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[personal profile] fearthesweeper

{ AGE: Way over 18
{ EMAIL: asongforcrows AT yahoo DOT com
{ PLURK: bemusements (but I've never used it--gasp!)
{ IM/OTHER CONTACT INFO: AIM - minstrelzee


{ CHARACTER NAME: Sophie Hatter
{ CANON:Howl's Moving Castle (Book Verse)
{ CANON POINT: Just before the end of the first book. Obviously, the two other books that feature Sophie (Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways) have not occurred. There'll be no marriage and pregnancy and all that entails. She might still be transformed into a cat at a later date.
{ HISTORY: http://dianawynnejones.wikia.com/wiki/Sophie_Hatter and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howl's_Moving_Castle#Plot_summary. Note: The book is quite different from the Miyazaki movie.
{ ALTERNATE HISTORY: Sophie never falls in love with Howl. Rather, she decides Howl is a man in need of a woman who sees him for what he is rather than a woman who fawns over him like his usual females do. They develop a grudging friendship. She realizes she needs to stand on her own two feet and discover who she really is. Her journey hasn't come to an end; it's only now begun. There is no undying love at the end, only grudging respect. Howl will take Sophie as a student where she'll continue to learn magic. They continue to act like a couple of grumpy old men together, sniping and arguing and laughing and teasing and learning.
{POINT OF DEPARTURE: Departure occurs just after the Witch of the Waste kidnaps Miss Angorian. Sophie grabs her stick, dons the seven league boots and sets off to rescue the woman because she believes Howl loves Miss Angorian and will put himself in danger if--when--he tries to rescue her himself. The argument--ahem, discussion--between Sophie and that slippery, fibbing, slitherer-outer Howl has taken place, so Sophie has only just learned that he's aware of her curse and that, according to Howl, her old woman form is only maintained because she, Sophie, for some reason wants to wear it.

{ APPEARANCE: I'm introducing Sophie Hatter with two forms, her younger self and her cursed, older self. Her canon point occurs not long after she learns that she's subconsciously maintaining the age spell on herself. As time passes (certainly by the end of the novel) the age spell is completely lifted (though I'd imagine Sophie could become Old Sophie again should she so choose). PBs are Alison Sudol (young) - http://www4.images.coolspotters.com/photos/129547/alison-sudol-profile.jpg and Maggie Smith (old) http://images.fandango.com/r92.3/ImageRenderer/375/375/nox.jpg/p66495/images/masterrepository/performer images/p66495/maggie smith.jpg

Sophie is a young woman of about nineteen, slender, toned but not muscular. She has long red-gold hair that she normally wears up or at least pulled back. You'll often find her wearing a hat if available. She tends to duck her head quite a bit, her entire body language giving others the impression she'd like to sink into the wall or run away. She speaks in soft, low tones unless thoroughly exasperated. She's simply not accustomed to dealing with strangers. She's quite attractive, though she doesn't believe so. Her sisters are the beautiful ones. Have you met them?

Old Sophie, on the other hand, is far more confident. It's hard to guess age once one's hair turns gray or white. Still, judging by her wrinkles, the papery skin, enlarged joints and age spots on her hands, you'd swear she must be at least ninety. She's the same height, though stooped with age. Her voice creaks a bit, but there's nothing wrong with her volume--nor with her eyesight for that matter. Howl doesn't call her a nosy old woman for no reason. She's sharp of mind and eye and misses nothing. Sophie uses her stick to clomp along and often exclaims about her old bones and aching back. Don't you believe it. Howl worked spells to eliminate the aches and pains of age. Besides, nowadays the only reason why she's Old Sophie is because she wants it that way. She's still in the process of gaining back her confidence before she can become her true self 100 percent of the time.

{ PERSONALITY: Sophie Hatter is a study in contrasts. When we meet Young Sophie, she's quite a bit different than her elderly counterpart. But is this truly Sophie? Her sister certainly doesn't think so. When Sophie assurs her she's alright. Martha exclaims, "Alright? Yes, you've proved you're alright by not coming near here for months, and then turning up in a frightful gray dress and shawl looking as if even I scare you. What's Mother been doing to you?" She tells Sophie she's far too nice and clever to be stuck in the hat shop for her entire life. Sophie demures and chalks up her situation to being the eldest. After all, the oldest sibling never succeeds. Small wonder she's turned out this way. Near the end of the novel, she tells Howl she's the eldest and thus a failure. "Garbage!" he shouts. "You just never stop to think!"

