Sophie Hatter is the main character in the first book called Howl's Moving Castle. She is a young lady living in the small town of Market Chipping in the fictional kingdom of Ingary. She is the eldest of three sisters (Sophie, Lettie, and Martha Hatter). In the land of Ingary, this of course means that she is destined to never find her fortune, and live a very dull life at home. She works in her late father's hat shop as her stepmother, Fanny Hatter's apprentice.
The eldest of the Hatter sisters. Aged 18, she has red-gold hair and is rather pretty, although she doesn't perceive herself as such. She becomes more lovely as her confidence grows and she stops wearing grey.
Sophie's appearance in the movie depicts her as a young innocent looking girl with brown eyes and long brown hair, which she wears in a plait down her back.
At the end of the movie she has silver hair which is the only effect of the curse that remains, she resembles her young self apart from the colour and length of her hair. Her hair is short because she gives it to Calcifer to help him power up the castle and get it moving again.
Though Sophie is initially reserved and lacking confidence, she demonstrates herself to be a strong-minded individual after she is transformed into an old woman, becoming less afraid of what others think of her. Dutiful, kind, and considerate, Sophie also has a tendency to be impulsive in her actions and often feels guilty when she does something wrong, though her attempts to rectify matters are usually disastrous. It is eventually revealed that Sophie possesses magical abilities of her own - she is capable of talking life into objects, though she initially is unaware of her powers and uses them unwittingly. When developed, they become very powerful, and it is assumed she can learn spells and charms as well.
Roles in the books and movies
In Howl's Moving Castle, Sophie is the eldest of three daughters of Hat maker, Mr Hatter, in the magical kingdom of Ingary, where many fairy-tale tropes are accepted ways of life. When Sophie's father dies, her step-mother Fanny sets her to making the hats in the family hat shop. She turns out to be a great Hat maker.
Sophie's magical talents attract the attention of the Witch of the Waste who mistakes her for her sister Lettie Hatter, and believed Sophie had some information she needed about Howl, and with no answer she turns Sophie into an old woman. Her desire to become young takes her to the moving castle of Wizard Howl. Howl is said to steal souls of the most beautiful girls, which worries Sophie. While in the castle she meets Calcifer a fire demon, and she learns of the contract that keeps him in Howl's house. The demon promises to break the spell on Sophie if she frees him from the contract with Howl. Some times, Calcifer drops Sophie hints to how to break the contract... she often misses them.
When the King decides to appoint Howl to look for his brother Prince Justin, Howl attempts to get out of it by having Sophie pretend to be his mother and petition against the appointment. Howl happens to have his own reasons for avoiding the Witch of the Waste; the witch happens to be one of Howl's many ex-lovers. Sophie soon learns that Howl is not so much a wicked wizard, as opposed to a young man who takes joy in making young girls fall in love with him and then ditching them once they do. Even having first-hand knowledge of Howl's attentions and less than appealing qualities, Sophie ends up falling in love with him, although she is too stubborn to admit it.
Howl tries to avoid falling in love because of the curse the Witch has put on him when he does fall in love, he must return to the Witch. Howl falls in love with Sophie and therefore activates the curse. On the day the curse is said to come true, the Witch tells Sophie that she has kidnapped Miss Angorian, a schoolteacher who Howl has been courting. Thinking that it is Miss Angorian who Howl loves, Sophie goes to the Waste to try and save her before Howl hears about it.
When Sophie gets there, the Witch reveals that it was all a trap to get Sophie to come to the Waste, which has proven successful. Realising that the Witch has taken Sophie hostage, Howl rushes out to the Waste to save her and fights the Witch of the Waste, overcoming his reluctance to do so out of love for Sophie, and wins.
However, the Witch's own fire demon, Miss Angorian, tries to take Howl's heart as the Witch's heart was old and weak. Sophie breaks the contract between Calcifer and Howl and returns Howl's heart. By defeating Miss Angorian, Sophie is able to break the curse and free both Wizard Suliman and Prince Justin. Howl and Sophie admit how they feel about each other and agree to live together.
Witch of the Waste ooze from the walls and chase after Howl and Sophie. After using his magic to fly up into the air, escaping the henchmen, Howl returns Sophie to safety at her sister's bakery. Later that evening, the Witch of the Waste enters Sophie's hat shop out of jealousy for Howl's attention and curses Sophie with old age. Sophie, unknown of the Witch's identity tells her that the store is closed, after the the Witch insults her by calling her and the hat shop, 'tacky', Sophie tells her more firmly that the store is closed.
