Howl’s Moving Castle Series (3 books)
Howl’s Moving Castle
By Diana Wynne Jones
1: in which Sophie talks to hats
In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility
really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who
will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.
Sophie Hatter was the eldest of three sisters. She was not even the child of a poor
woodcutter, which might have given her some chance of success. Her parents were well to do and kept
a ladies’ hat shop in the prosperous town of Market Chipping. True, her own mother died when Sophie
was just two years old and her sister Lettie was one year old, and their father married his youngest shop
assistant, a pretty blonde girl called Fanny. Fanny shortly gave birth to the third sister, Martha. This
ought to have made Sophie and Lettie into Ugly Sisters, but in fact all three girls grew up very pretty
indeed, though Lettie was the one everyone said was most beautiful. Fanny treated all three girls with
the same kindness and did not favor Martha in the least.
Mr. Hatter was proud of his three daughters and sent them all to the best school in town.
Sophie was the most studious. She read a great deal, and very soon realized how little chance she had of
an interesting future. It was a disappointment to her, but she was still happy enough, looking after her
sisters and grooming Martha to seek her fortune when the time came. Since Fanny was always busy in
the shop, Sophie was the one who looked after the younger two. There was a certain amount of
screaming and hair-pulling between those younger two. Lettie was by no means resigned to being the
one who, next to Sophie, was bound to be the least successful.
“It’s not fair!” Lettie would shout. “Why should Martha have the best of it just because she
was born the youngest? I shall marry a prince, so there!”
To which Martha always retorted that she would end up disgustingly rich without having to
Then Sophie would have to drag them apart and mend their clothes. She was very deft with
her needle. As time went on, she made clothes for her sisters too. There was one deep rose outfit she
made for Lettie, the May Day before this story really starts, which Fanny said looked as if it had come
from the most expensive shop in Kingsbury.
About this time everyone began talking of the Witch of the Waste again. It was said that the
Witch had threatened the life of the King’s daughter and that the King had commanded his personal
magician, Wizard Suliman, to go into the Waste and deal with the Witch. And it seemed that Wizard
Suliman had not only failed to deal with the Witch: he had got himself killed by her.
So when, a few months after that, a tall black castle suddenly appeared on the hills above
Market Chipping, blowing clouds of black smoke from its four tall, thin turrets, everybody was fairly
sure that the Witch had moved out of the Waste again and was about to terrorize the country the way
she used to fifty years ago. People got very scared indeed. Nobody went out alone, particularly, at night.
What made it all the scarier was that the castle did not stay in the same place. Sometimes it was a tall
black smudge on the moors to the northwest, sometimes it reared above the rocks to the east, and
sometimes it came right downhill to sit in the heather only just beyond the last farm to the north. You
could see it actually moving sometimes, with smoke pouring out from the turrets in dirty gray gusts. For
a while everyone was certain that the castle would come right down into the valley before long, and the
Mayor talked of sending to the King for help.
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|May 30, 2020|