It's never stated, but I believe Sophie's own talent for talking life and abilities into objects colored her own personality. The more she thought about being a failure, the more of a failure she became. It took the kick in the curse from the Witch of the Waste to force Sophie to turn things around and allow Sophie's true nature to shine through. The confidence Sophie gains while she's Old Sophie allows her to continue to exhibit Old Sophie's traits (Real Sophie) once the curse is "broken" and she becomes her normal self.

As the eldest of three sisters, Sophie believes she won't amount to much of anything and so throws herself into ensuring her two younger siblings thrive and succeed. She sews the dress that makes Lettie irresistible and packs Martha's cases when it comes time for her sister to leave. Once Lettie and Martha finally are off to seek their fortunes, Sophie cocoons herself within the hat shop work room where people won't notice her. She becomes increasingly isolated, drab and gray, as though she is fading somehow. Because the eldest will never amount to anything, she believes she shouldn't even try. Basically, she rolls over and exposes her belly to the trope. The result is her timidity, loss of ambition and lack of confidence. She gives up working in the shop proper where she has to interact with people. Instead, she hides away in the back room and trims hats. It's not long before she convinces herself that no one would want to see her, much less speak to her. The more isolated she feels inside, the more she sequesters herself in reality. She grows more introverted, uncertain and timid. This is the Young Sophie as portrayed in the book.

The situation draws to a head during the May Day celebration. Terrified, Sophie can barely steel herself to visit her sister for even a few moments. She scurries home like a frightened mouse. Disgusted with herself, she decides to turn things around--she never used to be like this. She's all set to desert the hat shop and seek her own fortune when she remembers she's the eldest of three. What's the point? The eldest never succeeds at anything. She's lucky to have the shop to fall back on. Things could be worse. Many an elder sibling winds up dying horribly. Convinced, she grows even more timorous and reclusive. We only get hints about Young Sophie's true personality before she turned herself into a frightened mouse. Sophie uses Old Sophie's (at first) false bravado to brazen through difficult circumstances. Young Sophie as we see her would never have had the courage.

Her situation goes from bad to worse when the Witch of the Waste seeks her out and, mistaking her for her sister Letty, transforms Sophie into an old crone. Sophie changes from the confident, caring and supportive sister Lettie remembers to the uncertain, timid and downtrodden wallflower at the beginning of the novel. Only when she hits rock bottom (and turns 90 in the bargain) does she throw caution to the wind and decide to make her own luck.

Curse turns into blessing. Sophie need no longer fear the worst; the worst has already happened. Nothing can hold her back. With only death to look forward to, why not live? No one notices old women. Even better, no one tells old people what they can and cannot do, say or cannot say, much less instruct them about what they can think or cannot think. For the first time in her life Sophie's free to seek her fortune. Off she stumps. First stop, that evil reprobate Howl. If he has all this time to devour the hearts of hapless young women, he has time to see to her. She'll force him to lift this curse on her if it's the last thing she does.

She "talks" herself into Howl's castle with a determination that sashays over that border of abrupt and right into the realm of rude. She forces her way inside (past the astonished apprentice Michael), crying, 'Don't you have the impudence to shut the door on me, my boy!" She's old, by heaven, and will do exactly what she wants to do when she wants to do it. And if she chooses to barge into a stranger's home and appropriate the comfiest seat in front of his fire to warm her old bones, who is anyone to judge or complain? Certainly not Michael. Whether Sophie's success comes from her sheer audacity or whether it's helped along by a heaping helping from her innate magic is never made apparent. What is clear is that Sophie continues to demand the respect and treatment she believes she (as an old woman) deserves simply by proclaiming what she wants, how she wants it and acting as though by God she's going to get it.

