Study Guide

Ben Sullivan/The Wizard Suliman in Howl's Moving Castle

By Diana Wynne Jones

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Ben Sullivan/The Wizard Suliman

We don't really see much of the Wizard Suliman since he disappears long before the novel starts. He's the Royal Magician before Howl gets stuck with the job, and by the time the book begins he has already set off on a quest to find the King's brother Prince Justin and vanished in some kind of fight with the Witch of the Waste.

As the novel goes on, we find out that the Wizard Suliman was originally born Ben Sullivan, and like Howl, he originally comes from Wales, in the United Kingdom. He was also a student of Mrs. Pentstemmon's, who admires his brains and his talent but also admits that Howl is even brainier and more talented.

Miss Angorian claims to have been engaged to Ben Sullivan before he disappeared, which should have been enough of a clue right there for Sophie to put together that there might be some kind of link between Miss Angorian and the Witch of the Waste. Miss Angorian uses her supposed connection to Ben Sullivan to trick her way into Howl's moving castle, because even though Sophie doesn't really believe her about the engagement, she's too nice to kick out a woman who claims to be searching for clues for her lost fiancé.

By the end of the book we find out that the Wizard Suliman has actually been part of Percival the amnesiac former dog-man. The Witch of the Waste took his body to build a perfect man for herself, so Suliman has been floating around the book in several pieces for much of the novel.

The skull on Howl's mantelpiece that Sophie talks to? That appears to be the Wizard Suliman's skull. The dog-man has parts of Suliman, and so does the headless body the Witch is keeping in her fortress. Perhaps most importantly of all, the scarecrow has the majority of Suliman's magic. When the Wizard Suliman saw that the Witch was going to take him apart, he flung his magic into this scarecrow with instructions to put him back together. Once the Witch and Miss Angorian are defeated, all of the Wizard Suliman's parts—his skull, his body, and his magic, luckily get reassembled.

There's one last thing we want to point out about the Wizard Suliman: we think that underneath his craggy face and his "strong-minded" (21.108) appearance he seems to be a bit of a romantic. He approaches Lettie after being put back together to ask if she wants to learn magic with him, and Lettie blushes deep red… which suggests that he's proposing something a little more exciting than a few tutoring sessions. And he's the one who had the idea to start a garden at the edge of the Waste to try and wear away at the Witch's power. Even though we see him for less than half a chapter in the novel, we still think that Suliman seems like a sweet guy.

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