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Michael Ende

Michael Ende
Ende in 1962 (photo by Christine Meile)
Born (1929-11-12)12 November 1929
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany
Died 28 August 1995(1995-08-28) (aged 65)
Filderstadt, Baden-Württemberg
Occupation Fiction writer
Nationality German
Period c. 1960–1995
Genre Fantasy, children's fiction
Notable works The Neverending Story

Michael Andreas Helmuth Ende (12 November 1929 – 28 August 1995) was a German writer of fantasy and children's fiction. He is best known for his epic fantasy The Neverending Story; other famous works include Momo and Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer (Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver). His works have been translated into more than 40 languages, sold more than 20 million copies, and adapted as motion pictures, stage plays, operas and audio books.

Ende was one of the most popular and famous German authors of the 20th century, mostly due to the enormous success of his children's fiction. He was not strictly a children's writer, however, as he wrote books for adults too. Ende claimed, "It is for this child in me, and in all of us, that I tell my stories", and that "[my books are] for any child between 80 and 8 years" (qtd. Senick 95, 97). He often expressed frustration over being perceived as a children's writer exclusively, considering that his purpose was to speak of cultural problems and spiritual wisdom to people of all ages. He wrote in 1985:

One may enter the literary parlor via just about any door, be it the prison door, the madhouse door, or the brothel door. There is but one door one may not enter it through, which is the nursery door. The critics will never forgive you such. The great Rudyard Kipling is one to have suffered this. I keep wondering to myself what this peculiar contempt towards anything related to childhood is all about.[1]

Ende's writing could be described as a surreal mixture of reality and fantasy. The reader is often invited to take a more interactive role in the story, and the worlds in his books often mirror our reality, using fantasy to bring light to the problems of an increasingly technological modern society. His writings were influenced by anthroposophy.[2][3] Ende was also known as a proponent of economic reform, and claimed to have had the concept of aging money, or demurrage, in mind when writing Momo.


  • Early life 1
  • Commercial success: writing Jim Knopf 2
  • Relationship with Ingeborg Hoffmann 3
  • Mariko Sato and Japan 4
  • Death 5
  • Selected works 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Ende was born November 12, 1929 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Bavaria, Germany), the only child of the surrealist painter Edgar Ende and Luise Bartholomä Ende, a physiotherapist (Coby). In 1935, when Michael was six, the Ende family moved to the "artists' quarter of Schwabing" in Munich (Haase). Growing up in this rich artistic and literary environment influenced Ende’s later writing.

In 1936 his father's work was declared "degenerate" and banned by the Nazi party, so Edgar Ende was forced to work in secret. The horrors of the second world war heavily influenced Michael Ende’s childhood. He was twelve years old when the first air raid took place above Munich.

‘Our street was consumed by flames. The fire didn’t crackle; it roared. The flames were roaring. I remember singing and careering through the blaze like a drunkard. I was in the grip of a kind of euphoria. I still don’t truly understand it, but I was almost tempted to cast myself into the fire like a moth into the light.’

He was horrified by the 1943 Hamburg Bombing (Bombing of Hamburg in World War II), which he experienced while visiting his uncle. At the first available opportunity his uncle (Edgar Ende’s brother) put him on a train back to Munich. There, Ende attended the Maximillians Gymnasium in Munich until schools were closed as the air raids intensified and pupils were evacuated. Ende returned to his birthplace of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where he was billeted in a boarding-house, ‘Haus Kramerhof’ and later in ‘Haus Roseneck’. It was there that his interest in poetry was awakened. As well as writing his own poetry, he began to study poetical movements and styles. A good deal of modern poetry was banned at the time, so he studied the Romantic poet Novalis, whose ‘Hymns to the Night’ left a great impression on him.

In 1944 Edgar Ende’s studio at no. 90 Kaulbachstraße, Munich went up in flames. Over two hundred and fifty paintings and sketches were destroyed, as well as all his prints and etchings. Ernst Buchner, Director of Public Art for Bavaria, was still in possession of a number of Ende’s paintings, and they survived the raids. After the bombing, Luise Ende was relocated to the Munich district of Solln. In 1945 Edgar Ende was taken prisoner by the Americans and released soon after the war.