But just in case that fails, she's not above using a smidgeon of passive aggressiveness. For instance, she feigns sleep in front of the fire just in case Michael finds the gumption to kick her out into the cold. When Howl confronts her later and demands to know who and what she is, she jerks her chin and proclaims, "Isn't it obvious? I'm your new cleaning lady." Typical Sophie, brazen through when she doesn't have a leg to stand on. She succeeds partly through consummate nerve, partly through perceptive cleverness (for instance, Howl obviously needed someone to take the filthy place in hand) and, perhaps, through the simple act of declaring something as so (i.e.,magic).

Ever-practical (yet secretly fanciful) Sophie wears her age like armor, waving her stick and bossing others around unmercifully. Sophie has very definite ideas about how people ought to behave and is quick to bully them until they capitulate. Poor Michael, Howl and Calcifer the fire demon live half in fear, half in awe of her snark. At one point, Howl accuses Sophie of being a, "dreadfully nosy, horribly bossy, appallingly clean old woman." Part and parcel with her brashness is Sophie's tendency to jump to conclusions before gathering in all her facts. This allows her to act swiftly, but often she takes the wrong action which leads to later regrets. She berates herself but doesn't wallow. Sophie is a doer. If she makes a mistake, she'll set out to fix it if she can. Sophie acts first and thinks later. She fails to think things through if she thinks at all. She often regrets acting on her impulses, which often make things worse and she winds up regretting she did anything at all. But does she learn? Nope. She keeps jumping in with both feet, not even bothering to look.

In short, Old Sophie possesses so many character flaws it's surprising Howl doesn't zap her. She's rude, opinionated, bossy, nosy and pushy. She wields a sharp tongue which she uses to spout opinions that have no basis, harangue others and chivvy people along to get what she wants. Sophie herself thinks she ought to make herself indispensable so he doesn't kick her out of the castle. Yet, somehow her caring nature always seeps through. She's interested in Michael not just because he's fallen for Martha, but because he's a nice boy. She takes pity on him and helps him solve the homework Howl gave him when he's frustrated. She listens to his hopes and dreams, supports him and fills the role of beloved auntie by the end of the book. When she comes to the conclusion that both Howl and Calcifer would die if she keeps her bargain with Calcifer (which she made so the curse on her could be lifted) she seeks a way to keep her end of the bargain that will spare them both. It's never said but strongly implied (she worries each time another part of the Witch's curse on Howl occurs) that she won't do anything that would hurt the two, even if it means staying an old woman forever.

She holds a deep, abiding love for her family and wants them to succeed. She defends her step-mother and tells her sister that Fanny deserves to enjoy the good life because Fanny spent the bulk of her youth raising Sophie and her two sisters. She can't bring herself to lie to the King or Mrs. Penstemmon. Nor can she turn down customers in need of Howl's magic when he's off gallivanting rather than tending to his duties. If she misjudges Howl and distrusts him, it's because of rumors Howl himself spread that causes her to fear for the safety (first physical and later emotional) of her sisters. Even then (and despite her rolling her eyes over Howl's endless histrionics) she sees the goodness in him by observing him with Michael, Calcifer, his family and his former Master. She empathizes with the falling star when Michael attempts to catch it and pleads with him to desist as its clearly terrified. And, in the end, she abandons any hope of cure for herself, first by electing to leave the castle forever because Howl has "fallen in love" with Miss Angorian and later resolving to rescue that love interest (endangering herself) simply because she fears Howl will attempt to do so himself (thus getting himself killed).

In a nutshell, Sophie is responsible, practical, introverted, no-nonsense, plain-spoken, impulsive and snarky, but those traits can't quite disguise her considerate and kind nature.Decisive and impulsive and possessing definite opinions, Sophie speaks her mind, browbeats, voices opinions and mercilessly bosses those around her--only for their own good, mind! Fine. Perhaps her own comfort is the driving force behind many of her actions, but who wouldn't want a clean house or home-cooked meals or a successful and well-run business? She's still Sophie, and so she still cares deeply about those important to her. She's just a tad more vocal about it. Really.

[POWERS & ABILITIES: Sophie can talk life into objects, though she initially is unaware of her powers and doesn't realize she's doing so. Her phrasing affects how the objects behave both in present and in future. Many of her tribulations come from careless words she's uttered to objects she's been fiddling with. She grows more powerful over time, and becomes a force to be reckoned with once she starts actively developing her powers. As a magic practitioner, it's assumed she can also learn other types of charms and spells.

