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“Well, the nice thing about being old is you’ve got nothing much to lose.”
—Sophie

Sophie Hatter (ソフィー・ハッター, Sofī Hattā) is the main protagonist of Howl's Moving Castle. Her given name is retained in both the English version and the Japanese version. She runs her family's hat shop in Market Chipping. When the Witch of the Waste casts a curse on her, turning her into an old woman, Sophie goes to the wastelands in search of a cure. She is voiced by Chieko Baisho in Japanese and Emily Mortimer as young Sophie and the late Jean Simmons as elder Sophie in the Disney dub.

Appearance

Sophie at her workshop.

Sophie is a relatively plain looking 18-year-old woman who works at her father's hat shop. She has big brown eyes and matching hair, tied with two pink ribbons, in a long braid. She has thick eyebrows, and Howl says that her smile is beautiful. She wears a cerulean dress with a white neck and black buttons.

After receiving a curse by the Witch of the Waste, she is transformed into a 90-year-old woman. She adapts quickly to her situation, admitting she has become more cunning in her old age. As elder Sophie, she continues to wear her cerulean dress, pairing it with a straw hat adorned with a red ribbon.

Elder Sophie vigorously cleaning Howl's castle.

Due to her love for Howl, Sophie de-ages depending on her emotional state. When defending Howl to Sullivan, Sophie briefly regains her original appearance, but turns back after. Throughout the rest of the film, her old form doesn't suffer back pain and she stands straighter; her wrinkles also smoothen. Sophie's braid is shorter in her old form.

Her hair becomes silver as a side effect of the curse; Howl likes it because it looks like starlight. She later cuts her hair and gives it to Calcifer in order to move the castle. Afterward she tucks her shoulder-length hair behind her ears.

Personality

Sophie is a reserved, plain-looking young woman. She is far too mature and serious for her age, much to the chagrin of her sister Lettie and stepmother Honey. Tired of wizard Howl's indolence, she initiates cleaning his castle. She develops feelings for the poor, cowardly wizard. She also serves as a maternal figure to Markl and a friend to Calcifer and Turnip Head. Despite her misgivings, she ends up tolerating the Witch of the Waste after she is turned feeble by the royal sorceress Madame Suliman.

Behind The Scenes

Early concepts of elder Sophie by Takeshi Inamura felt like they 'didn't resemble Sophie'.

Supervising animator Takeshi Inamura handled many of the initial character sketches, "At first, I drew her as if she were merely an older version of Sophie, but then she didn't resemble 'Sophie' at all. So I thought it might be better to draw the aged Sophie as representing Sophie's personality. The drawings became more 'Sophie-like' once I managed to convey Sophie's personality as an old lady.[1]

Michiyo Yasuda elaborated on choosing the right colors for Sophie's design, "I was determined to make the aged Sophie look cute, but I had to dismiss that approach almost immediately. She simply wouldn't look old without her skin being wrinkled and blemished. She might appear plain, but I made sureshe would have the appeal of a refined old lady. I would alter the colors according to each scene. For example, when she cheerfully cleans the rooms, I added some brightness to her skin and clothes. I did the same with the Witch of the Waste when she's stunned afte rlosing her magical power, but then ends up becoming kind. I wanted to make her buoyant there. I've taken this approach ih previous films, but in this one I really worked on conveying the emotional developments with colors in minute detail.[2]

Explorator sketches of Sophie.

Yasuda also explained how a character's color hues changes according to their emotional development, and even why Sophie's hair remains white in the film, "In order to determine colors I always take into consideration the personality and emotional development of each character and the director's aim. But the characters in this film change so much physically from scene to scene the emotional development can be equally drastic. I changed the colors in detail with every change. For example, Sophie turns into an old lady and then becomes young again, but by then she's experienced so many things, including her encounter with Howl. I felt she had changed dramatically from who she was at the beginning of the film. I left Sophie's hair white in the scene where she suddenly becomes young again in the high moor scene with Howl's hideaway hut, and it turned out right. Miyazaki also agreed and suggested, "How about we just keep her hair white,", so we kept her hair that way in the second half of the film. But the hue of her white hair differs from the hue of her aged hair.[3]

Relationships

  • Honey (mother): A loving mother, a loving daughter. They have a good relationship but betrays Sophie at the end, which she truly regrets doing.
  • Lettie Hatter (sister): They treat each other with kindness.
  • Markl (apprentice): Almost like a son to her.
  • Howl Jenkins Pendragon (wizard): At first, they don't seem to like each other much, and simply view each other like strangers. But later, the two fall in love, and marry at the end of the movie. In the sequel (novel), they have a son.
  • Calcifer (fire demon) Sophie and Calcifer are relatively good friends as he is the first one to know about her curse.

References

  1. "The Art of Howl's Moving Castle", p.68
  2. "The Art of Howl's Moving Castle", p.67
  3. "The Art of Howl's Moving Castle", p.69

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