As part of the group of special editions produced by The Folio Society to mark their 75th anniversary, they have published a magical new edition of Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, translated by Ralph Manheim and beautifully illustrated by award-winning artist Marie-Alice Harel.
The Neverending Story marked a moment of unforgettable magic in my childhood. As an avid reader and lover of fantasy, this was a book that made a huge impact on me. I started it one afternoon and didn’t go to sleep until I finished it. The story is timeless and would resonate with any kid of any generation. I regularly give it as a present to children between 10 and 13 years of age and I am still to meet the first one that didn’t devour it cover to cover. The Neverending Story was first published in 1979 but only became popular around 198222 as it got translated into almost every language in the planet.
This new edition looks like the way I imagined the original book would have looked like when I read it for the first time. It is full of exquisite design details, decorative chapter openers and many magical illustrations to help the reader jump to the universe of Fantastica. The text is printed in two colours: red and green (as it was in the editions of the 1980s) and opulently bound in blocked art silk. The book comes presented in a printed and pearl blocked case.
Folio’s edition of The Neverending Story is bound in blocked art silk and presented in a printed and pearl blocked case.
The story of Fantastica is a story within a story. The protagonist, Bastian, is the typical shy, unpopular kid, often bullied in school and with a distant dad, who doesn’t seem to be able to get over the death of his wife. Bastian falls upon The Neverending Story in a bookshop and immerses himself in the world of Fantastica and the tragedy that afflicts its Childlike Empress, who is dying of a mysterious ailment. At the same time, The Nothing is eating away this magical land, advancing at a terrifying pace, swallowing anything and everyone on its wake. When Fantasticans fall into The Nothing, they come to our world as lies. And lies lead to terrible things…
If we consider the fact that Michael Ende was German and born in 1929, it is easy to see the similarities between The Nothing and much of what happens in the book with the Nazi regime and WWII. Ende’s family was seriously threatened by the Third Reich and Ende himself served in the resistance in 1945.
In Folio’s edition of The Neverending Story we find eight full page colour illustrations by Marie-Alice Harel, including a double page spread.
In the book, as the hero Atreyu and his dragon embark in a mission to find a cure for the Empress, Bastian realises that he is not just reading the book… but that he IS part of it and has a key role in this adventure. It has to be him, a human being, that saves Fantastica and the Childlike Empress by giving her a new name. His low self-esteem though prevents him from sharing the name he has imagined for her and only when Fantastica is seconds from total annihilation he finds the courage to call it out: Moon Child.
As a follower of the Enlightenment era, Ende feels that imagination should always be balanced with reason, so although the book is a clear ode to the use of imagination, in several moments it clearly says that for all to be in order in our world and in Fantastica, humans should visit Fantastica but then go back to their world. Reason needs imagination and there cannot be imagination without reason.
The book also warns us about the dangers of getting our wishes granted and the short path to megalomaniac authoritarianism. After Bastian saves Fantastica, the Childlike Empress gives him the Auryn (the medallion of power), making him her representative and giving him power over every creature in Fantastica. Then she disappears. Any wish he wants is granted, but he loses a bit of his memory each time. He even changes physically, becoming tall, handsome and prince-like. However, inside, he still hates himself and that feeling contaminates his soul and eats him away. He loses his friends Atreyu and Falcor, and starts to listen to pernicious gossip from bad people. Not only he almost loses himself but, his delusions of grandeur take him to almost taking the crown of Childlike Emperor, telling himself that he is surely meant to do so after the disappearance of the Empress. At the end of the day, that is what she meant, right? He was almost ordered by the medallion she gave him to do whatever he pleased. A sobering view of human nature by Ende and one clearly mimicking the events surrounding the rise of the Third Reich and of Hitler.
When Empress Moon Child disappears, Bastian gets progressively drunk with power and believes he should be Emperor.
Thankfully in the book Ende turns things around. Bastian realises the mistake he has made when he goes to the City of Old Emperors and meets other humans that had tried to become Emperors before. The are all mad as they had wished and wished until they had completely forgotten themselves and live permanently in some sad form of delusion.
The moral and ethical lessons of The Neverending Story are not limited to the dangers of an improper relationship between imagination and reality or about the risk of becoming a tyrant, but also about the importance of finding and loving yourself, just as you are. Only then you can be the best version of yourself and help and inspire others.
Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story, illustrated by Marie-Alice Harel (£80.00) is exclusively available from foliosociety.com. You can buy it now HERE.
Words: Julia Pasarón
Opening picture: Sphinxes from the 1984 film The NeverEnding Story at Bavaria Studios, Munich. Photo by Michael Kleinhenz.