Sophie has--simply by talking--transformed an old stick she uses as a walking stick into a makeshift staff, talked life into a scarecrow (also increased the speed of its hops) hidden from sight, made constructs and people go away, created hats and outfits meant to fulfill a purpose (find true love, succeed in business, charm other people, etc., created the world's best herbicide, invented totally new types of flora, cancelled out a high level curse and even managed to maintain the one on her from her own force of will. She even forces someone's heart back into his body to prevent him from dying. It's probable she can also affect sentient beings to a limited degree because she bespelled the scarecrow on more than one occasion and somehow managed to maintain the Witch of the Waste's curse on herself simply by "wanting" (believing) it and talking to herself about being an old woman.


Like Harry Potter or the X-men's Professor Xavier, Sophie has one single power with a wide variety of effects. The results depend on what she does with it. In the beginning:

1) Sophie no longer knows she has any power whatsoever.

This puts her back to square one. Any effect she receives is purely by accident. Sophie talks to herself--and other objects--constantly. Her power kicks in if a) she focuses on the object at hand and b) tells the object it either can do x or she wants it to do x. As a player any orders will come because Sophie's talking to herself. She'll be as surprised as anyone else to see something happen and she won't make the connection between what happened and herself. Nor will she believe someone who tells her otherwise. She's the eldest and a failure. No way can she do anything remotely useful.

2) She can only affect fabric, yarn or clothing.

The item must exist already. (She can't conjure it out of thin air.) The charms are very basic and will last from a few minutes to a few hours. Generally, they'll ellicit certain mild reactions from people who encounter the wearer. All charms are transient, lasting a few hours at most.

3) For now she can only place one enchantment on an item.

She also cannot remove that order, though she could conceivably wish it nullified (turning the item into the original object in the process). Exception is to items that she has with her almost constantly (e.g., her walking stick). This is because the item grows an affinity for Sophie.

5) Any enchantment must make sense for the item.

Clothing is used to enhance or disguise or protect. It can't, for instance, suddenly allow you to fly. Likewise, a fisherman's net could catch fish, but it could never become a boat.

Experience earned might allow her to take a replica of an item and transform it into the real thing (e.g., a toy soldier transformed into an armed automaton or a toy boat turned into a person-sized boat.) Secondary experience might allow her to take a similar object and make it do something else. Silk purse from sow's ear, anyone?

6) Healing and other spells placed directly on living objects (e.g., "kind-hearted woman" talents:

These are homey actions someone else may perform. However, Sophie talks to things while she's using them, so her results are just a tad better. Some examples:
  • Fluff a pillow to ensure a good night's sleep or make someone feel sleepy; but not put someone into a deep sleep against their will
  • Make a tonic to perk someone up
  • Brew tea to calm someone
  • Serve homemade chicken soup to help get over a cold

Bonus Round Limit: Time Limit (the stronger the enchantment, the less time it lasts)

Because Sophie hails from the land of Fairy tale tropes, any far reaching enchantment has a time limit. This would be something like "until the clock strikes 12," "moonset," "moonrise," "a year (or night) and a day." At first level, most of her charms last ten minutes to a few hours.

{POSSESSIONS: Walking stick (like a stripped branch, maybe four and one-half to five feet tall [essentially a short, stout staff]), seven league boots, knitting, sewing kit and hat pin. Currently, the walking stick is just a stick. It's Sophie's first item in the book and later becomes strongly embued with magic through association. For now, though, it's just a stick to help Old Sophie maintain her balance. The seven league boots have lost their power (not that they were every very useful. It's quite difficult to control something that zips along roughly 39 kilometers every step. Right now, they're just a pair of overlarge (and rather ugly) leather boots.

{ANYTHING ELSE? I thought for now I would maintain two PBs to reflect how Sophie form has been her own devising for quite some time even if she only recently learned about this. It's still not conscious. Her hold over the old woman form will slip from time to time depending on her level of confidence or her mood. Please let me know if you prefer her to be one or the other instead. My belief that Sophie can bespell living people into believing or behaving a certain way is probably more head canon than fact. The novel never comes out and says as much, but I think it explains quite a bit that happens both before and during the story.


