Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Ende, Michael

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(1929-1995) German theatrical director and writer, son of the Surrealist painter Edgar Ende (1901-1965), by whom he was deeply influenced. After some years writing songs and sketches for literary cabarets, he began to publish work of interest with the Jim Knopf Children's Fantasy sequence – Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer (1960; trans Renata Symonds as Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver 1963 US; new trans Anthea Bell 1990 US) and Jim Knopf und die Wilde 13 ["Jim Knopf and the Wild 13"] (1962). Jim, a small black child, arrives by post in the tiny Island of Morrowland, which has no room for him; so he and Luke and the locomotive Emma go travelling. They visit a Land-of-Fable China, free a maiden from a Dragon, 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 working as a lighthouse, among other Transformations – combines Technofantasy and Pastoral. Indeed, throughout his career, ME powerfully advocated a utopian search for "multidimensional" solutions to problems in the world, as well as generating a series of 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).

ME's next novel, Momo (1973; trans Frances Lobb as The Grey Gentlemen 1974 UK; new trans J Maxwell Brownjohn as Momo 1985 US), 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 (1979; trans Ralph Manhein as The Neverending Story 1983 US) remains ME's 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 a Secondary World, the threatened land of Fantastica. As soon as he opens the book into the tale, a whiff of Wrongness assails him: four messengers from different races are hurrying to the Ivory Tower (see Edifice) to warn the Empress that a terrible "Nothing" is eating the Land away (the Thinning depicted here is frighteningly literal); but the Empress, who does not govern but "is the centre of all life" in Fantastica, is herself wasting away, and unless a Hero undertakes a Quest to cure her she and the land will die. In the end, Bastian himself turns out to be the one human child capable of giving her what is necessary, a new Name, which he bestows upon her halfway through the book. He calls her Moon Child, a name which evokes the Goddess, and the two set about creating the world anew from Nothing. The story then darkens as – despite his initial disbelief – Bastian passes Into the Woods of Perilin, the Night Forest (which he has himself created), and becomes intrinsic to the land. Only when Bastian completes his Rite of Passage into genuine adulthood will the Story be properly told, the knot untied (in a scene at the heart of Fantastica where he must enter within the Worm Ouroboros and come to the Waters of Life and recognize himself again), the dark Mirror escaped, the relationship between fantasy and Reality properly negotiated. The book was filmed, rather poorly, as The Neverending Story (1984), with two weak sequels.

It should be noted that in Germany Jim Knopf and Lukas der Lokomotivführer, Jim Knopf und die Wilde Dreizehn and Momo were more successful and regarded as more important than Die unendliche Geschichte, all three winning the Deutscher Jugendbuchpreis.

Later novels move away from their ostensible grounding in Children's Fantasy. Der Spiegel im Spiegel: Ein Labyrinth (coll of linked stories 1984; trans J Maxwell Brownjohn as Mirror in the Mirror 1986 US) is a kind of Arabian Nightmare with hope at the end. Constructed as a series of Fables which take their cue from a sequence of lithographs and etchings by Edgar Ende, the book moves from Minotaur to Icarus, from Janus-figure to Orpheus. The effect is like that generated by Franz Kafka in some of his parables, or by Luis Buñuel's Phantom of Liberty (1974). In the end, though, as the host of Archetypes increasingly mirror one another, there is a sense of integration. The YA Der satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch (1989; trans Heike Schwarzbauer and Rick Takvorian as The Night of Wishes, or The Satanarchaeolidealcohellish Notion Potion 1992 US) is something of a romp, the eponymous Potion being used by a comic sorcerer to corrupt the world: two Talking Animals save the day.

ME's fantasies are ultimately about Fantasy. They are parables of integration, and they argue that the stories they tell are in themselves forms of guidance. His tales are also expressive and entertaining. He was a major figure of 20th-century fantasy. [JC]

other works: Das Gauklermärchen ["The Juggler's Fairy Tale"] (1982), a fantasy play; Der Goggolori (1984), a libretto featuring the eponymous Goblin; Lirum Larum (1995).

Michael Andreas Helmuth Ende


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.