20 of the best book quotes from Howl's Moving Castle
“Howl was equally patient and polite with customers from Porthaven, but, as Michael anxiously pointed out, the trouble was that Howl did not charge these people enough. This was after Howl had listened for an hour to the reasons why a seaman’s wife could not pay him a penny yet, and then promised a sea captain a wind spell for almost nothing. Howl eluded Michael’s arguments by giving him a magic lesson.”
“More about Howl? Sophie thought desperately. I have to blacken his name! Her mind was such a blank that for a second it actually seemed to her that Howl had no faults at all. How stupid! ‘Well, he’s fickle, careless, selfish, and hysterical,’ she said. ‘Half the time I think he doesn’t care what happens to anyone as long as he’s all right—but then I find out how awfully kind he’s been to someone. Then I think he’s kind just when it suits him—only then I find out he undercharges poor people. I don’t know, Your Majesty. He’s a mess.‘”
“They opened the flower shop the next day. As Howl had pointed out, it could not have been simpler. Every early morning, all they had to do was to open the door with the knob purple-down and go out into the swimming green haze to gather flowers. It soon became a routine. Sophie took her stick and her scissors and stumped about, chatting to her stick, using it to test the squashy ground or hook down sprays of high-up choice roses. Michael took an invention of his own which he was very proud of. It was a large tin tub with water in it, which floated in the air and followed Michael wherever he went among the bushes. The dog-man went too. He had a wonderful time rushing about the wet green lanes, chasing butterflies or trying to catch the tiny, bright birds that fed on the flowers.”
“Sophie got herself to the mirror, and found that she had to hobble. The face in the mirror was quite calm, because it was what she expected to see. It was the face of a gaunt old woman, withered and brownish, surrounded by wispy white hair. Her own eyes, yellow and watery, stared out at her, looking rather tragic.
‘Don’t worry, old thing,’ Sophie said to the face. ‘You look quite healthy. Besides, this is much more like you really are.‘”
″[Mrs. Pentstemmon] had said Sophie was a witch. Oddly enough, Sophie accepted this without any trouble at all. That explained the popularity of certain hats, she thought. It explained Jane Farrier’s Count Whatsit. It possibly explained the jealousy of the Witch of the Waste. It was as if Sophie had always known this. But she had thought it was not proper to have a magic gift because she was the eldest of three. Lettie had been far more sensible about such things.”
“If you knew the trouble we’ve had because Howl will keep falling in love like this! We’ve had lawsuits, and suitors with swords, and mothers with rolling pins, and fathers and uncles with cudgels. And aunts. Aunts are terrible. They go for you with hat pins. But the worst is when the girl herself finds out where Howl lives and turns up at the door, crying and miserable. Howl goes out through the back door and Calcifer and I have to deal with them all.”
“There was a time when everyone seemed to be telling me [that Sophie is under a spell]. Even Calcifer did—when I asked him. But do you honestly think I don’t know my own business well enough not to spot a strong spell like that when I see it? I had several goes at taking it off you when you weren’t looking. But nothing seems to work. I took you to Mrs. Pentstemmon, hoping she could do something, but she evidently couldn’t. I came to the conclusion that you liked being in disguise.”
“As a girl, Sophie was scared of all dogs. Even as an old woman, she was quite alarmed by the two rows of white fangs in the creature’s open jaws. But she said to herself, ‘The way I am now, it’s scarcely worth worrying about,’ and felt in her sewing pocket for her scissors. She reached into the hedge with the scissors and sawed away at the rope round the dog’s neck.”
“Being old gave [Sophie] 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 had died. Then she had suddenly been afraid she was just like Sophie: old with no reason, and nothing to show for it.”
″[The King] was quite alone, like an ordinary person. True, he sat with one leg thrust out in a kingly sort of manner, and he was handsome in a plump, slightly vague way, but to Sophie he seemed quite youthful and just a touch too proud of being a king. She felt he ought, with that face, to have been more unsure of himself. He said, “Well, what does the Wizard Howl’s mother want to see me about?” And Sophie was suddenly overwhelmed by the fact that she was standing talking to the King. It was, she thought dizzily, as if the man sitting there and the huge important thing which was the kingship were two separate things that just happened to occupy the same chair.”
