#dwjmarch: you can quote me on that

I reread Howl’s Moving Castle for #dwjmarch, or #marchmagics or whatever the kids are calling it these days. It’s one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors and reading it is always a joyful and rewarding experience. I have many favorite scenes and quotes, many of which are very useful in real-life situations. I have listed some of my favorites below, with suggestions on their use.



“But I discovered that people like me- they do, you know, if you like them– and then it was all right.”

Use as good advice for pretty much any social situation.

“I’ve heard of you, Miss Hatter, and I don’t care for your competition or your attitude.”

Use as a good throw-down statement any time you come across one of your many nemeses.

“But I’m surely due to have a third encounter, magical or not. In fact,  I insist on one. I wonder what it will be.”

Use when you know what you want and that you’re gonna get it and if you’re open-minded about the details.

“What a stupid way to treat a building!”

Use when faced with atrocities of architecture, either in aesthetics or utility.

“I refuse to be exploited.”

Use when needed.

“I hope your bacon burns.”

Use as an all-purpose curse, but be aware it is particularly vicious.

“I am a total stranger,” Sophie lied firmly.

Use when you come across someone you have met that you would rather not speak to, e.g. , oh no it’s that lady I met at a party once and I don’t remember her name but she was awful OH NO SHE IS SPEAKING TO ME.

“I’ve reached that stage in my career when I need to impress everyone with my power and wickedness.”

Use when you’re feeling supremely self-confident and ready to take on the world.

“Keep that broom still while I cross my own room, please.”

Use when someone is in your space, messing up your vibes, and you want to show your disapproval.

“I know I’m slapdash, but there’s no need for you to copy me.”

Use when you’re showing someone how to do something and they’re foolishly trying to do it as fast as you do.

“Michael was a nice boy, Sophie thought, but a bit helpless in a crisis.”

Use when describing that one friend we all have that we wouldn’t want to trust our life to in a tense situation.

“Why have you made a jigsaw puzzle of my best suit? Just a friendly inquiry, you know.”

See “Keep that broom still” up above.

“Is that all you can do in the face of tragedy? Make toast!”

Use when someone isn’t taking your personal crisis as seriously as you think they should be.

“Don’t you think I did any of me myself, then? Put in just a few touches of my own?”

Use when others are claiming responsibility for anything good or important you’ve ever done.

“I feel ill,” he announced. “I’m going to bed, where I may die.”

Use when you’re sick enough to feel miserable but not sick enough to go to the doctor.

“I can tell Sophie is in top form at the moment, and I want this room the usual size when I come back to it.”

Use when babysitting or supervising humans of any age whom you don’t trust.

“I have caught an everlasting cold, but luckily I am terribly dishonest. I cling to that.”

Use when you need something to cling to.

“I assure you, my friends, I am cone sold stober.”

Use when those around you don’t trust your frame of mind or decision-making skills.

“You’ve no right to make jigsaws of people!”

Use to show your disapproval of someone’s completely immoral choices.

“All my flanks were weak!”

Use to admit when you were wrong and you have regrets.

The Ladies and Lasses of DWJ: Howl’s Moving Castle

I love this version of The Witch of the Waste, by rozefire on deviantART.
I love this version of The Witch of the Waste, by rozefire on deviantART.

This month is, of course, DWJ March, an all-month celebration of Diana Wynne Jones, hosted by WeBeReading. The theme this year is “The Ladies and Lasses of DWJ” which is a little overwhelming because A) Diana Wynne Jones populates all of her novels with many fantastic characters and B) as you would expect, there are some females in there.

I’m going to try to post throughout the month, and select one book to focus on to showcase some of the amazing female characters DWJ created. For my first post, I picked Howl’s Moving Castle, as it’s my favorite and also the one I’m most familiar with. Below I’ve tried to show the range of characters in this novel without belaboring the point too much.

The protagonist, Sophie Hatter, is one of my favorite characters in literature of all time, and obviously my favorite in this one. A couple of quotes about some of her key parts of her personality:

‘That was Sophie’s trouble. She was remorseless, but she lacked method.’


‘“I’m the eldest!” Sophie shrieked. “I’m a failure!” “Garbage!” Howl shouted. “You just never stop to think!” …. “And you’re too nice,” he added.’

Sophie is hardcore. She’s not a ‘Strong Female Character’ trope, she doesn’t kick butt warrior-princess-style; instead she focuses on whatever she wants to accomplish and then GOES FOR IT with a fierceness that is both fun and intimidating to watch. She is also very compassionate, even to her greatest rivals – she wants Lettie to be happy, even at a big personal cost to herself, and she doesn’t try to ruin Miss Angorian’s life, either.

Speaking of Lettie, one of Sophie’s sisters, she could have been a Mean Girl sort of character, beautiful and boy-crazy and out to take everything good from everyone else. But instead (even though she is beautiful and flawless and boys love her) all she really wants is to become a powerful witch.
‘Lettie looked up, glowing with health and beauty which even sorrow and black clothes could not hide. “I want to go on learning,” she said.’

Martha Hatter, Sophie’s other sister, is good-hearted and affectionate.
“But I discovered that people like me—they do, you know, if you like them—and then it was all right.”
I love how she gets all judgy about Fanny but it’s more her being brutally honest about other people’s flaws than it is about Martha disliking Fanny.

Fanny Hatter is Sophie and Lettie’s step-mother. She is neither the stereotypical Evil Stepmother, nor a flawless Perfect Mother trope; instead she’s just a middle-aged lady with her own life and flaws.
‘Being old gave her an entirely new view of Fanny. She was a lady who was still young and pretty, and she had found the hat shop as boring as Sophie did. But she had stuck with it and done her best, both with the shop and with the three girls—until Mr. Hatter died. Then she had suddenly been afraid she was just like Sophie: old, with no reason, and nothing to show for it.’

