Posts Tagged ‘The Grey Gentlemen’

MomoAs mentioned in my post on The Neverending Story, Michael Ende has become one of my all time favorite authors, and I’ve found that this story, Momo, is often unheard of, which is a shame.

I have two copies in my collection, one hardcover and one soft cover. Though it is currently out of print, I’ve often seen it at libraries (that’s where I bought one of my copies) and used online book stores. Let me just say that it’s more than worth the money.

Like The Neverending Story, there was a movie adaption of Momo. However, unlike The Neverending Story, it is not in English (there’s an audio book too, but that is also not in English). Thankfully I was able to obtain a full version of the movie that had subtitles created by a fan–otherwise I’d have been lost. Even though the quality of the production isn’t bad, I just didn’t get the same feeling from the movie that I did from the book. For one thing the character of Momo was all wrong; they used some popular, cutesy looking girl who’s hair and personality were totally different. Still, it was interesting to see Ende, who played a small part, and they did a great job with the other characters, particularly the Men in Grey (or, The Grey Gentlemen).

Story overview:

A little girl, age unknown, lives in an abandoned amphitheatre just outside an unnamed Italian city. The neighborhood learns about her and, rather than send her off to be dealt with by the law–or the orphanage she escaped from–they all end up doing their part to take care of her. She, on the other hand, ends up doing more for the town than they do for her. You see, there’s something very special about Momo. She has the remarkable ability to listen to people, really listen, in a way that offers the utmost therapeutic relief. In addition, she has a wonderful imagination and comes up with all sorts of creative and fun games for the neighborhood children to play. When not playing, she often spends time with two of her closest friends: Beppo, a street-cleaner, and Guido, a poetic tour guide.

One day a man in grey shows up and convinces a store owner that he can save money by storing time in a savings bank. The logic seems sound, and many people buy into the scheme. Eventually the town becomes full of these “Gray Men” and the people find that they no longer have time for one another. Not only that, but they become miserable. Momo works her magic to bring the people back, but the Men in Grey see her as a threat and so they seek for a way to shut her up.

Momo avoids capture, with the help of a turtle, Cassiopeia (who can see several minutes into the future). After several close encounters with the Men in Grey, Cassiopeia leads Momo to the home of a Time Professor named Secundus Minutus Hora. But it’s only a matter of time before the Men in Grey find a way to break through Hora’s defenses, and Momo finds herself traveling to the future only to discover that the Men in Grey now rule her town and have darkened the hearts of everyone she loves. It’s all up to one little girl to find a way to destroy the Men in Grey and give back the lost time to all her friends.

My thoughts:

I absolutely love this story, and have read it at least three times. Each time I get a great reminder of the need to focus on the important things in life. The translation is good and the characters are beyond brilliant. You cannot go away from this book without feeling a strong sense of the importance of life.

Things to consider:

Good for both girls and boys, this book is probably best read at around the age of eight (as Ende said, children ages 8-80). There is nothing questionable about it that I can see. The only thing is that some elements might be a little too scary for younger children.

Opportunities for discussion:

The biggest theme here is time, and how important it is to use your time for the simple and amiable things in life. Very, Very relevant to our society today, and this story can help to show us (and your kids) the need to stop and think about what we/they are doing with our time. In addition it shows the power of stories, importance of friendship, childhood, and the power of compassion.