″[Howl] came forth two hours later, out of a steam of verbena-scented spells. He was all in black. His suit was black, his boots were black, and his hair was black too, the same blue-raven black as Miss Angorian’s. His earring was a long jet pendant. Sophie wondered if the black hair was in honor of Mrs. Pentstemmon. She agreed with Mrs. Pentstemmon that black hair suited Howl. His green-glass eyes went better with it. But she wondered very much which suit the black one really was.”
“Sophie looked warily at the demon’s thin blue face. It had a distinctly cunning look as it made this proposal. Everything she had read showed the extreme danger of making a bargain with a demon. And there was no doubt that this one did look extraordinarily evil. Those long purple teeth. ‘Are you sure you’re being quite honest?’ she said.
‘Not completely,’ admitted the demon. ‘But do you want to stay like that till you die? That spell has shortened your life by about sixty years, if I am any judge of such things.‘”
″‘I do not know, nor do I wish to know, about such contracts,’ [Mrs. Pentstemmon] said. Her cane wobbled again, as if she might be shuddering. Her mouth quirked into a line, suggesting she had unexpectedly bitten on a peppercorn. ‘But I now see,’ she said, ‘what has happened to the Witch. She made a contract with a fire demon and, over the years, that demon has taken control of her. Demons do not understand good and evil. But they can be bribed into a contract, provided the human offers them something valuable, something only humans have.‘”
″‘The only chance I had of coming at Prince Justin was to use that curse she’d put on me to get near her.’
‘So you were going to rescue the Prince!’ Sophie shouted. ‘Why did you pretend to run away? To deceive the Witch?’
‘Not likely!’ Howl yelled. ‘I’m a coward. Only way I can do something this frightening is to tell myself I’m not doing it!’
Oh dear! Sophie thought, looking round at the swirling grit. He’s being honest! And this is a wind. The last bit of the curse has come true!”
“Howl was on the tossing, nearly sinking ship below. He was a tiny black figure now, leaning against the bucking mainmast. He let the Witch know she had missed by waving at her cheekily. The Witch saw him the instant he waved. Cloud, Witch, and all at once became a savagely swooping red bird, diving at the ship.
The ship vanished. The mermaids sang a doleful scream. There was nothing but sulkily tossing water where the ship had been. But the diving bird was going too fast to stop. It plunged into the sea with a huge splash.
Everyone on the quayside cheered.”
“The room turned dim. Huge, cloudy, human-looking shapes bellied up in all four corners and advanced on Sophie and Michael, howling as they came. The howls began as moaning horror, and went up to despairing brays, and then up again to screams of pain and terror. Sophie pressed her hands to her ears, but the screams pressed through her hands, louder and louder still, more horrible every second. Calcifer shrank hurriedly down in the grate and flickered his way under his lowest log. Michael grabbed Sophie by her elbow and dragged her to the door.”
“Though [Wizard Howl] did not seem to want to leave the hills, he was known to amuse himself by collecting young girls and sucking the souls from them. Or some people said he ate their hearts. He was an utterly cold-blooded and heartless wizard and no young girl was safe from him if he caught her on her own. Sophie, Lettie, and Martha, along with all the other girls in Market Chipping, were warned never to go out alone, which was a great annoyance to them.”
″[Sophie] settled herself comfortably in the chair while the demon thought. It thought aloud, in a little, crackling, flickering murmur, which reminded Sophie rather of the way she had talked to her stick when she walked here, and it blazed while it thought with such a glad and powerful roaring that she dozed again. […] The demon at length fell to singing a gentle, flickering little song. It was not in any language Sophie knew—or she thought not, until she distinctly heard the word “saucepan” in it several times—and it was very sleepy-sounding. Sophie fell into a deep sleep, with a slight suspicion that she was being bewitched now, as well as beguiled, but it did not bother her particularly. She would be free of the spell soon …”
“They went through and out into the yard Sophie had known all her life. It was only half the size now, because Howl’s yard from the moving castle took up one side of it. Sophie looked up beyond the brick walls of Howl’s yard to her own old house. It looked rather odd because of the new window in it that belonged to Howl’s bedroom, and it made Sophie feel odder still when she realized that Howl’s window did not look out onto the things she saw now. She could see the window of her own old bedroom, up above the shop. That made her feel odd too, because there did not seem to be any way to get up into it now.”