{DREAM THREAD/SAMPLE: From the test drive meme: http://thewakingworld.dreamwidth.org/404.html?thread=11412#cmt11412



Sophie flailed upright. Howl? Surely that had been Howl. She tried to clamber to her feet, but her legs tangled in her skirts. The fabric pinioned her thighs together and dragged her hard to the ground. Something wet and spongy blossomed on the side of her head. A slug slimed its way across her knuckles just as her lids fluttered shut.


Grass blades stabbed her cheek. The odor of musty, dank earth assaulted her nose. Sophie groaned and blinked open her eyes. A beetle waggled its antenna at her eyelashes before giving up and tapping its way back to the loose soil. Her fingers clutched dirt. A grave. An open grave.


Her heart surged into her throat. She couldn’t breathe. She tried to scream, but someone had sewn her mouth tight shut. Lungs screeching for air, Sophie scrabbled and climbed and somehow crawled her way out of the hole. A hole. Just a hole. She leaned on her knees for support and panted. A hole, not a grave, she thought, swiping absently at the bit of brain that hung from her scalp. Lightning flashed and the night flipped dead white then black.

A ragged cross shape loomed in the flare.

And was gone. But wasn’t. Oh, she knew. Still there. CLOP-clop. Not gone. It was never gone.

It was coming. Her heart battered against her ribcage. With a sob, she clutched at her chest and stumbled to one knee then surged to her feet. Uphill through the thick, sucking mud Sophie floundered. She had to—had to—

“Sophie!” Martha and Lettie’s wails cut through the night. Cold, dank fog wrapped round her throat like a strangler’s caress. “Don’t let it get us, Sophie! Don’t—!” their pleas cut off into abrupt shrieks. Sophie fought through the wafting fog. Coming! Hold on! I won’t let you down!


Her breath caught in her throat. One step. Two. Three. Five. A stumble to land face-down in the ooze. Can’t let—! Coming! She shoved her way upright and scrambled through the muck. Lightning split the oak to her left. Through the red glow she saw the Scarecrow angle it’s withered, sneering visage to her before the night turned black once more. CLOP-clop. This time it was hopping away from her.

Towards Martha and Lettie.

The black sutures cut deep into her skin and mangled her lips as she fought to wrench them free. If only she could call to them, let them know she was coming to save them. Her mouth worked helplessly against the stitching, but the threads refused to loose their grip. Please don’t hurt them! she sobbed. I’ll do anything! Lightning ignited the stormy sky just as Sophie crested the hill. She saw Maggie and Lettie chained to posts. The Scarecrow towered over them like a judge presiding over court. Sophie dropped to her knees and scrabbled through the leaf mold in search of a weapon, a lever, anything to break them free before--! Her hands closed tight round a stout branch. I'm coming! She pushed herself upright.

CLOP-clop. CLOP-clop.

Sophie’s heart slammed still. No—! She lifted fists to her eyes and scrubbed. One. Two. …three. Not legs, not skirts. Sticks. Shriveled flesh of their cheeks hung in white and crimson tatters. Brown and yellow clumps where hair ought to be. Too late. She was too late. The words sighed around her like dead wind as the trio clumped towards her. She turned to run but her legs suddenly fused together. She toppled over, blinking up stupidly into the night rain.

CLOP-clop. CLOP-clop. CLOP-clop.

Lightning flashed once more. The Scarecrow, turnip skull leering, bent over her. Maggot tongue swung from where no lips should be and licked her from chin to brow. The Things her Sisters shambled close beside him. Late! The word exploded inside her head as Not Lettie leaped high and pierced her palm with its stick. Good for nothing! Shrieked Not Martha as its stick slashed through the flesh of her thigh. We counted on you, both screamed in her mind as they ground their sticks into her wounds. The Scarecrow angled its foul visage nearer. The stench of rot and decay filled her nostrils and made her gag deep in her throat. Pretty failure, it purred, showing her what she’d always known in her heart to be true.

Scarecrows have teeth.


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Sophie Hatter

April 2014

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