Momo Michael Ende

Default Smiles Sometimes you reread a book and you can feel a goofy smile taking over your face that you just can’t get rid of. This has happened with all the rereads so far, and this book is just the latest offender. Weirdly, we just realised that this book and another we’ve tackled, both fantasies featuring a brave little girl saving the world with the help of little creatures, have surprisingly heavy themes.
Happy Sharky That’s true. In The Wee Free Men, it was the nature of stories and how they can impact people’s judgments and perception in reality. In Momo, it’s about the nature and value of time and how it relates to life. Heavy stuff, but in the right hands they sparkle.
Default Smiles And boy does this sparkle. Imagine you’re an orphan living alone in the ruins of an old amphitheater. If there’s anything you have, it’s a skill for listening. You listen so well people start pouring out their hearts to you, so you always make them feel better. That’s great, because the people of the town love you and keep you fed and in good company because of it. But this is just the start. Slowly but surely, they start to get busier and busier. Soon nobody comes visiting anymore. Nobody has time. Why, you ask? … pst, ask.
Confused Sharky Oh. Uh. Yes, I do ask.
Surprised Smiles There are creepy men in grey suits creeping around, convincing people to ‘save’ time by not taking pride in their work or spending time with loved ones anymore, only obsessing on how much work they can get done in the smallest amount of time. Only that time isn’t being saved. It’s being STOLEN.
Surprised Sharky 2 No.
Shocked Smiles YES.
Surprised Sharky Gosh.
intent-smiles Mhm.
Happy Sharky2 This is another story with a fairy-tale atmosphere that works so well. There’s a quiet, timeless feel to most of the scenes, like listening to a bedtime story while half asleep. That just makes it all the more jarring when things change. The quiet, steady pace is there, but more hopeless than peaceful. And it switches to horribly sinister very smoothly and increasingly often whenever the men in grey show up.
Default Smiles Honestly those are some of my favourite parts. They’re so sinister, everything about their scenes is so… shivery, from their plans, to how they act and sound, to their total and terrifying control of apparently everything. Which just makes it all the more satisfying when they panic. Not that they’re any less creepy when they’re panicking.
Default Sharky It’s just how they go about things that’s so creepy, I think. There isn’t a single minute in the book where the little girl, Momo, is in physical danger from these guys. In fact I don’t think they physically hurt anyone at all. They just convince everyone to damage themselves and each other. In Momo’s case, she doesn’t have anything they can take away from her. Except her friends. So they isolate her completely for months, trying to emotionally crush her until she agrees to their terms.
Sad Smiles 2 The second part of the book is genuinely so heartbreaking. Everything seems like it’s going well at first, Momo meets a tortoise who guides her away from danger just as the men in grey are about to come grab her, and she ends up in a safe place, with a kind, wise advisor, as much as she can eat, and learns what she needs to about time and life to protect her friends.
Sad Sharky The only catch is, to really understand what she’s learned and tell everyone else, she needs to ‘wait’. She agrees to that and falls asleep for a YEAR. So by the time she gets back, everything’s changed. And while she was gone her two closest friends have been going insane with worry, which is exactly what lets the grey men get their hooks into them. All she needs is someone to listen. But there’s nobody left to listen to her. And that huge, heavy, beautiful knowledge she has becomes a crushing burden because she can’t share it with anyone and she desperately needs to.
Sad Smiles It’s so SAD. I had a bit of a hard time reading through that again, since I knew what had happened… and then even when she’s at her lowest, loneliest, most desperate point, hemmed in on all sides by endless ranks of the enemy, she refuses them because she’s brave and amazing, but then everything goes WRONG again.
Happy Sharky2 But that makes it all the more satisfying when we hit the last ditch attempt to save the world, right?
Happy Smiles It does! Sometimes in the book there’s this weird sense that Momo’s a pawn for bigger forces, being guided around to where she needs to be to use her patience and listening and whatnot. But then she gets to stand up to the grey men. And then we hit a point where she’s really the active heroine, because whatever fate has been guiding her all this time is gone, and it’s up to her.
Quiet Sharky Mm.
Surprised Smiles You don’t look very happy, Sharky?
Confused Sharky I really like this book. Scratch that, I love it. But reading it again, it bothers me that they constantly imply that everything worked out because… it was going to work out. The tortoise that guides her around can see half an hour into the future, but can’t change anything.  So… if the bad guys were supposed to win they would have just won. If the tortoise had seen them grabbing Momo near the start of the book, there was nothing anyone could have done about it. The only reason they escaped was because the tortoise knew they would escape. At the climax where Momo loses her way trying to follow the bad guys, the only reason she finds them again is because… the tortoise knew she would? I don’t know, I’m glad everything worked out but for an overthinker like me it feels like nothing was really up to how brave or how clever or how determined anyone was. Cuts down on the satisfaction a bit.
Surprised Smiles Yeaaaahh. Once they reach the place time comes from, the philosophy and conversations start to get a little… weird. My advice is not to think too hard about it.
Default Sharky Well, whatever. It bothers me but not enough to spoil the book. It's still brilliant and deserves a read, for sure.
Confused Smiles Are you letting go of your annoyance over something to appreciate the good?
Confused Sharky … yeah?
Shocked Smiles Who are you and what have you done with my friend?!
Default Sharky Oh shut up.


2 thoughts on “Momo Michael Ende

  1. An excellent review of a great book. The idea of stealing and manipulating an individual’s personal time (as opposed to time travel) is so unusual that it is rarely seen. A 2011 movie Stealing Time had this concept. The only book I can think of offhand is Thief of Time by our all time favourite author Terry Pratchett.
    A must read. I must borrow it and go through it again now.

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