While the film version of The Neverending Story was in production, Michael Ende continued to write. On 23rd September 1982 Die Ballade von Norbert Nackendick oder Das nackte Nashorn (‘The Ballad of Nobert Fatnoggin or the Naked Rhino’) was premiered at Zangerle Puppet Theatre in the Rhineland. The piece was directed by Anton Bachleitner, and has since been performed over five hundred times. An LP was produced by Deutsches Grammaphon Junior, with Michael Ende singing to Wilfried Hiller’s melodies. The record won the 1994 German Gramophone Prize, and the story was published as a picture book by K. Thienemanns Verlag.
1983 saw the publication of Mirror in the Mirror, dedicated to Michael Ende’s father. The labyrinthine stories in the collection were structured according to artistic principles used by Edgar Ende in his paintings. Each story employed a new kind of dramaturgy that was coherent and self-explanatory, yet refused to conform to causal logic. The texts in Mirror in the Mirror were interlinked and designed to be read together. Each motif functioned independently but was also part of a larger canvas that could not be interpreted in any fixed way.
Taking their lead from Edgar Ende’s paintings, the stories in Mirror in the Mirror presented a riddle to which there was no obvious solution. In each case the observer or reader was encouraged to examine the picture or story and use his individual perspective to find a unique and highly personal meaning within the mysterious images and text. Michael Ende described this technique as a kind of ‘negative dramaturgy’ - an art of omission. He illustrated his point with an example: the artistic impact of a Greek temple was not derived from its pillars, but from the spaces in-between. Ende liked to cite Laozi: ‘A jug may be fashioned from clay, but it is the space between the clay that defines it.’
The Neverending Story continued to garner awards. In the Netherlands, the novel was awarded the Rotterdam Literary Prize, whilst in Spain it was nominated as children’s book of the year. Meanwhile Ende launched a new paperback volume Michael Ende: Mein Lesebuch ('My Reader') comprising stories, poems and other writings that had shaped his development as a writer.
On 14th June 1994 Trödelmarkt der Träume was premiered at Munich’s Institute of Arts. The sketches, written for ‘one mouth and six hands’, were set to music by Wilfried Hiller, and have since been performed over a hundred times. Der Goggolori, a Bavarian fairytale, was also published around this time. The book featured the original text written in Bavarian dialect and an alternative version in standard German.
Michael Ende’s first encounter with painter Friedrich Hechelmann marked the start of a productive friendship. By the end of their second meeting, they had already decided to collaborate on a project. The resulting volume, Ophelia’s Shadow Theatre, a picture book for adults and children, was based on a storyline that Ende had been mulling over for some time. The book was a reflection of Ende’s artistic vision, according to which art describes life in the language of great poets, ‘so angels can see and grasp the wretchedness and the glory, the sadness and humour of the human lot on Earth’. Three years later a stage version of Ende and Hechelmann’s first collaborative project was premiered at Hechelmann’s Bavarian home.