In 1945, German youths as young as fourteen were drafted into the German army and sent to war against the advancing Allied armies. Three of Michael Ende’s classmates were killed on their first day of action. Ende was also drafted, but he tore up his call-up papers and joined a Bavarian resistance movement founded to sabotage the SS’s declared intention to defend Munich until the ‘bitter end’. He served as a courier for the group for the remainder of the war.

In 1946 Michael Ende’s grammar school re-opened, and he attended classes for a year, following which the financial support of family friends allowed him to complete his high-school education at a Waldorf School in Stuttgart. This seemingly charitable gesture was motivated by more self-interest: Ende had fallen in love with a girl three years his senior, and her parents funded his two-year stay in Stuttgart to keep the pair apart. It was at this time that he first began to write stories ("Michael," par. 3). He aspired to be a "dramatist," but wrote mostly short stories and poems (Haase).

During his time in Stuttgart, Ende first encountered Expressionist and Dadaist writing and began schooling himself in literature. He studied Chekhov’s one-act comedy "The Bear", in which he played the principal role, and in the German premiere of Jean Cocteau’s "Orpheus". Ende’s first play "Denn die Stunde drängt (As Time is Running Out)" dates to this period. It was dedicated to Hiroshima, and was never performed. Ende decided that he wanted to be a playwright, but financial considerations ruled out a university degree, so in 1948 he auditioned for the Otto Falckenberg School of the Performing Arts in Munich and was granted a two-year scholarship (Haase). On leaving drama school, his first job as an actor took him to a provincial theatre company in Schleswig-Holstein. The troupe travelled from town to town by bus, usually performing on makeshift stages, surrounded by beer, smoke and the clatter of skittles from nearby bowling alleys. Even the acting was a disappointment, for despite his dark curls, Michael Ende was never assigned the part of ‘heroic lover’ that he had trained for. Instead he was made to play old men and malicious schemers, and had barely enough time to memorize his lines. Despite the frustrations and disappointments of his early acting career, Ende came to value his time in the provinces as a valuable learning experience that endowed him with a practical, down-to-earth approach to his work: ‘It was a good experience, a healthy experience. Anyone interested in writing should be made to do that sort of thing. It doesn’t have to be restricted to acting. It could be any kind of practical activity like cabinet making - learning how to construct a cabinet in which the doors fit properly.’ In Ende’s view, practical training had the potential to be more useful than a literary degree.

Commercial success: writing Jim Knopf

Michael Ende often spoke of how his first novel--Jim Button—came into being. ‘I sat down at my desk and wrote: “The country in which the engine-driver, Luke, lived was called Morrowland. It was a rather small country.” Once I’d written the two lines, I hadn’t a clue how the third line might go. I didn’t start out with a concept or a plan - I just left myself drift from one sentence and one thought to the next. That’s how I discovered that writing could be an adventure. The story carried on growing, new characters started appearing, and to my astonishment different plotlines began to weave together. The manuscript was getting longer all the time and was already much more than a picture book. I finally wrote the last sentence ten months later, and a great stack of paper had accumulated on the desk.’ Michael Ende always said that ideas only came to him when the logic of the story required them. On some occasions he waited a long time for inspiration to arrive. At one point during the writing of Jim Button the plot reached a dead end. Jim and Luke were stuck among black rocks and their tank engine couldn’t go any further. Ende was at a loss to think of a way out of the adventure, but cutting the episode struck him as disingenuous. Three weeks later he was about to shelve the novel when suddenly he had an idea - the steam from the tank engine could freeze and cover the rocks in snow, thus saving his characters from their scrape. ‘In my case, writing is primarily a question of patience,’ he once commented. After nearly a year the five hundred pages of manuscript were complete. Over the next one-and-a-half years he sent the manuscript to ten different publishers. Each responded with a rejection slip: ‘Unsuitable for our list’ or ‘Too long for children’. In the end he began to lose hope and toyed with the idea of throwing away the script. At the time he and his future wife Ingeborg Hoffmann were in the middle of a three-month separation period designed to test the strength of their relationship. When she heard of his problems, she put an end to the separation and tried one of her contacts, Sammy Drechsel, head of cabaret group Die Namenlosen (‘The Nameless Ones’) to find a way to assist Michael to get his manuscript published. Drechsel advised her to try a small family publishing-house, K. Thienemann Verlag in Stuttgart. Michael Ende’s manuscript landed on the desk of company director Lotte Weitbrecht, who liked the story and decided to accept it. Her only stipulation was that the manuscript had to be published as two separate books.

