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Ende, Michael

Entry updated 28 November 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1929-1995) German theatrical director, actor, playwright and author, son of the Surrealist painter Edgar Ende (1901-1965), whose works were banned by the German government in 1936 for "degeneracy", and who deeply influenced his son. After writing songs and sketches for literary cabarets from about 1955, Ende began to publish work of genre interest with the Jim Knopf sequence – Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer (1960; trans Renata Symonds as Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver 1963) and Jim Knopf und die Wilde 13 ["Jim Knopf and the Wild 13"] (1962). Jim, a small Black child, arrives by post at the tiny Island of Morrowland, which as he grows larger runs out of living room, and Emma the locomotive is consequently threatened with removal; so Jim and Luke (who is also Black) and Emma embark on a Fantastic Voyage, visiting a fabulous version of China, where they free a maiden from a dragon (see Supernatural Creatures), and return home bearing an annexe large enough to hold everyone. In the sequel, Jim searches for his origins and defeats various enemies, whom he converts into useful citizens; the end of tale – with a giant (see Great and Small) working as a lighthouse, among other transformations – combines Technofantasy and Pastoral. Indeed, throughout his career, Ende powerfully advocated a Utopian quest for "multidimensional" solutions to problems in the world, as well as generating a series of unusually convincing happy endings in his fiction. His thoughts on how to rework both world and fiction appear in Phantasie/Kultur/Politik: Protokolleines Gresprächs ["Fantasy/ Culture/Politics: The Protocol of a Conversation"] (1982).

Ende's next novel, Momo [for full title see Checklist below] (1973; trans Frances Lobb as The Grey Gentlemen 1974; new trans J Maxwell Brownjohn as Momo 1985), eloquently addresses these issues. The eponymous girl lives in an amphitheatre in an unnamed City threatened by the Grey Gentlemen, the "time thieves" who transform humans into "adults" by persuading them to quantify the timing of their lives. After everyone but Momo has been transformed into an alienated urban monster, she undertakes a quest to get Time back; on her successful return there is a general Healing.

Die unendliche Geschichte: Von A bis Z (1979; trans Ralph Manhein as The Neverending Story 1983) remains Ende's best known book internationally, though both Jim Knopf and Momo gained greater esteem (as well as various awards) in Germany; but it remains perhaps his most successful attempt to mix allegory and fantasy. In this instance a compelling flow of story carries children through the long narrative, while at the same time the author advances fully adult arguments about personal growth, the good society, and the nature of Story itself. Young Bastian Balthasar Bux steals a book called The Neverending Story, in which he begins to read what turns out to be both his own story as well as a portal into the land of Fantastica, a Secondary World under threat of Thinning [for Allegory, Healing, Secondary World, Story and Thinning see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]; the name of this land demonstrates some kinship with the term Fantastika as used in this encyclopedia; but the two words are by no means synonyms.

As soon as he opens the book into the tale, Bastian encounters four messengers from different races hurrying to the Ivory Tower to warn the Empress that a terrible "Nothing" is literally eating the land, dissolving its reality; but the Empress, who does not govern but "is the centre of all life" in Fantastica, is herself wasting away, unless Bastian himself becomes the land's culture hero; so he names her Moon Child, a goddess-link name, and the two set about creating the world anew, a Utopia from Nothing. The book was filmed, rather poorly, as The Neverending Story (1984) directed by Wolfgang Pettersen, a production disavowed by Ende; two weak sequels followed.

Later novels move away from their ostensible focus on children. Der Spiegel im Spiegel: Ein Labyrinth (coll of linked stories 1984; trans J Maxwell Brownjohn as Mirror in the Mirror 1986) is constructed as a series of fables which take their cue from a sequence of lithographs and etchings by Edgar Ende, and which the protagonist and his mentor traverse as though through a Labyrinth, encountering various figures – some from Greek Mythology – in mid-gestures of their lives. The effect is like that generated by Franz Kafka in some of his parables, or by The Phantom of Liberty (1974) directed by Luis Buñuel. Der satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch (1989; trans Heike Schwarzbauer and Rick Takvorian as The Night of Wishes, or The Satanarchaeolidealcohellish Notion Potion 1992) is something of a romp, designed for a Young Adult readership, the eponymous potion being used by a comic sorcerer to corrupt the world: two talking animals save the day and the world.

Ende's fantasies are ultimately metafictional (see Fabulation), surprisingly didactic exercises parables of integration, pointers to right living; and they argue that the stories they tell are in themselves forms of guidance. These lessons are not necessarily laboured; in his best work his highly professional storytelling exuberance has a leavening influence. [JC]

Michael Andreas Helmuth Ende

born Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany: 12 November 1929

died Filderstadt, Baden-Würtemberg, Germany: 28 August 1995

works (selected)


Jim Button

individual titles

collections and stories

  • Das Traumfresserchen (Stuttgart, Germany: K Thienemanns Verlag, 1978) [story: graph: illus/hb/Annegert Fuchshuber]
    • The Dream-Eater (London: J M Dent and Sons, 1978) [story: graph: trans by Gwen Marsh of the above: illus/hb/Annegert Fuchshuber]
  • Das Gauklermärchen ["The Juggler's Tale"] (Stuttgart, Germany: K Thienemanns Verlag/Edition Weitbrecht, 1982) [story in playlet form: chap: hb/]
  • Der Spiegel im Spiegel: Ein Labyrinth (Stuttgart, Germany: K Thienemanns Verlag, 1984) [coll of linked stories: illus/hb/Edgar Ende]
    • Mirror in the Mirror (New York: Viking, 1986) [trans by J Maxwell Brownjohn of the above: illus/from Edgar Ende: hb/Sandra Buckland]
  • Der lange Weg nach Santa Cruz ["The Long Road to Santa Cruz"] (Stuttgart, Germany: K Thienemanns Verlag, 1992) [story: chap: hb/Regina Kehn]



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