Mrs. Pentstemmon, Howl’s teacher, is another older lady character and, though she clearly cares about Howl, is frightening. Fortunately, she uses her powers for good.
‘Mrs. Pentstemmon put both gold mittens on top of her stick and canted her stiff body so that both her trained and piercing eyes stared into Sophie’s. Sophie felt more and more nervous and uneasy. “My life is nearly over,” Mrs. Pentstemmon announced. “I have felt death tiptoeing close for some time now.”’
She does her best to help Sophie and Howl, in spite of her rigid views on the use of magic.

Mrs. Fairfax is another teacher in the story, this time Lettie’s. If you haven’t noticed yet, there are a LOT of mentor-women characters in this novel. Sophie feels some jealousy that Lettie is able to study under her; Mrs. Fairfax is clever in her own way, rigid in her own way, and a chatterbox.
‘She was one of those plump, comfortable ladies , with swathes of butter-colored hair coiled round her head, who made you feel good with life just to look at her.’

Miss Angorian is a terrifying school-teacher demon lady, and if that doesn’t sound like a good time, I don’t know what to say to you.
‘For a fierce schoolteacher, Miss Angorian was astonishingly young and slender and good-looking. She had sheets of blue-black hair hanging round her olive-brown heart-shaped face, and enormous dark eyes. The only thing which suggested fierceness about her was the direct and clever way those enormous eyes looked and seemed to sum them up.’
Miss Angorian is developed just enough to be mysterious and interesting, and pulls off several roles within the story simultaneously, including but not limited to both rival and damsel.

The Witch of the Waste, the villain of the book, is terrifying, formidable, beautiful, and honestly pretty awesome.
“I always bother when someone tries to set themselves up against the Witch of the Waste,” said the lady. “I’ve heard of you, Miss Hatter, and I don’t care for your competition or your attitude. I came to put a stop to you. There.”
She is irredeemable, but she is also a foil to Howl, the hero: the same event happened to both of them, and he could end up just like her if he doesn’t try to redeem himself in time. Even more importantly, Howl could just as easily have ended up the heartless villain and the Witch the hero.

What I Owe to Diana Wynne Jones

It’s Diana Wynne Jones month over at We Be Reading. When Diana passed away two years ago, I considered writing something about what her books meant to me, but I was too despondent, and in the end, just read the many amazing tributes to her by other people (such as Neil Gaiman). But I do need to express what I owe to her, hence this post. 6124248

I became a fan of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki when I was in high school, after Spirited Away came out. When I heard about his next movie, Howl’s Moving Castle, and that it was based on a book, I figured I had better check the book out first. The next time I was at my local Barnes and Noble, I found the book, by someone I’d never heard of before (I know, scandalous) and opened it at random.


“As the million soft echoes died, Howl and the scarecrow were left thoughtfully facing one another across a pile of bones.”

I knew immediately I had to find out how the story got to that point.

Howl’s Moving Castle became one of my favorite books and is still one of my “comfort reads.” I devoured the Chrestomanci series next, as well as the sequel to Howl, Castle in the Air. I couldn’t understand how every single book was comprised of such utter perfection. I read Fire and Hemlock, which I didn’t completely understand at the time, and Hexwood, which was so convoluted, confusing and complicated that of course I adored it (it also has one of my favorite anti-heroes of all time). I read Eight Days of Luke and was inspired by the creative reimagining of old Norse myths. I read Power of Three and was amazed at what a writer can do with point-of-view limitations to tell an old story in a completely new way. I read Dogsbody and The Homeward Bounders and cried over them. I read many of Diana’s short stories and, even when I didn’t love them, exactly, was amazed at the way she tells stories as if they’re standing on their head. I read Dark Lord of Derkholm, and have never looked at epic fantasy the same way again. (I could probably write pages on how that novel is a far better critique of epic fantasy than A Game of Thrones, in pretty much every way and on every level, but I will refrain.)

34286I haven’t read all of her books yet; partly because, now that she’s gone, I want them to last as long as possible. Then again, her books thrive on rereads, as far as I have experienced.

Every single one of her stories that I’ve read have affected the way I read, the way I write, and the way I look at the world. I don’t care if that’s trite or clichéd because it is completely true. The way she twists stories, looks at them from a different angle or gives you something unexpected, made me look at all other stories differently, too. It’s like an exercise in looking at everything upside down and contrariwise. Because of that, Diana Wynne Jones expanded my reading repertoire in many directions, as well. Fire and Hemlock made me interested in fairy tales, Hexwood in Arthur tales, Eight Days of Luke in Norse tales, and Howl’s Moving Castle made me interested in John Donne and English poets. Because of authors like her (Tolkien is another), I developed a relationship with words and stories and communication that will last my lifetime.

18932But that’s not all her books have done for me personally. No matter how sad or dark they can be in parts, her stories always emphasize the incredible power and importance of kindness. Her books make me laugh much more often than they make me cry, and there is always a kind moment even when a situation is grim or a character is feeling discouraged or helpless. There are unkind or evil characters in her books (they reflect reality) but they don’t stop with the “Life is Dark so Deal With It.” The characters in them always persist and endure and find other people who are kind and compassionate (as well as goofy or strange or flawed).

In conclusion: I’m in love with Diana Wynne Jones’ work and I don’t care who knows it. Thank you for everything, Diana.