- “A heart's a heavy burden.”
- ―Sophie Hatter[src]
Sophie Hatter is the protagonist of Studio Ghibli's film, Howl's Moving Castle. She runs a hat shop in her town along with her sisters and mother. When the Witch of the Waste curses her with a spell that turns her into a ninety-year old woman, Sophie goes to the Waste in search of a cure. She is voiced by Emily Mortimer as a young woman and Jean Simmons as an old woman.
Having brown eyes and brown hair tied in a braid, Sophie has a pretty smile and a blue dress with a white apron.
When she is cursed as an old woman, her hair is silver, her face is wrinkled and more grand-motherly, and her body figure becomes smaller and slightly hunched.
Near the end of the film, Sophie manages to become her young self again, although her hair stays silver. She later cuts her braid off to feed Calcifer, and her hair becomes bobbed.
In the beginning of the film, Sophie, her sisters and her mother are all working in a hat shop as a train rolls by. Hearing the excitement over the great wizard Howl, Sophie's sisters chatter on about how Howl has the capability of eating one's heart. After a debate and in a hurry, Sophie leaves to go visit her younger sister, Lettie. However, Sophie is walking down an alley when two guards stop to flirt with her. Happy and fun, but, a bit timid, Sophie politely declines their flirting when Howl appears. He then takes Sophie away and tells her he's being followed.
They are quickly airborne flying above the shops and parades because of the Labor Day Festival. Then, Sophie then tells her sister that Howl unknowingly saved her without realizing it was actually Howl. Returning home that night, Sophie then closes up the shop as the Witch of the Waste appears and turns Sophie into a ninety-year old woman when she refuses service to the Witch of the Waste. A condition of the spell is that she can't tell anyone about it, further complicating her situation.
Wanting to find a cure, Sophie makes her way to the Wastes and finds a scarecrow who she then names Turnip Head because his head is a turnip. Finding Howl's gigantic castle, Sophie is allowed in by Howl's fire demon, Calcifer, and meets his apprentice, Markl. Pretty soon, Howl appears and Sophie is hired as their new cleaning woman. Meanwhile, their country and the neighboring country is at war with each other. One day, Sophie causes Howl to have a breakdown because she had accidentally causes him to change his hair color to an orange-pink hue. He attempts to summon demonic forces, but Sophie saves him. Markl quietly mentions to Sophie Howl has done this before when one of his girlfriends broke up with him.
Madam Suliman (Howl's mentor) requests his appearance and finds out Sophie's true demeanor and feelings towards him. She also warns Howl that if he refuses to participate in the war, his powers will be taken away. To prove this, Sophie is showed the Witch of the Waste, who is now a powerless old hag.
Sophie quickly falls in love with Howl and wishes to help him, but learns that he transforms into a bird-like creature to interfere with each side of the war. Every transformation is not only making him weaker, but is making it harder for him to become human again. Bombs and war soldiers soon get a follow on Howl's lead. He creates a bigger house for their growing family.
Days later, the war continues to grow worse and bombs and fires break out. Therefore, Howl goes out and fights while Sophie protects the castle, breaking her curse in the process, but leaving her hair silver. However, when Sophie insists that Calcifer moves the castle close to Howl, the castle begins to fall apart and Sophie finds herself in a flashback of Howl's childhood. There, she realizes that Howl bound himself to Calcifer by giving him his heart to keep him from dying (a side effect of which involved emotionally trapping him in adolescence).
Returning to find Markl, Heen, Turnip Head, and the Witch of the Waste, Sophie returns Howl's heart, and Calcifer is consequently set free. Then, when Turnip Head saves them from falling off a cliff, Sophie gives him a kiss, when it is revealed to be the neighboring prince from the country in which Sophie's country is having a war with. Finally, Howl awakens and Sophie finally reveals that she loves him and that he loves her. The prince returns to his home country, and Sullivan decides to end the war, having witnessed all the events from a crystal ball. The film ends with Howl and Sophie flying in a newly built castle and lovingly kissing.