OBITUARY:Michael Ende

Michael Ende was one of the few 20th-century authors able to satisfy vast child and adult audiences alike with rich works of fantasy.

Like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and more latterly Ursula le Guin, he was adept at inventing imaginary worlds in which protracted battles between good and evil always seem more vividly clear-cut and engrossing than most things experienced in human reality. Yet when still a child himself, Ende knew about evil at first hand. As an unwilling member of the Hitler Youth at the age of 15, he lost three of his friends on their first day of active soldiering. Ende himself, the son of a Surrealist artist forbidden by the Nazis from working, destroyed his own draft and so avoided involvement in any fighting.

Born in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in the German Alps, Ende trained for the theatre before turning to writing. His first literary success was published in 1960, translated into English as Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver. This describes the imaginary country of Lummerland from which Jim and Luke depart on their train for various adventures. It won the Jugendbuchpreis for adolescent literature in Germany, and was later televised.

Ende's greatest triumph was to come in 1979 with The Neverending Story. Translated into 30 languages and selling over 16 million copies, it starts when 10-year-old Bastian, overweight and undervalued, decides he will read a fantastic book rather than endure another day's bullying at school. He is attracted by the book's title, The Neverending Story, since for him fiction has always been preferable to life. A story that promises never to end is his ideal option.

But strange things happen as his reading progresses. When he utters a cry of alarm the characters in the story seem to hear it. Later he reads about someone who exactly resembles him. Finally he enters fully into the story as a principal character. Things are going badly in the land of Fantasia where he now finds himself, yet he and his gallant new friends still manage to come out on top. Returning to the real world, Bastian quickly makes things up with his depressed father. The book ends in an orgy of optimistic self- assertion. This note was faithfully reflected in the three spectacular film versions of the story made since, all peopled with exotic monsters and mystical creatures: the first appeared in 1984; the sequel in 1990; and the most recent version was released earlier this year.

Ende's vision of a community threatened by overwhelming destructive forces struck a powerful chord with the German Green movement. Those who believed he was really describing the nuclear menace sometimes went to sit at his feet, or at least camp in the grounds of the Italian villa he had moved into in the 1960s. Other readers both young and old simply indulged themselves in his artful piece of ultimate wish- fulfilment, still selling well today and top of the German best-seller list for a record-breaking three years.

Several plays followed and a number of essays, but nothing Ende wrote was as successful again. Returning to Munich in the late 1980s after the death of his first wife, he married Marika Sato, his Japanese translator. At a time when other German writers were playing different, often more pessimistic, tunes, his mixture of Gothic fantasy and ultimate confidence proved a popular counter-attraction.

Even though he had no children himself, he had an excellent understanding of what young readers like. In return, they were happy to read his most famous book from cover to cover - just under 400 pages - in complete contradiction to those who feared that attention spans in the young were declining through too much exposure to television.

Nicholas Tucker

Michael Andreas Helmuth Ende, writer: born Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany 12 November 1929; married 1964 Ingeborg Hoffman (died 1985), 1989 Marika Sato; died Stuttgart 28 August 1995.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform