Howl’s Moving Castle embraces self-love in the most magical way

An image of Sophie and Howl with their friends in Howl's Moving CastleNetflix

Hayao Miyazaki explores various themes throughout his movies. One primary theme that he portrays through the female protagonist of Howl’s Moving Castle is self-love, and he embraces this concept in the most magical way.

The 2004 fantasy movie Howl’s Moving Castle is based on the 1986 novel of the same name. Set in a magical world, it touches on several themes, including humanity, selfhood, compassion, and belonging, and its most enduring message is derived from its ideas about war and its evils.

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The protagonist is an average young woman named Sophie Hatter, who the Witch of the Waste curses after meeting with Howl. As a result of the curse, Sophie finds herself looking like a 90-year-old woman. Stuck in a feud between a witch and a wizard, all Sophie could do was leave home without getting discovered by her mother.

The story, like many other Miyazaki films, moves at such a breakneck pace that viewers can spot new meanings with each rewatch. The more one watches this film, the more they are able to understand the deep themes explored in it. Here’s how Hayao Miyazaki embraces the theme of self-love in Howl’s Moving Castle.

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Sophie’s curse metaphorically represents her personality

An image of Sophie discovering her curse in Howl's Moving CastleNetflix

Sophie believes herself to be an average-looking woman with no endearing qualities whatsoever. Lacking confidence, she spends her entire time cooped up in her room making hats for her shop. Though she is shown to have talent in making hats, she seems unaware of it. Sophie’s calm demeanor is shown when she handles her curse quite efficiently.

She only panics briefly and accepts her reality without any hassle and starts planning for her future. Her becoming an old woman is a metaphorical representation of her inner self, who is seemingly more mature than others. Even without knowing what the future has in store for her, she starts to appreciate the little things in life.

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Letting go of her negativity, she breaks free from her shell when she falls for Howl, a cowardly person who hides from the world and from himself. Additionally, Sophie experiences life adventurously and gains more confidence in herself. She breaks her curse along the way, leaving behind her grey hair, symbolising the wisdom she gained during this time. Sophie’s self-love in Howl’s Moving Castle grows gradually within the many events that takes place.

Sophie represents self-love through her magic and curse in Howl’s Moving Castle

An image of Sophie after gaining confidence and self-love in Howl's Moving CastleNetflix

Even after accepting her fate and appreciating her life at Howl’s Castle, Sophie realizes her insecurities remain. This is seen when Howl whines about his hair color, calling himself someone who is “not beautiful.” Sophie flares up and accepts that she’s never been beautiful in her entire life. However, the idea behind her character appears to be the very concept of self-love.

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Even before meeting the Witch of the Waste, she is “cursed” with the idea of being inferior to others. The way she perceives herself is her inner demon. However, she doesn’t realize how important and beautiful she is until she surrounds herself with the right people. People like Howl, Calcifer, and Markl help her appreciate her “true” beauty.

She accepts Howl for all his “flaws”, which makes her accept herself for hers. Sophie’s curse is never undone by the Witch but by herself when she starts loving herself. This is how the concept of self-love is incorporated into the magical story of Howl’s Moving Castle. Despite not having any powers in a fantasy story, Sophie becomes the most magical character with the power of her curse.

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Howl’s Moving Castle can currently be streamed on Netflix. In the meantime, check out our other TV hubs below:

Attack on Titan Season 4 Part 3 | Bleach Thousand Year Blood War Part 2 | Chainsaw Man Season 2 | BRZRKR movie | Jigokuraku Hell’s Paradise | Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 | Sonic the Hedgehog 3 | Invincible Season 2

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