The following year, 1966, Michael Ende bought a 550-year-old lodge in the Mangfall Valley, thirty kilometres south of Munich. The three-storey house had once served as a court of law and an inn, but was now in urgent need of repair. Its dilapidated condition and sheer size meant that the asking price was correspondingly low. The plan was to divide the lodge into separate apartments: one for Luise Ende, another for Helmut Ende (Michael’s uncle and one of the directors of Hamburg harbour), and a third for Michael and Ingeborg. For four years the couple took it in turns to work shifts throughout the day and night until the house was finally made habitable in 1968. The renovation work swallowed all their resources. In 1967 the Spielverderber, a tragic-comedy, was premiered in Frankfurt. The production was woefully inadequate and the premiere a disaster.
The production of Die Spielverderber faced a number of problems. Michael Ende described the dilemma as follows: ‘I was in a real bind. Theatre of the Absurd was in its heyday and the reviewers were always writing about how such and such a play had expertly done away with the need for a plot. Somehow I couldn’t help thinking that maybe the playwright simply hadn’t been inspired, and that doing away with the plot hadn’t been much of a sacrifice at all. In any case, that was the way things were when I showed up with a plot-driven drama featuring not just one, but several storylines …’ Although other theatres refused to stage the play, it has since become a favourite with school drama groups.
1969 marked the publication of Das Schnurpsenbuch, a collection of riddles, nonsense poems and magical spells designed to show how playing with language can be fun. The book was illustrated by Siegfried Wagner and was intended for readers of all ages. Ten years later K Thienemanns published a revised edition with illustrations by Rolf Rettich.