I Guess Authors Don’t Always Love Their Books’ Movies :(

THE NEVERENDING STORY was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. To be honest, I still love it. I even have it on DVD.

Turns out, though, the movie wasn’t a fave of the book’s author, Michael Ende. (The book was originally written in German in 1979, and was called Die unendliche Geschichte. An English translation by Ralph Manheim was published four years later.)

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1997 Dutton edition cover

I didn’t know this before, because honestly I’ve never read the book, but I guess the original film directed by Wolfgang Petersen only covered about the first half of the story. Apparently, Ende was not pleased, and he demanded to have his name removed from the film’s credits.

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THE NEVERENDING STORY original movie poster

Personally, I thought the movie was extremely well-made. The special effects (considering it was 1984) were great. I’ll never forget the Rock Biter, sitting all alone in the desolate expanse when the Nothing comes to destroy the small bit of Fantasia that’s left. He’s just sitting there, looking lost — when Atreyu passes by him, and he says to Atreyu: “I couldn’t hold onto them. [Referring to his lost friends.] The Nothing just whisked them away. Look at my hands — they look like big, strong hands, don’t they?”

Atreyu nods wordlessly, and continues on his mission, not knowing what to say. Who would?

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Atreyu with Falkor the luckdragon (2016 Google Doodle)

The most heartbreaking moment of the movie, of course, was when Artax got sucked into the Swamp of Sadness. I cry every time.

But oh, well. I guess Ende had a specific vision in mind for his masterpiece (just as all us authors do), and Petersen’s film didn’t live up to his expectations. For my own part, though, I’ll always love THE NEVERENDING STORY. I’m so excited that Google decided to honor the book’s 37th anniversary today with a special series of Doodles!

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The Palace of the Childlike Empress (2016 Google Doodle)
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Book Review: A SOCIAL HISTORY OF GREECE & ROME

Let’s start off by saying that I enjoyed this book immensely. Michael Grant is one of those writers who words history in a very palatable way, making it fun and exciting.

 

One of my favorite things about this little volume was its prolific reference to classical literature, with the dual purpose of making the text more interesting, and offering the reader a nice background of published work in the time period. Literature, too, is obviously a huge outlet for social information. The literary minds of the time recorded their own views of the social hierarchy, whether it was in commentary like Plato’s or fiction like Homer’s. Now, those views have been handed down to us, to shed a better light on what life was like in the classical world.

The book was organized in this way. Women were detailed first: Greek women, then Roman women. Then came men: Rich men and poor men. Obviously, the greater difference between men would have existed due to rank and station; not nationality. Whether Greek or Roman, men enjoyed the same privileges.

The last, and meatiest, section, deals with “The Unfree and the Freed,” seeing as there were so many unfree people in the classical world. There are chapters about serfs (very different from slaves, but hardly better); Greek slaves; Roman slaves; and finally, freedmen and freedwomen. The freeing of slaves was very popular, for a time, in ancient Rome in particular. Slaveholders dangled the opportunity of freedom in front of slaves, to produce better effort from them. Sometimes, freedmen rose to very high rank and station, even becoming members of government.

If you’re looking for a quick read on classical history from a social, rather than a political, perspective, take a look at Grant’s volume. He’s written many books on the classical world, perhaps the most prominent of which are The Founders of the Western World and The Fall of the Roman Empire, both of which I’m perusing at the moment.

Michael Grant is a former Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Professor of Humanity at Edinburgh University. He lives in Italy.

Lovely choice of residence for a Roman scholar!