Why Does Howl Want to Be Beautiful?

by Hazel

Hayao Miyazaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle” presents viewers with a protagonist whose desire for beauty is central to his character development. Howl, a powerful and enigmatic wizard, is portrayed as someone deeply concerned with his appearance. This article explores the reasons why Howl wants to be beautiful, examining both personal and thematic elements within the narrative.

Howl’s Character

The Mysterious Wizard

Howl is introduced as a wizard who lives in a fantastical moving castle, traversing landscapes with the aid of his magical prowess. Despite his formidable abilities, Howl’s character is depicted as complex and multifaceted, hiding vulnerabilities beneath a facade of charm and confidence.


Themes of Identity and Self-Perception

Miyazaki’s storytelling often delves into themes of identity and self-discovery. Howl’s preoccupation with beauty serves as a vehicle for exploring these themes, reflecting broader societal and personal struggles.


Beauty as a Reflection of Identity

The Influence of the Witch of the Waste

Early in the film, Howl’s encounters with the Witch of the Waste set the stage for his fixation on appearance. The witch’s curse threatens Howl’s youthful appearance, leading him to seek out magical remedies and maintain his external beauty at all costs.


Insecurity and Fear of Aging

Underlying Howl’s pursuit of beauty is a deep-seated fear of losing his youthful appearance. This fear drives his actions and decisions, shaping his relationships and interactions with others, including Sophie, the protagonist of the film.


The Dichotomy of Howl’s Persona

Charm versus Vulnerability

Howl’s charm and charisma mask inner vulnerabilities and insecurities. His desire to project an image of beauty and invincibility contrasts sharply with moments of self-doubt and introspection, revealing a more fragile side to his character.

The Mask of Confidence

Throughout “Howl’s Moving Castle,” Howl oscillates between projecting confidence and revealing moments of vulnerability. His external beauty serves as a shield against deeper emotional turmoil, highlighting the complexity of his character.

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Beauty as a Form of Escapism

Escaping the Realities of War

Set against the backdrop of a war-torn world, Howl’s pursuit of beauty can be interpreted as a form of escapism. Beauty offers solace from the harsh realities of conflict and loss, allowing Howl to retreat into a world of magic and illusion.

The Illusion of Control

For Howl, beauty represents a semblance of control in an unpredictable world. By maintaining his appearance, he seeks to exert power over his surroundings and defy the inevitability of change, particularly in times of uncertainty.

Relationships and Emotional Depth

Sophie and Howl’s Dynamic

Sophie, the protagonist transformed into an elderly woman by a curse, forms a pivotal relationship with Howl. Their interactions explore themes of acceptance and inner beauty, challenging Howl’s superficial ideals and prompting personal growth.

Growth through Vulnerability

As Howl’s relationship with Sophie evolves, he learns to confront his fears and insecurities. Sophie’s acceptance of his true self, beyond external appearances, fosters emotional growth and self-awareness in Howl.

Beauty as a Reflection of Inner Turmoil

The Conflict within Howl

Beneath the surface of Howl’s charming exterior lies a tumultuous inner conflict. His pursuit of beauty mirrors deeper struggles with identity, morality, and the consequences of wielding immense magical power.

Symbolism of the Starry Sky

Miyazaki employs visual symbolism, such as the starry sky within Howl’s magical realm, to convey themes of beauty and transcendence. The starry sky represents Howl’s aspirations and inner turmoil, serving as a metaphor for his journey towards self-acceptance.

Cultural and Philosophical Implications

Miyazaki’s Commentary on Beauty

Hayao Miyazaki’s portrayal of Howl’s desire for beauty invites reflection on societal perceptions of attractiveness and the impact of beauty standards on individuals. Howl’s quest for external perfection resonates with universal themes of vanity and self-image.

Beauty as a Moral Allegory

Beyond personal introspection, Howl’s pursuit of beauty can be interpreted as a moral allegory. Miyazaki critiques societal obsession with appearances, urging viewers to look beyond superficiality and embrace inner virtues.

Conclusion: Beauty and Beyond

The Evolution of Howl’s Character

Throughout “Howl’s Moving Castle,” Howl’s journey from superficiality to self-discovery underscores the film’s thematic depth. His initial fixation on beauty gives way to a deeper understanding of identity, love, and empathy.

Lessons from Howl’s Story

Miyazaki’s narrative challenges viewers to reconsider the significance of beauty and its role in shaping personal identity. Howl’s transformation reflects a broader narrative arc of acceptance and growth, emphasizing the importance of inner beauty and authenticity.

Final Thoughts

Hayao Miyazaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle” presents a nuanced exploration of beauty through the character of Howl. His desire for external perfection serves as a lens through which deeper themes of identity, vulnerability, and societal critique are examined. By delving into Howl’s motivations and complexities, viewers gain insight into the profound philosophical and emotional underpinnings of Miyazaki’s storytelling.


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