Michael Ende: German writer of fantasy and children's fiction (1929-1995) (1929 - 1995) | Biography
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Michael Ende
German writer of fantasy and children's fiction

Michael Ende

Michael Ende
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro German writer of fantasy and children's fiction
Known for The Neverending Story, Momo, Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver, The Night of Wishes, Jim Button and the Wild 13, The mirror in the mirror
A.K.A. Michael Andreas Helmuth Ende
Was Writer Children's writer Screenwriter Science fiction writer Author
From Germany
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Literature
Gender male
Birth 12 November 1929, Munich, Germany
Death 28 August 1995, Filderstadt, Germany (aged 65 years)
Star sign Scorpio
Residence Bavaria, Germany; Baden-Württemberg, Germany; Genzano di Roma, Italy
Father: Edgar Ende
Spouse: Mariko SatōIngeborg Hoffmann
The details (from wikipedia)


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 Button and Luke the Engine Driver. His works have been translated into more than 40 languages, sold more than 35 million copies, and adapted as motion pictures, stage plays, operas and audio books. Ende is 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's writing could be described as a surreal mixture of reality and fantasy.

Early life

Ende was born 12 November 1929 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, 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 World War II heavily influenced 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, which he experienced while visiting his paternal uncle. At the first available opportunity his uncle 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 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 [de], 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 Volkssturm 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).


Early career

During his time in Stuttgart, Ende first encountered Expressionist and Dadaist writing and began schooling himself in literature. He studied Theodor Däubler, Yvan Goll, Else Lasker-Schüler and Alfred Mombert, but his real love was the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, Stefan George and Georg Trakl. He also made his first attempts at acting, performing with friends in Stuttgart's America House. He was involved in productions of 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. The acting was a disappointment, he usually had 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.

Thanks to the numerous contacts of his girlfriend Ingeborg Hoffmann, Michael Ende was introduced to a variety of cabaret groups. In 1955, Therese Angeloff [de], head of Die kleinen Fische [de] (the 'Little Fish' cabaret), commissioned Ende to write a piece in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of 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. He also worked as a film critic during the 1950s.

Commercial success: writing Jim Knopf

In the late 1950s, Ende wrote his first novel Jim Button.

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 eighteen months he sent the manuscript to ten different publishers, but they all responded that it was "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. He eventually tried it at a small family publishing-house, K. Thienemann Verlag [de] in Stuttgart. Michael Ende's manuscript was accepted by company director Lotte Weitbrecht who liked the story. 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.

Writing style and themes

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. Especially in Germany, Ende was accused by some critics of escapism. 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.

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 Rudolf Steiner and his anthroposophy. 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. A theme of his work was the loss of fantasy and magic in the modern world.


Michael Ende had been fascinated by Japan since his childhood. 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.

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 the Japanese-born 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.

Personal life

On New Year's Eve 1952, Michael Ende met the actress Ingeborg Hoffmann during a party with friends. According to Ende, he was standing at an ivy-covered counter serving as barman, when Hoffmann strode towards him, looking "flame-haired, fiery and chic". She declaimed: "Leaning up against the ivy-covered wall / Of this old terrace"; "Mörike", Ende said instantly, recognizing the quote. Hoffmann, eight years his senior, made a big impression on Ende. She in turn was intrigued by his literary cultivation and artistic inclinations. They began a relationship that led to their marriage in 1964 in Rome, Italy, and ended with Ingeborg Hoffmann's sudden and unexpected death in 1985 from a pulmonary embolism; she was 63 years old.

Hoffmann influenced Ende profoundly. In addition to assisting with getting his first major manuscript published, Hoffmann worked with him on his others, reading them and discussing them with him. Hoffman also influenced Ende's life in other ways. She encouraged Ende to join the Humanistic Union, an organization committed to furthering humanist values. Together they campaigned for human rights, protested against rearmament, and worked towards peace. Thanks to Ingeborg Hoffmann's numerous contacts, Michael Ende was introduced to a variety of cabaret groups. In 1955, Therese Angeloff, head of Die kleinen Fische (the 'Little Fish' cabaret), commissioned Ende to write a piece in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of 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 Rome in Genzano, Italy, in a house they called Casa Liocorno ("The Unicorn"). It was there that Ende wrote most of the novel Momo. Following the death of his wife, Ende sold the home in Genzano and returned to Munich.

He married a second time in 1989, the Japanese woman Mariko Sato, and they remained married until his death. He 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 him 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 Ende was able to experience Kabuki and Noh theatre, and was greatly impressed by traditional Japanese drama. Michael Ende had no children.


In June 1994, Ende was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Over the next few months 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.)

  • 1960 – Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer (Translated into English by Anthea Bell as Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver)
    • children's book
    • Overlook Press, 1990, ISBN 0-87951-391-8
    • Winner of the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 1961.
  • 1962 – Jim Knopf und die Wilde 13 (Jim Button and the Wild 13)
    • children's book
  • 1967 – Die Spielverderber (The Spoilsports)
    • 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.)
    • children's book – Ende wrote and illustrated
    • Viking Penguin Press, 1986, ISBN 0-14-009464-4
    • Winner of the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 1974.
  • 1975 – Das Kleine Lumpenkasperle
    • children's book
  • 1976 – Ein sehr kurzes Märchen (A Very Short Fairy Tale)
    • 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
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 09 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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