Posts Tagged ‘The Neverending Story’

MirroInTheMirrorFor those of you who have followed my reviews in the past, you may remember that Michael Ende is one of my favorite authors. However, let me warn you that this story is very unlike The Neverending Story and Momo.

It is really just a sequence of short stories; each sounding like a recap of a dream (as Ende writes, somewhere between awake and asleep).

The illustrations, though fascinating, make absolutely no sense in relation to most of the stories. However, it is interesting to point out that they were drawn by Edgar Karl Alfons Ende, Michael’s father, who was a Germany surrealism painter.

This is a very difficult book to get your hands on. Translated by J.Maxwell Brownjohn in 1986, it has since become very rare. You can find people selling used copies online ranging from $60 to $1000. Yes, I said one thousand. But do not forget the wonders of libraries. Check out http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/19886063 to see if you can get a copy in your area. That is how I found it.

Since it is impossible to provide a detailed overview without a super long blog summarizing all twenty nine different stories, I will briefly describe how it starts and how it ends.

Story overview:

We begin with Hor; a man who is unable to speak in anything other than a whisper. He lives in a house with endless rooms. The only windows are ones that open into the next room, which looks just the same as the former. He lives off a yellowish, slightly transparent substance that resides on the walls and columns.

Hor claims to have kept a faithful record (I assume he means, mentally) and then the following twenty eight stories unfold. When we come to the last story we find ourselves in a snow-covered plain. In the midst of the plain are the ruins of a wall. In the wall is a closed door. The peculiar thing is—other than a door appearing in a wall in the middle of nowhere—one can easily walk around to simply see the other side of the door. It is as if it only goes from one side of the wall to the other.

Two sentries keep guard to prevent anyone from entering or leaving. That is, until one day when a young man, accompanied by a Princess—by her bidding—ventures inside. His mission is to find and destroy her evil brother that lives within, and this brother’s name happens to be Hor.

My thoughts:

Very interesting stories. Deep, insightful, sometimes confusing, yet wonderfully intriguing. I particular liked the story of the man being guided across a desert only to end up an old man when he finally meets his fiancé, who sets out to find her fiancé not knowing it is him. The twist was that he too saw an old woman greet him before his adventure, which obviously was the same woman. Yes, I know, it is strange, which is why I do not suggest this for the modern “only” reader. It is very esoteric in a sophisticated sort of way, if that makes sense. In other words, do not pick this up for light and easy reading. Pick it up to be fascinated and confounded. If you find dreams interesting, than this book is for you.

Things to consider:

This is probably not appropriate for a younger audience. Aside from the fact that most modern youth would be bored by the third page, there are some adult themes here: a few references to nudity, some to sexual situations, and some slightly crude. There are also several disturbing scenes such as the man with a doll-like face who devoured human viscera (intestines) from a bowl. But these things take on the creative form that makes sense for these dream-like tales. I would say later teens and older. Not specificity target towards men or women.

Opportunities for discussion:

Wow, where to begin. There are some strong Christian themes, but each tale has its own list of possible discussions. I will pick one that I like in particular: a little boy is stranded on a war stricken, seemingly deserted planet. He finds himself in an abandoned fairground and ends up sitting on a bench near a stage. Surprisingly, after an introduction asking the boy to use his imagination, a magician appears. The magician calls himself Ende. Ende is able come up with and perform marvels, but only if there is a boy—like the one here named Michael—to picture and imagine these feats. Obviously this story represents Michael Ende (the author) and his need to balance himself to produce creative stories. The discussion point here is to ask yourself or your elder teen, what is it in your life that you need balance in?

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The Neverending StoryMy sixth grade teacher showed the movie “The Neverending Story” to the class one day, and ever since I’ve maintained a personal fondness for it (and for the soundtrack too).

Many years later, my mother found this story in book format. At first I didn’t want any part of it; I thought the book could never be as good as the movie, but my mother kept on insisting, so I finally broke down and read it. Let me just say that this was the beginning of my love for [German author] Michael Ende’s writings (who sadly passed away in 1995).

Not only was the book much better, it was longer, too. The first movie barely covered the first half of the book, and even though there were two other movies made, an attempt at a cartoon, and a TV series for younger children, they did not do the story justice.

It’s interesting to note that Michael Ende hated the movie. He unknowingly lost film rights when he signed a contract for the book, and so he didn’t have any say with how they produced it. After seeing how different the book truly is, I understand Ende’s criticism, but had it not been for the movie, I’d have never known about the book. So I ‘m happy with both.

Story overview:

A chubby boy (unlike in the movie)—named Bastian—wanders into a small antique bookstore where he meets the mysterious owner. Bastian sees a book called “The Neverending Story,” which the man insists is not for sale (and not for him), but a strong yearning to read forces Bastian’s hand and he takes the book home.

Bastian reads of the adventures of Atreyu (also incorrectly depicted in the movie as he has green skin), who searches to find an answer to this “Nothing” that is destroying the land of Fantastica (Fantasia in the movie). During his quest, Atreyu meets many interesting characters and eventually finds the answer to their problem has to do with a human child, who needs to give the Childlike Empress a new name. To his astonishment, Bastian finds that this child is actually him, but he realizes this too late and the world of Fantastica dies.

Bastian, now physically removed from the real word, becomes a part of a new Fantastica. His duty is to make wishes, and in doing so he forms this new world (including turning himself from a chubby little boy into a studly hero, nice!). However, the power starts to go to his head and he finds himself up against his friend, Atreyu, who tries to keep Bastian from taking the crown of the Emperor.

After a long and hard road, Bastian starts to see his folly and realizes that every time he makes a new wish an old memory from his real life disappears. In an attempt to save himself, he quests to find a way to return to the human world.

My thoughts:

This is one of my favorite stories of all-time. I have read it more times than I can remember, and plan to read it several more; I get something new out of it at each reading, not to mention I love being reminded of the many things that I truly enjoyed—particularly the Desert of Colors. Also, the story is full of symbolism regarding the human condition, and it offers great opportunities for thought and reflection.

Things to consider:

I would say that this book is good for girls and boys starting around the age of eight. Of course, it’s also great for a much older audience too, as Ende said, “[my books are] for any child between 80 and 8 years”. I would warn that there are moments which may be considered too scary for younger children—including elements of sadness (like when Atreyu lost his horse to the swamps of sadness).

Opportunities for discussion:

Where to start . . . Well, to name a few: you need to keep a balance between the real world and the creative world; do not get so caught up in life that your need for imagination and creative becomes lost, but don’t become so obsessed over it that you disconnect from real life. Though some people may be proud, flashy, and showy, they are likely blind to who they really are inside, which is what matters most. When man is put into a place where he becomes a god of his own world, he learns how vast every little decision is in the scheme of life and creation, thus it makes us understand how unlike God we can ever be. Life and death are not something to play around with. We need to grow and progress who we are. Beauty on the outside does not reflect beauty on the inside, and vice versa. And I will end with, don’t forget who you are or where you came from, in other words, do not let yourself become prideful and arrogant.