The first of the ‘Jim Button’ novels was published in 1960. About a year later, on the morning of the announcement that his novel, Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver, had won the German Prize for Children’s Fiction, Ende was being sued by his landlady for seven months' rent backpayment. With the prize money of five thousand marks, Michael Ende’s financial situation improved substantially and his writing career began in earnest. After the awards ceremony, he embarked on his first reading tour, and within a year, the first "Jim Knopf" book was also nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Award and received the Berlin Literary Prize for Youth Fiction. The second "Jim Knopf" novel, Jim Button and the Wild Thirteen, was published in 1962. Both books were serialized on radio and TV, and the Augsburger Puppenkiste famously adapted the novels in a version filmed by Hesse’s broadcasting corporation. The print-runs sold out so rapidly that K. Thienemanns could barely keep up. Translations into numerous foreign languages soon followed.

Relationship with Ingeborg Hoffmann

On New Year’s Eve 1952, Michael Ende met the actress Friedrich Schiller’s death. Ende produced a sketch in which a statue of Schiller was interviewed about newsworthy issues, and replied with quotes from Schiller’s work. ‘There was rapturous applause, and commissions arrived from other cabarets too.’ Michael Ende began to compose sketches, chansons and monologues.

For fourteen years, Ende and Hoffmann, who greatly admired Italian culture, lived just outside of Rome in Genzano, Italy, in a house they called Casa Liocorno ("The Unicorn"). It was there that Ende wrote most of the novel Momo.

In 1985, Hoffman died unexpectedly one night from a pulmonary embolism. Following the death of his wife, Ende sold the home in Genzano and returned to Munich.

Mariko Sato and Japan

Even as a child Michael Ende had been fascinated by Japan. He loved Lafcadio Hearn's Japanese legends and ghost stories, and in 1959 he wrote a play inspired by Hearn’s material. Die Päonienlaterne (‘The Peony Lantern’) was written for radio, but never broadcast. Ende was primarily interested in Japan because of its radical otherness. The Japanese language and script were so different from Ende’s native German that it seemed they were grounded in a different kind of consciousness – an alternative way of seeing the world. He was particularly intrigued by the way in which everyday circumstances were shaped into intricate rituals, such as the tea ceremony. There was, he realized, a sharp contrast between the traditions of ancient Japan and its industry-oriented modern-day society.

Ende won a devoted following in Japan, and by 1993 over two million copies of Momo and The Neverending Story had been sold in Japan. Perhaps Ende’s critical treatment of modern industrial society found particular resonance in Japan. Michael Ende first met Mariko Sato in 1976. Sato had moved from Japan to Germany in 1974 and was working for the International Youth Library in Munich. After their meeting at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, Sato translated some of Ende’s books into Japanese and helped answer some of his questions about Japanese culture. From 1977 to 1980 Michael Ende and Mariko Sato worked together to produce a German translation of ten fairy tales by Japanese writer Kenji Miyazawa. The German text was never published, but the working partnership turned into a friendship. Mariko Sato accompanied Michael Ende on a number of trips to Japan. The first trip took place in 1977 and included visits to Tokyo and Kyoto. For the first time Michael Ende was able to experience Kabuki and Noh theatre, and was greatly impressed by traditional Japanese drama. In 1986 Michael Ende was invited to attend the annual congress of the JBBY (Japanese Committee for International Children’s Literature) in Tokyo. He gave a lecture on ‘Eternal Child-likeness’ – the first detailed explanation of his artistic vision. 1989 marked the opening of the exhibition ‘Michael and Edgar Ende’ in Tokyo. The exhibition was subsequently shown in Otsu, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuyama. At the invitation of Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, Michael Ende attended the opening and spent two months touring Japan. It was his third trip accompanied by Mariko Sato, whom he married in September 1989. The following year an archive devoted to Michael Ende was established at Kurohime Dowakan, a museum in the Japanese city of Shinano-machi. Ende donated letters and other personal items to the collection. On 23 October 1992 Michael Ende made his final trip to Japan. In the course of their three-week visit Michael Ende and Mariko Sato-Ende visited the Dowakan museum, joined Ende’s Japanese publishers, Iwanami, in celebrating the millionth sale of Momo, and travelled to Kanazawa and Hamamatsu and a number of other cities that were new to Ende.


