Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Character Analysis: Howl Pendragon

HOWL PENDRAGON: Is he the ideal husband?

Wizard Howl is one of the feature characters of Diana Wynne Jones’s novels Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Air, and House of Many Ways. Please take note that this analysis is regarding the book version, and not the anime adaptation by Hayao Miyazaki. This is an important distinction because the book is almost entirely different from the anime.

Howl Pendragon’s character framework is very charismatic. First, he has a natural genius for magic. This is obvious in several occasions -- he has been the student of Mrs. Pentstemmon, he and his castle are widely feared in all of Kingsbury, and he is being considered to be the Royal Wizard of the kingdom.

Second, he has a very engaging personality. He is generally upbeat, and the most interesting part is that he still manages to give the impression of dominance.

Howl is so charismatic that practically every young woman who has read the books falls in love with him. I understand if they have fallen in love with Howl if his character framework is the only factor to be considered, but when I look into Howl deeper, it is definitely open to argument.

Howl is extremely vain. He wears fancy grey-and-scarlet suits every time he goes out. He claims that the reason for this is that nobody is going to employ a wizard who doesn’t look like he’s earning money from it. It’s clear that it’s just his alibi, though.

Sure, his interest in fancy clothes is understandable, but I’m afraid his vanity stretches beyond that. Howl is very concerned in his personal hygiene to the extent that it becomes annoying. He uses the bathroom for HOURS, and that could be particularly bothersome if you live in a place with only one bathroom.

This overly feminine wizard also likes to change his hair colour from time to time. And if his hair goes wrong, be ready to be covered with green slime -- and not only you, but also the whole place.

There's a catch in his vanity, though. He seems to be concerned only of his own body. Everything else, he likes to keep filthy.

If you still think Howl is the ideal husband, let me remind you that he is also a womanizer. Mostly, his adventures with women happen off-screen, but that doesn’t change anything. Howl also has emotional imbalances. He becomes very dramatic over head-colds. He also has the tendency to be very aggressive, particularly in Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways. He could really be a prick at times.

That’s Howl Pendragon for you -- an overly vain bastard, and overly vain bastards don’t really sound like ideal husbands to me.

But to be fair, I’m a guy. So what do I know, right?

What do I know?

What I really like about Howl is his tendency to run away, to bail out of responsibilities and challenges. He has to trick himself into being brave because he sees himself as a terrible coward. So, there is a ghost behind the overly vain bastard after all.

            The reason why I’m saying this is that, I think, as a whole, Howl does have a lot to offer to women. He is very talented, and he has an engaging personality. His general aggressiveness could also satisfy the ‘arguably natural’ need of women to be dominated. But the interesting part is his ghost, his tendency to run away, because this trait is unconsciously seen by women as a challenge to save this person, and his other negative traits are part of the flavour of the challenge.

Girls want that. Girls want to feel that they are the salvation of something or someone that is beautiful and broken. That’s exactly what Howl is, beautiful and broken at the same time, waiting to be saved by a woman who could tolerate his vanity and emotional imbalances. So maybe, just maybe, Howl is the ideal husband after all.

Additional Note: If you want to read my review of the anime adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle, you can find it here. But please keep in mind that it is a very biased review. It is a comparison of the anime and the book.

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