The Neverending Story originated, as I hear, in German. When I was in my preteens, my father purchased a translated copy for me, and the coolest thing about it was that it kept to the way the original was printed. The book was published with green and red print. Red for the real world, as it were, and green for Fantasia. The initial caps for each chapter is also beautifully illustrated.
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I am uncertain if the currently published editions are done by the same translator. My copy of the book is about halfway around the world, in my brother's possession at the moment. I hope that each translator manages to do justice to the original story and allows each new reader to enjoy the gorgeous depths to which Michael Ende plumbed.
If you've ever watched the Neverending Story movies and liked them, please consider reading the book. It is so much better. I had read the book before the movies were around and was actually very disappointed in what I saw on the silver screen. Don't get me wrong - The producers and director of the first NS movie did marvellously well for the effects, set, costuming and casting. Unfortunately it still missed the sparkling magic that could only be found between the pages of the book. The red and green text is said by many to be very hard on the eyes. I cannot deny that, but I have to say that you tend to get used to the print. After some time of reading the green, your eyes are soothed.. when the scene in the book changes to that of the real world (red) you are jarred by the harsh difference (good imagery, eh?). If you look up from the book after getting used to the colored print, the world looks very faded and washed out. It is somewhat disappointing, and the world contained within the book is so much more appealing.. so you long to return to the book!
The book contains many more somber scenes. The movies either cut most of them out, or glossed over them and made them less harsh. While this lessened the more frightening aspects for younger children watching the movie, it detracted a lot from the story as a whole. Michael Ende wove a very intricate web into the story and explored a great many aspects of human emotions, thoughts, and imagination. Because the story was divided into parts for the movies, the movies appear very disjointed. You can get much more continuity by reading the book.
The Neverending story is much more akin to C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia than it is to many of what is produced by fantasy writers today. The wars fought do not dance around adult politics, swordplay or controlled magic. The true magic is that of imagination, budding fantasy, and hope. The ideas and concepts feel barely leashed in; they can spark a young reader's imagination and set it free to run with wild abandon. And that the book achieves it, ladies and gentleman, is the magic.
This may not be the next best thing on which to sic a Harry Potter fan. The writing is very different and may be less accessible to someone used to J. K. Rowling's style. I'd recommend a trip to Narnia first before embarking on the Neverending Story book.
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