In 1992, Ende was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Over the next two years he underwent various treatments, but the disease progressed. He ultimately succumbed to the disease in Filderstadt, Germany on 28 August 1995.

Selected works

Michael Ende's works include: (Note – original titles are listed in German, followed by the English translation of the title in captions. Any translations of an entire work into English are listed.)

  • 1967 - Die Spielverderber (The Spoilsport)
    • play
  • 1972 - Tranquilla Trampeltreu die beharrliche Schildkröte (1972)
    • children's book
  • 1973 - Momo (1973) (Translated into English by Francis Lobb as The Grey Gentlemen, and by J. Maxwell Brownjohn as Momo.)
  • 1975 - "Das Kleine Lumpenkasperle"
    • children's book
  • 1978 Das Traumfresserchen (Translated into English by Gwen Mars as The Dream Eater in 1978)
  • 1978 - Lirum Larum Willi Warum: Eine lustige Unsinngeschichte für kleine Warumfrager
    • children's book
  • 1979 - Die unendliche Geschichte: Von A bis Z (Translated into English by Ralph Manheim as The Neverending Story)
    • children's book
    • Amereon Ltd., 1979, ISBN 0-8488-1306-5
    • Buccaneer Books, 1991, ISBN 0-89966-807-0
    • Puffin Books, 1993, ISBN 0-14-038633-5
    • NAL/Dutton, 1997, ISBN 0-525-45758-5
  • 1981 Der Lindwurm und der Schmetterling oder Der seltsame Tausch (1981)
    • children's book
  • 1982 - Die zerstreute Brillenschlange
    • a play
  • 1982 - Die Schattennähmaschine
    • children's book
  • 1982 - Das Gauklermärchen (The Juggler's Tale)
    • a play
  • 1982 - Written with Erhard Eppler and Hanne Tächl - Phantasie/Kultur/Politik: Protokoll eines Gesprächs (Fantasy/Culture/Politics: transcript of a conversation)
    • non-fiction
  • 1982 - Die Ballade von Norbert Nackendick; oder das nackte Nashom
    • children's book
  • 1984 - Norbert Nackendick; oder das nackte Nashom
    • children's book based on his play
  • 1984 - Der Spiegel im Spiegel (1986) (Translated into English by J. Maxwell Brownjohn as Mirror in the Mirror: a labyrinth in 1986)
    • a collection of short stories for adults illustrated with Ende's father, Edgar Ende's engravings.
  • 1984 - Filemon Faltenreich
    • children's book
  • 1984 - Der Goggolori (1984)
    • wrote and illustrated
    • a play based on a Bavarian legend
  • 1985 - Archäologie der Dunkelheit (Archaeology of Darkness)
    • nonfiction, about Edgar Ende and his work
  • 1986 Trödelmarkt der Träume: Mitternachtslieder und leise Balladen (Midnight songs and quiet ballads)
    • collection of poetry and lyrics
  • 1988 - Ophelias Schattentheater (Translated into English by Anthea Bell as Ophelia's Shadow Theater in 1989)
    • Overlook Press, 1989, ISBN 0-87951-371-3
  • 1988 - Wrote the libretto for Die Jagd nach dem Schlarg
    • Opera adaptation of The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll
  • 1989 - Der satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch (Translated into English by Heike Schwarzbauer and Rick Takvorian as The Night of Wishes: or, The Satanarchaeolidealcohellish Notion Potion in 1992)
    • children's novel
    • Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992, ISBN 0-374-19594-3
    • Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995, ISBN 0-374-45503-1
  • 1989 - Die Vollmondlegende (1989) (The Legend of the Full Moon)
  • 1990 - Die Geschichte von der Schüssel und vom Löffel
    • children's book.
  • 1992 - Das Gefängnis der Freiheit
    • adult short stories.
    • Weitbrecht Verlag, 1992, ISBN 3-522-70850-4
  • 1992 - Der lange Weg nach Santa Cruz (The Long Road to Santa Cruz)
  • 1993 - Der Teddy und die Tiere
    • children's book.
  • 1993 - Wrote the libretto for the opera Der Rattenfänger: ein Hamelner Totentanz. Oper in elf Bildern
  • 1998 - Der Niemandsgarten
    • fiction

