In Which I Am Happy To Identify With Wizard Howl

In an unprecedented move, I actually finished a Korean drama without prompting. In the past, I would only watch those shows if (a) they are funny; and (b) they have incredible dance moves, i.e. Kim Sam Soon.

Now. I am the sort of person you can easily drag down multiple rabbit holes. I cannot just read one page of TV Tropes. No. I have to go through every interesting link I find. It is not surprising to find more than twenty tabs of TV Tropes open once I get started.

So it should come as no surprise that watching You From Another Star resulted in three things:

  1. My obsession with Jeon Ji-Hyun’s makeup.
  2. My obsession with the accuracy of the historical aspect of the show.
  3. My obsession with the book The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

The protagonist of You From Another Star identified with Edward Tulane — a china rabbit who is punished because he doesn’t know how to love other people — and the book is referenced multiple times in the show.

Particularly notable is this quote:

I have learned how to love. And it’s a terrible thing. I’m broken. My heart is broken. Help me.

I read the book. I hated it.

I know it’s a book for children. Doesn’t matter. It still has to answer for its senseless premise: why would you even expect a china rabbit to know love?

What the hell is wrong with you?

(It is perhaps quite obvious now that I really dislike the book. Frowny face here.)

But this post isn’t about You From Another Star, or Edward Tulane, or love.

It’s about identification.

Frankly, I feel bad for the dude who identified with Edward Tulane. It’s so bleak and unhappy to identify with such a dramatically unfortunate character. Sure, the ending’s happy, but I don’t think I want to identify with a rabbit who has his noggin broken into 21 pieces.

Nope.

I mentioned once before that Howl’s Moving Castle is my favorite book. With much deference to Hayao Miyazaki’s version, I have to say that the book is one hundred percent more magical and more meaningful as far as I am concerned.

This is because the movie creates a Howl that is almost one million times different from the real Howl — a thing I have decided to talk about now.

Or eventually.

Let me start by saying this: when I was younger, I lived my life like I was Stephen Chow in a Stephen Chow movie. God of Cookery is remarkable to me because of two things. First, it is one of the funniest films I have ever seen. Second, it taught me that you can be a terrible person and it will all be fine, as long as you are smart.

You can be a total asshole and nobody will care, because you’re the asshole who gets things done.

So for most of my teenage years, plus my years in college, I honestly believed that I could be as horrible as I wanted and it would be fine, because I’m the Stephen Chow in this Stephen Chow movie.

Until, of course, I got out of school and into “the real world”.

I learned two things then:

  1. I’m not actually that smart.
  2. People skills count.

I had zero people skills, because I spent most of my life assuming that my brain would get me through. It’s hard to work with people when you don’t like people and you’re scared of people, and all your false bravado is swept away.

I can still get things done, and occasionally people still think that I am pretty good (at whatever it is I do, I’m not quite sure what, either), but the problem is that I know the truth now, and my youthful hubris is gone.

So.

Let’s get back to Wizard Howl.

Howl is intelligent and a good wizard, but not really quite the best. He’s okay. He’s mediocre.

He’s vain. He’s shallow. He’s stuck up.

He tries to slither out of things. He throws tantrums. He’s an absolute terror when ill.

He’s afraid.

When I first read Howl’s Moving Castle, I immediately fell in love with Sophie Hatter. Author Diana Wynne Jones once noted with much mirth that she found it weird how so many women wanted to marry Howl despite his terrible personality.

I read the book but I didn’t want to marry Howl.

I wanted to marry Sophie.

Because Sophie is the dream.

Howl is scared, because he knows his limitations. His bravura requires that he be show-offy and dramatic, but in truth he knows he’s almost always in over his head.

He’s constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for people to realize that he’s mediocre rather than excellent.

With Sophie, though, there’s no need to put up false pretenses, because she already knows his weaknesses and she doesn’t care.

So every time I feel scared, overwhelmed, anxious, in over my head, I crack open my copy of Howl’s Moving Castle and let Sophie take care of me.

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