki’s movie is almost completely different. In the book, Howl is much more vain, often spending hours getting ready in the bathroom and making up tons of wicked stories about himself just to avoid doing something. While tasked with killing the Wasteland Witch after the prince disappears, Howl only bothers to do so when Sophie goes to rescue Howl’s love interest, whom she believes the Wasteland Witch has kidnapped.
In truth, the love interest turns out to be a fire demon who wants to fuse Howl, the prince, and a wizard named Suliman into a perfect human being for the Witch to marry and become a puppet king. Ultimately, Sophie breaks Calcifur and Howl’s bond, which, as in the movie, was forged by Howl giving Calcifur his heart. They eventually defeat the fire demon, and Calcifur breaks Sophie’s spell, but since he likes Sophie, he keeps the two of them anyway.
There are also a ton of smaller characters that appear throughout the story, adding layers to Howl’s complex world. It should also be noted that there were two sequels of Howl’s Moving Castle – Castle in the air Y House in many ways. The latter was written after the Miyazaki film adaptation.
Why is Howl’s Howl’s Moving Castle so different?
The film version of Howl’s Moving Castle it diverged dramatically from this plot, and some changes are not surprising to Miyazaki. The Witch of the Wasteland makes for a much more sympathetic antagonist, fitting in with typical Miyazaki storytelling style, where the villains tend to be very human characters. There are more flight sequences, plus Sophie’s curse is vastly different, reflecting her perspective on herself. As a result, instead of Calcifur breaking the curse, Sophie’s character arc breaks it. And in place of the prince, the Miyazaki adaptation has Turnip-Head, a scarecrow.
While Suliman is the king’s main wizard in both stories, in Miyazaki’s film, Suliman takes on the role of the main antagonist, being partly responsible for a senseless war. Though still bland, Howl is a much more motivated character, willing to destroy his body through monstrous transformations to wage war. Miyazaki added this war subplot as a direct reaction to the American invasion of the Middle East after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In this context, the film is a clear fairy tale that uses its war to argue the pacifist philosophy.
Earwig and the witch, a faithful adaptation
On the other hand, Earwig and the witch is an incredibly faithful adaptation of the original novel. Unlike the much more complex Howl’s Moving Castle, the plots are a direct one-to-one adaptation, and Earwig and the witch It is a short novel for children. It is the story of a mischievous boy, adopted by a witch named Bella Yaga, as “an extra pair of hands.” Bella Yaga lives with her partner, the Mandrake, an enigmatic entity of possibly demonic origin.
Goro Miyazaki’s movie is incredibly faithful to the original text, which could be the problem. Earwig and the witch it is just a concise and simple book for children. As such, many fans were disappointed that the movie was not another. Howl’s Moving Castle in terms of scope. However, in many ways, Earwig and the witch It’s the kind of story Diana Wynne Jones excelled at: socially-focused fantasy tales. Stories like this usually work best as novels, but not necessarily as a three-act movie.
When adapting a work, sometimes a director needs to diverge to make the story better fit the medium or improve perceived flaws in the original work. Earwig The more lighthearted style draws a lot of criticism from critics, but that style works very well in the original novel. What works in one medium does not always work in another, or at least not without change.
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