Ende’s collection of short stories, Das Gefängnis der Freiheit (‘The Prison of Freedom’), was published in August 1992. Each story had its own perspective, narrative structure and style. The following year saw the publication of Ende’s large-format picture book, Die Vollmondlegende (‘Legend of the Full Moon’), with illustrations by Binette Schroeder. Soon afterwards Ende’s total sales topped fifteen million. Nonetheless Ende’s work was all but ignored by German literary critics. His books tended to be reviewed on the children’s pages, even if the volume in question was intended for adults. Michael Ende tried to explain the situation as follows: ‘You can enter the literary salon from any door you choose: from a prison, a madhouse, or even a bordello. But inside the salon one door is locked: the door from the nursery.’ On the rare occasions that critics mentioned Ende, they tended to refer to him ‘scathingly’ as the ‘Ende phenomenon’. No one attempted to engage with his work on a literary level.
In 1994 Michael Ende published Michael Endes Zettelkasten. Skizzen und Notizen (‘Michael Ende’s Filing Cabinet: Sketches and Notes’), a collection of fairytales, essays, meditations and poems drawn from his unpublished work and drafts. For the first time he broke with tradition and included personal material in his work. In the autumn of that year he published Die Zauberschule (‘School of Magic’), a collection of children’s fairytales illustrated by Bernhard Oberdieck.
A few months later Der Rattenfänger. Ein Hamelner Totentanz (‘The Pied Piper: Danse Macabre in Hamelin’) was premiered in Dortmann. The music was composed by Wilfried Hiller and the Piped Piper was played by clarinettist Giora Feidman. Michael Ende attended some of the rehearsals in March and April, and the opera was later performed in Hamelin and Kiel. In the libretto, published by Weitbrecht Verlag, Ende retells the traditional story of the Pied Piper, adding a King Rat to the cast of characters and expanding on the monetary aspect of the tale.