From Everything Shii Knows, the only reliable source

This website is an archive. It ran from 2006-2010. Virtually everything on here is outdated or inaccurate.

This page is quite old now, I will be rewriting it soon.

Momo is a book by Michael Ende. It is my favorite book of all time, although because of the simple, straightforward writing style and fairy tale-like elements, I don't quite consider it the best book of all time, and there's another book which owns that title ("but that's another story and shall be told another time" in another article).

Every person on the planet should have a chance to read Momo.



This is my favorite part of my favorite book ever, so please read it closely.

Every day, more and more people took to saving time, and the more they did so the more they were copied by others--even by those who had no real desire to join in but felt obliged to.

Radio, television and newspapers daily advertised and extolled the merits of new, timesaving gadgets that would one day leave people free to live the 'right' kind of life. Walls and billboards were plastered with posters depicting scenes of happiness and prosperity. Splashed across them in fluorescent lettering were slogans such as:




The real picture, however, was very different. Admittedly, timesavers were better dressed than the people who lived near the old amphitheatre. They earned more money and had more to spend, but they looked tired, disgruntled and sour, and there was an unfriendly light in their eyes. They'd never heard the phrase "Why not go and see Momo?" nor did they have anyone to listen to them in a way that would make them reasonable or conciliatory, let alone happy. Even had they known of such a person, they would have been highly unlikely to pay him or her a visit unless the whole affair could be dealt with in five minutes flat, or they would have considered it a waste of time. In their view, even leisure time had to be used to the full, so as to extract the maximum of entertainment and relaxation with the minimum of delay.

Whatever the occasion, whether solemn or joyous, time-savers could no longer celebrate it properly. Daydreaming they regarded almost as a criminal offence. What they could endure least of all, however, was silence, for when silence fell they became terrified by the realization of what was happening to their lives. And so, whenever silence threatened to descend, they made a noise. It wasn't a happy sound, of course, like the hubbub in a children's playground, but an angry, ill-tempered din that grew louder every day.

It had ceased to matter that people should enjoy their work and take pride in it; on the contrary, enjoyment merely slowed them down. All that mattered was to get through as much work as possible in the shortest possible time, so notices to that effect were prominently displayed in every factory and office building. They read:


Similar notices hung above business executives' desks and in boardrooms, in doctors' consulting rooms, shops, restaurants and department stores - even in schools and kindergartens. No one was left out.

Last but not least, the appearance of the city itself changed more and more. Old buildings were pulled down and replaced with modern ones devoid of all the things that were now thought superfluous. No architect troubled to design houses that suited the people who were to live in them, because that would have meant building a whole range of different houses. It was far cheaper and, above all, more timesaving to make them identical.

Huge modern housing developments sprang up on the city's northern outskirts--endless rows of multi-storyed tenements as indistinguishable as peas in a pod. And because the buildings all looked alike, so, of course, did the streets. They grew steadily longer, stretching away to the horizon in dead straight lines and turning the countryside into a disciplined desert. The lives of the people who inhabited this desert followed a similar pattern: they ran dead straight for as far as the eye could see. Everything in them was carefully planned and programmed, down to the last move and the last moment of time.

People never seemed to notice that, by saving time, they were losing something else. No one cared to admit that life was becoming ever poorer, bleaker and more monotonous.

The ones who felt this most keenly were the children, because no one had time for them any more.

But time is life itself, and life resides in the human heart. And the more people saved, the less they had.



Momo is a book of little symbolism but many powerful themes. Ende makes direct statements about listening, time, and the music of the spheres. For the first two subjects, Momo was the first time I had ever seen these things described with the appreciation they deserve.

Eventually I'll list all of the major things here.

I haven't written all the sections on this page yet. I intend to finish it later.

The hour-lilies

Also known as the "flowers of hours." Actually I made that up just now. The hour-lilies are both ineffable and irreplaceable, and yet, like time, they disappear from us just as soon as we see them. The use of a flower for this image cannot be explained beyond its real beauty.

Towards the end of the book, Momo takes an hour-lily with her and saves the world in but an hour. Does she do this by "saving time," putting less effort into her actions than she ought to so that there will be more time later? No, she just does what she has to do.

The toys

The expensive electric toys in Momo are first and foremost a real criticism of children's toys today, which are stand-ins for conscious thought. No wonder kids are buying video game systems instead of talking action figures! The small amount of laziness made possibly by toys that repeat themselves can't hold up to the new level of laziness made possible by transistors that imagine everything for you.

But elements of the stupidity of these toys can also be seen in things that are not children's toys. Take for example the talking doll which the grey gentlemen plant for Momo. Its chatter seems like a silly exaggeration, but aren't there many things in your life that act like that doll? Our computers are programmed to whine at us about the things that they want us to spend money on-- the registered version that will make our lives better, the full antivirus solution that will keep us secure. Our iPods demand us to fill them up with songs. I'm being rhetorical, I don't own an iPod. But an iPod is sort of an expensive, unimaginative toy, isn't it? Designed for nothing but entertainment, it fills your ears with song for you, until you go through all the songs in your library.

The movie

I watched the movie without subtitles. It was a closer adaption to the book than The Neverending Random Plot Event Movie, and used nearly the exact dialogue and series of events, but the effects left a lot to be desired. Also, Momo is the kind of book where you like to imagine your own designs for the characters. For example, I definitely did not imagine Momo with an afro.


Momo is a beloved classic around the world, except in the United States. For bubu of iitran, it was his inspiration in childhood. It's also required reading for one of my college's German literature classes. I don't know the teacher who did that but I love her already.

What WAHa.06x36 of iitran thought of Momo:

<Shii> hey, why is it that you like the neverending story better?
<WAHa_06x36> Shii: well.
<WAHa_06x36> Shii: I like Momo because it is subversive.
<Shii> i mean, any story with self-references is one of the best of all time by default, but... it seems a
pretty basic fairy tale
<Shii> ("if on a winter's night a traveller" is pretty good)
<WAHa_06x36> Shii: but with the Neverending Story, well, first of all, I like fairy tales.
<WAHa_06x36> and Neverending Story has a lot of specific elements I like a lot.
<WAHa_06x36> it also has a deep humanism and insight that is lacking from nearly all fantasy literature ever.
<WAHa_06x36> pretty much every character in the neverending story is, at some level, likeable, even the
scariest monster.
<dmpk2k|w_> Neverending Story? Wait, is that the one with the film? >.>;;;
<Shii> you mean... modern fantasy literature... that makes a lot of sense
<WAHa_06x36> Shii: right.
<WAHa_06x36> Shii: and Momo, for all its other values, is still a tale of some sort of good versus some sort
of \evil. 
<WAHa_06x36> and I don't care much for that.
<WAHa_06x36> neverending story is much more nuanced.
<Shii> yeah, if i could reframe the idealistic morals of the one in the realistic universe of the other...
well  it'd take a genius author to do that 
<WAHa_06x36> and also the neverending story just has SO MUCH STUFF in it.
<WAHa_06x36> the huge cast of characters, the settings, the imagery is wonderful...
<WAHa_06x36> that forest of light has haunted me ever since I first read it, a long time ago.

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