After being cursed by the Witch of The Waste, Sophie leaves her mother, friends, her hometown, and the hat shop in order to find a cure without anyone seeing and recognising her. On her journey, she meets Turnip-Head , who, unlike in the book, is actually helpful to her, bringing her a walking stick, and leading Howl's castle to her, taking an evident liking to her.
In the castle, she meets Calcifer, where they agree that if she breaks the deal he has with Howl, he will break her curse. Calcifer, who blazes blue and green in the book, appears orange-red in the film. Sophie falls asleep, and awakes to a knock on the door. She meets Markl, Howl's apprentice. Markl is a young boy, opposed to his book counter part, Michael, who is a bit older. Sophie then cooks breakfast meets Howl once again; and she explains to him that she'll be the new cleaning lady whom Calcifer hired.
She takes her job very seriously, cleaning every room in the castle, minus Howl's. While she and Markl are shopping in the market, she sees one of the Witch of the Waste's henchmen. Surprisingly, no one else notices him. She and Markl go back to the castle, where Howl bursts out of his bathroom, his normally blond hair a bright shade of orange. Sophie admits that she reorganized his magic salts. His hair changes colors and settles on black, Howl begins to ooze green slime out of depression and releases dark energy, (which has happened once before, when a girl dumped him). Sophie and Markl clean him up.
The next morning, Howl tells Sophie that he's been summoned to the Royal Palace so he can defend the country in a war. He also tells her that he's a coward and all he does is hide. He then tells Sophie to go the Palace as his mother to convince Madame Suliman that he's too cowardly to show his face. Sophie goes to Kingsbury, along with a ring that Howl gives her, and on her way to the castle, she meets up with the Witch of the Waste.
From here on, the movie and the book differ greatly.
While they are climbing the steps to the palace, the Witch visibly grows older. When they make it inside, Sophie is led by a dog into a room where Madame Sulliman is. She tells Sophie that Howl has been taken over by a demon, and soon it will completely consume him. The Witch of the Waste loses her powers, and Howl arrives in desguise of the King to save Sophie. Before they can get away, Madame Suliman shows Sophie what Howl really is. He transforms into a fierce bird, and before he loses himself, Sophie yells that it's a trap, and he flies Sophie out of the palace. Along with the Witch of the Waste, and Sulliman's dog, Heen, Sophie flees the Royal City on a plane that Howl stole. Howl stays behind as a decoy so Sophie can safely get away. Sophie crashes into the castle, and she dreams that Howl is consumed by his demon. She admits that she loves him in her dream, where he roars that it's too late. Howl arrives the next morning, and moves the castle again. The castle transforms into Sophie's hat shop, along with a new portal, that leads to a beautiful field of flowers. Sophie becomes young again, and she asks Howl if he's leaving her. He doesn't answer, to where she responds, "Please, Howl, I know I can be of help to you. Even though I'm not pretty, and all I'm good at is cleaning." Howl responds, "Sophie, you're beautiful!" At that moment, Sophie grows old again, and an enemy warship approaches the field. Howl destroys the engine, and saves Sophie. Sophie turns the Hat Shop into a flower shop, and her mother visits her. Her mother secretly leaves a little spy blob behind, and the Witch throws it in Calcifer's mouth. He weakens, and is unable to defend the castle when the country is thrust into war. Sophie runs outside, fully young as she has unknowingly broke her own curse, and watches as Howl saves the shop from a falling bomb. He emerges from the wreckage unscathed, and the two embrace. Howl heals Calcifer, and Sophie begs him not to go out into the war again. He responds, "Sorry, I've had enough of running away, Sophie. Now I've got something to protect; it's you." He leaves and Sophie moves Calcifer from his hearth, breaking the connection the castle had to Market Chipping. The castle curmbles, and Sophie places him back in the ruined grate. Despite Sophie's curse being lifted, her hair remains silver, much unlike the book, where Sophie's hair turns red. She gives Calcifer hair, and he grows strong and moves the castle to Howl, to tell them that they are safe. Meanwhile, the Witch of the Waste realizes that Calcifer holds Howl's heart, and she plucks him from the hearth. She begins to burn, and Sophie throws a bucket of water on her. Calcifer goes out, causing the castle to fall apart. Sophie falls over a cliff, along with Heen. The ring that Howl gave her glows blue, and leads to the portal from the castle. She opens it up, and enters the black void that only Howl has been in. She ends up in the past, and witnesses Howl as a child. Stars are falling from the sky, and she runs out to stop him from making a pact with Calcifer. However, Howl swallows the star before Sophie can reach him, and Calcifer is born, with Howl's small heart beating within. Sophie calls out to him, telling him to find her in the future. She is then thrust back through the door, where Howl is waiting for her. He is unresponsive, but brings her to the castle.
