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HISTORY: A young woman named Sophie Hatter is the eldest of three daughters living in the town of Market Chipping in the magical kingdom of Ingary, where many fairytale tropes are accepted ways of life, including that the eldest of three will never be successful. She is very deft with the needle and makes the most beautiful hats and dresses. She unknowingly talks life into objects. As the eldest, she is resigned to the "fact" that she will have no chance of finding her fortune, accepting that she will have a dull life running the family hat shop; until she is turned into an old crone by the powerful Witch of the Waste, who was offended by Sophie's younger sister, and mistakes Sophie for her. Sophie leaves the shop and finds work as a cleaning lady for the notorious Wizard Howl, famed in her town for eating the hearts of beautiful young women. Sophie strikes a bargain with Howl's resident fire-demon, Calcifer: if Sophie can break the contract between Howl and Calcifer, then Calcifer will return Sophie to her original youthful teenage form. Part of the contract, however, stipulates that neither Howl nor Calcifer can disclose the main clause of the contract to any third party. Sophie tries to guess the specifics of the contract, while Calcifer supplies frequent hints which Sophie usually does not pick up.
Sophie soon learns that Howl, a rather self-absorbed, dishonest but ultimately good-natured person (and an extraordinarily powerful wizard), spreads these malicious rumors about himself to ensure his privacy and smears his own reputation to avoid work and responsibility. The door to his castle is actually a portal that opens onto four different places: the moving castle Sophie first encounters in the hills above Market Chipping, the seaside city of Port-haven, the royal capital of Kingsbury and Howl's boyhood home in Wales, where he was named Howell Jenkins.
Howl realizes that Sophie is under a spell and secretly attempts to remove the curse; when met with failure, he comes to the conclusion that Sophie simply enjoys being in disguise.
Howl's apprentice Michael Fisher runs most of the day-to-day affairs of Howl's business, while Howl chases his ever-changing paramours. Howl and Michael court Sophie's two younger sisters Lettie and Martha, respectively. Martha, the youngest, was sent to study magic, while the middle sister, Lettie, was apprenticed at a local bakery. Magically disguising herself as Lettie, Martha arranged for the two of them to switch places, as Fanny (Martha's mother and Sophie and Lettie's stepmother) did not take their wishes into account when arranging their apprenticeships.
When Prince Justin (the King's younger brother) goes missing while searching for Wizard Suliman (Benjamin Sullivan, also from Wales), the King orders Howl to find Suliman and Justin and to kill the Witch of the Waste. Howl, however, has his own reasons to avoid seeking a confrontation with the Witch of the Waste; the Witch, a jaded former lover, has laid a dark curse on him. Howl attempts to weasel out of it by having Sophie pretend to be his mother and petition against the appointment, but to no avail. Instead of blackening Howl's name as Sophie was asked to do, she gets him appointed the new Royal Wizard, the post he has been trying to avoid for years.
Howl continues to avoid the Witch of the Waste until she lures Sophie into a trap; believing that the Witch has taken Howl's current love interest, Lily Angorian, captive, Sophie goes to save her and is in turn captured by the Witch of the Waste. Howl comes to save Sophie and defeats the Witch of the Waste. He knew all along that Miss Angorian was actually the Witch's fire demon in disguise. The Witch's fire demon had, over the years, taken control of the Witch and, once the Witch is defeated, tries to take Howl's heart to stay alive. Howl is able to stop the demon but fails because Miss Angorian took hold of Calcifer, who had been guarding Howl's heart, and tried to squeeze Howl's heart out of him[clarification needed]. Sophie uses her ability of bringing things to life by talking to them to break the contract between Howl and Calcifer without killing either of them. Sophie has been unconsciously retaining the spell on herself, but her concern for Howl weakens the spell, and with the death of the Witch of the Waste (who was a significant force behind the spell as well), Calcifer, as he promised, breaks the spell surrounding her the second she concludes the contract between him and Howl. She immediately returns to her proper age. When Howl awakens, he destroys the witch's fire demon. This breaks the curse on Wizard Suliman and Prince Justin, whom the Witch had fused together in an effort to create a 'perfect human' (Howl's head was meant to complete the being) to use as a puppet to rule Ingary.
Calcifer returns under the condition that he can come and go as he wishes. Michael and Martha end up together, as do Lettie and Wizard Suliman. Sophie and Howl admit they love each other (without actually saying it) and Howl suggests they live happily ever after as husband and wife.
*History from here.
PERSONALITY: Fairy tale tropes are truth in Sophie's world. As the eldest of three sisters, Sophie realizes she'll never amount to anything and throws herself into ensuring her two younger siblings thrive and succeed. As time goes on and her sisters leave one after the other to seek their fortunes, Sophie becomes unpaid drudge at her step-mother's hat shop. She surprises everyone by being a better milliner than her step-mother. Fanny Hatter quickly seizes upon this and begins to leave Sophie in charge more and more often. It's not long before Sophie cocoons herself within the work room where people won't notice her. She feels increasingly more drab and gray, like she's fading somehow. The more withdrawn she acts, the more withdrawn she becomes. She leaves the other clerks to deal with clients. No one would want to see her. Indeed, she seldom speaks to anyone and grows more and more withdrawn, uncertain and timid. Things become so bad that even the happy May Day celebration terrifies her and she soon scurries home. Life 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.
Curse turns into blessing once Sophie realizes nothing holds her back any longer. The worst has happened. All she has to look forward to is death, so why not live a little? No one notices old women. Even better, no one tells old people what they can and cannot do. For the first time in her life she's free to seek her fortune. Off she stumps. First stop, that evil reprobate Howl. She'll force him to lift this curse on her if it's the last thing she does.
The ever-practical 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 live half in fear, half in awe of her snark. Sophie can't disguise the fact that she genuinely cares for people even if she does browbeat them. It's not long before she wants to break Calcifer's contract with Howl because it will help both parties more than because Calcifer has promised to lift her curse if she does.
In a nutshell, Sophie is responsible, practical, introverted, no-nonsense, plain-spoken, snarky and a secret softy. Old Sophie gives Sophie the confidence Young Sophie never had. and throws that uncertainty to the wind. She speaks her mind, browbeats, voices opinions and bosses those around her. But 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.
Name: Sophie Hatter
Canon: Howl's Moving Castle (Book Verse)
PB: Young Sophie = Alison Sudol | Old Sophie = Dame Maggie Smith
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