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Encyclopedia > Childlike Empress

The Childlike Empress is an important character in the 1979 Michael Ende novel, Die Unendliche Geschichte (The Neverending Story). The length of time she actually appears in the book is brief compared to other characters of similar importance. However, her significance to both the story and the interactions of the characters is vital to fully appreciate the varying messages Ende is trying to convey. Because of the complexity of this character, the role in Wolfgang Petersen's film adaptation (1984) called for a subtle, even-handed performance, which ultimately went to Tami Stronach. This page refers to the year 1979. ... Michael Ende (November 12, 1929 – August 29, 1995) was a German writer of fantasy novels and childrens books. ... The Neverending Story, 1997 Puffin Books paperback edition The Neverending Story (Die Unendliche Geschichte) is a fantasy novel by Michael Ende, first published in 1979. ... Wolfgang Petersen Wolfgang Petersen (born March 14, 1941 in Emden, Lower Saxony, Germany) is a German film director. ... Tami Stronach, (born Tamara Stronach in Teheran, Iran, 31 July 1972), is a dancer and choreographer, and has worked as an actor. ...

Attributes of the Empress

A wide spectrum of attributes the Empress is described as possessing make her something of an enigma. Different aspects of her personality, demonstrated by quotes from the novel, are provided below.


The name of this character, of course, gives one indication of the type of being the Empress is. However, this is more of a physical description than anything else. According to Ende, she looks "like an indescribably beautiful little girl of no more than ten," how had "long, smoothly combed hair, which hung down over her shoulders" (169). Bastian noted that her eyebrows were "two fine lines that might have been drawn with India ink, arching over her golden eyes" (169).


The descriptions of the Childlike Empress in Ende's novel frequently imply gentleness. Physically, she was referred to by Falkor the luckdragon as "infinitely frail and delicate" (165); her head "tilted on her slender neck" (169); and Atreyu, looking into her eyes, "found only serenity" (174). This attribute also applies to her mannerisms. She speaks softly(173, 177, 189, 193) and has a soft or "lilting" laugh (174, 182, 203, 205).


Even when other characters get emotional—angry, anxious, confused—the Childlike Empress remains calm (175, 194, 204-05). Rather than smiling, laughing, or speaking softly, her emotion is conveyed more subtly. More often than not, her expression is "serene and untroubled" (169).


When Atreyu gets angry, "the Childlike Empress's eyes grew grave" (175); in reaction to the thought that Bastian might not call her name and save Fantastica, "the expression of her face" conveyed "grandeur and severity" (180); and when the Old Man of Wandering Mountain trembles at the thought of the Circle of Eternal Return, the Empress's voice becomes "as hard and clear as a diamond" (195).

Of Uncertain Origin

Falkor indicates that, though she is "like a little girl," the Childlike Empress is "much older than the oldest inhabitants of Fantastica. Or rather, she is ageless" (165). Physical traits seem somewhat different from what a child might typically have. Her hair was "as white as snow," she had "strangely elongated earlobes," and her eyes were "almond-shaped" (169). Beyond this, however, she is explicitly described both as "not human," but also "not a creature of Fantastica" and "of a different kind" (166). While not a part of the world of Fantastica, however, it appears she is still bound to it in certain very real ways (see, for example, the discussion between the Childlike Empress and the Old Man of Wandering Mountain, pages 193-194).



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