She pleads with the Witch to give her Calcifer, and she pushes him into Howl's chest. Calcifer flies out, once more a star, and flies away. Howl awakes, complaining about a weight in his chest. Sophie then replies, "A heart's a heavy burden." Howl remarks that her silver hair is beautiful. Sophie, now full of confidence, tackles him and agrees. Tunip Head turns into a missing prince after recieving a kiss from Sophie, and leaves to end the war. Calcifer returns, and stays with curse-free Sophie and Howl. Sophie is last seen with Howl, the castle flying in the sky. Markl and Heen play in a small garden, with the Witch and Calcifer watching over. Sophie and Howl share a kiss, and the castle slowly floats away.
In Castle in the Air, Sophie and Howl are married and Sophie is pregnant with their first child, Morgan. When she is around eight months pregnant, Howl happens to be working on a divination spell for the King of Ingary when he discovers that a djinn plans to steal the Castle for itself. Howl sends Michael and the new apprentice away, but Sophie refuses to leave with them. She and Howl are arguing about that when the djinn comes, and Howl turns Sophie into a cat, and all of a sudden Sophie finds herself alone in the mountains north of Kingsbury. Sophie gives birth to Morgan while she's still a cat so he is born a kitten. They meet the main character, Abdullah, and a Strangian soldier. While the soldier takes a liking to Sophie as a cat and names her Midnight, Abdullah hates her and is scared of her strange powers. Once Abdullah reaches Ingary in his quest to find Flower-in-the-Night, he learns who Sophie really is. Wizard Suliman turns her back into a human. The soldier runs away to the moving castle taking the genie and baby Morgan with him. Abdullah and Sophie take a magic carpet to the castle and discover that the djinns have kidnapped all the princesses from around the world, including Ingary's Princess Valeria and Flower-in-the-Night. Sophie finds Morgan, who has been looked after by the princesses. With the help of the other princesses, Abdullah, Sophie, Flower-in-the-Night, and the moody Genie, they manage to trick the robbers with the powers of the genie, Sophie's talking powers and Morgan's crying, and take back the castle. Sophie and Morgan are both reunited with Howl who was the Genie and Calcifer who was the magic carpet.
House of Many Ways takes place three years after Castle in the Air. Sophie is a sorceress who is invited to help in the search for the kingdom's missing treasury, mainly because she is Howl's wife and one kingdom cannot ask the help of another kingdom's Royal Wizard. So while they asked for Sophie instead, Howl chose to come along as well in the disguise of an adorable young boy named "Twinkle", claiming to be Sophie's nephew. In the end Sophie helps solve the crime from the prince, and Howl discovers the location of the mysterious Elfgift.
- Some people argue that the power of love was what broke the curse however that theory does not explain why Sophie's age changes frequently throughout the movie.
- One theory is that the curse is heavily affected by Sophie's own confidence and emotions. In the beginning, she sounds like a 90-year-old grandmother as her mother put it and she acts as if she gave up on her own life. But as she finds some purpose cleaning the castle, she becomes slightly younger. When she pointed out Howl's good qualities to Sulliman, she was assertive and forward with her own thoughts. This caused her to go back to her own age. Later when she is introduced to Howl's secret flower field she is full of joy and youth but when doubt began to cloud her mind and she denied herself from being pretty, she went back to being an old woman.
- There are other cases where what she did affected her age in the movie. When she slept however, she was back to her normal self. At the end of the movie, Sophie was ready to be assertive and move forward with her life instead of giving up which was probably what broke the curse.
- Another theory says that the curse was weakened and started frequently changing Sophie's age until it could only change Sophie's hair color when the Witch of the Waste lost all of her powers. And stating that when she was seen the first time sleeping, Howl must have known of her curse and wanted to see her true youth ,and that the second time was only a dream.
- it is also possible that the spell weakens if Sophie is not focusing very much on it, whether actively or unconsciously. For example, Sophie was probably not dreaming about being old, so she returned to her proper age in sleep. Another example could be her visit to Sulliman, since she would then be thinking about Howl rather than herself.