Most of the above information was retrieved from the following sources:

  • Coby, Vineta, ed. "Michael Ende." World Authors 1980 - 1985. New York, New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1991. p. 259.
  • Haase, Donald P. "Michael Ende." Dictionary of Literary Biography: Contemporary German Fiction Writers, Second Series. Eds. Wolfgang D. Elfe and James Hardin. Vol 75. Detroit Michigan: Gale Research Inc, 1988. p. 55, 57.
  • "Michael Ende." Contemporary Authors Online. Farmington Hills, Michigan: The Gale Group. 2003. par. 16-17.


  1. ^ "Man darf von jeder Tür aus in den literarischen Salon treten, aus der Gefängnistür, aus der Irrenhaustür oder aus der Bordelltür. Nur aus einer Tür darf man nicht kommen, aus der Kinderzimmertür. Das vergibt einem die Kritik nicht. Das bekam schon der große Rudyard Kipling zu spüren. Ich frage mich immer, womit das eigentlich zu tun hat, woher diese eigentümliche Verachtung alles dessen herrührt, was mit dem Kind zu tun hat." Page on Michael Ende by Thienemann, the publishing house that published most of Ende's works.
  2. ^ Peter Boccarius, Michael Ende: Der Anfang der Geschichte, München: Nymphenburger, 1990. ISBN 3-485-00622-X. German.
  3. ^ Michael Ende biographical notes, "Michael Ende und die magischen Weltbilder" (German). " sei nicht nur die Steinersche Anthroposophie gewesen, die Michael Endes Weltsicht geprägt habe." (" was not only Steiner's anthroposophy that defined Michael Ende's world view.") Accessed 2008-09-08
  • Colby, Vineta, ed. "Michael Ende." World Authors 1980–1985. New York, New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1991.
  • Haase, Donald P. "Michael Ende." Dictionary of Literary Biography: Contemporary German Fiction Writers, Second Series. Eds. Wolfgang D. Elfe and James Hardin. Vol. 75. Detroit Michigan: Gale Research Inc, 1988.
  • Hilbun, Janet. "Ende, Michael." The Continuum Encyclopedia of Children's Literature. Eds. Bernice E. Cullinan and Diane G. Person. New York, New York: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc, 2001.
  • "Michael Ende." Contemporary Authors Online. Farmington Hills, Michigan: The Gale Group, 2003. 3 February 2003.
  • Senick, Gerard J., ed. "Michael Ende." Children's Literature Review. Vol. 14. Detroit, Michigan. Gale Research Company, 1988.
  • Zipes, Jack, ed. "Ende, Michael." Donald Haase. The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales. New York, New York: Oxford University Press Inc, 2000.

External links

  • Official website with extensive biographical information and photos (English) (German)
  • Michael Ende in the German National Library catalogue
  • Multi-lingual bibliography of Michael Ende
  • Michael Ende's Last Words to the Japanese
  • Michael Ende at Library of Congress Authorities, with 60 catalogue records
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