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In The Neverending Story, the main turning point is when Bastian gives the Childlike Empress her much-needed name, saves Fantastica, and enters into the story himself.

This name is "Moon Child", or "Mondenkind" in the original German.

What, if anything is the significance of this name? Since the whole story revolves around names and particularly Bastian's skill at naming things, and this particular name is of such vital importance to the plot, surely the author put a lot of thought into choosing it. Why "Moon Child"? Does this name have some deeper meaning, or even wordplay in the original German? Does it tie in somehow to the main themes of the story?

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    I have often thought that the name Moon Child was rather a disapointment! It isn't really that imaginative...
    – Mirte
    Mar 27 '18 at 12:04
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The simplest explanation, in-universe so to speak, would be that you need a new unique name to see the Childlike Empress, and "Mondenkind" isn't really a word that existed before in the German language (certainly not in common parlance). Even the more correct compound noun "Mondkind" would be unusual. "Monden" ist dative plural, so "Mondenkind" would be "child belonging to the moons" or something, but is more likely to be a stylised form. In German, shoving extra syllables into a word is sometimes used to make words sound more "antique" and courtly. And (speculative) the Childlike Empress does not shine her own light, she projects back the phantasies of children.

The less mundane out of universe answer is that, according to some sources, it is a reference to the novel "Moonchild" by British occultist Aleister Crowley. This is borne out by the fact that among Michael Ende's possessions was, according to the newspaper "Mittelbayerische", an "Äquinox" (now on display in the Ende museum), the seal of Crowley's occult society "Thelemic Golden Dawn", which bears the inscription "Tu was du willst, soll sein das ganze Gesetz", or in the original English, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law", which is also the inscription on the Auryin medallion in the Neverending Story.

Like many left wing would be revolutionaries from the 1968 student protest who went into political "inner emigration", Michael Ende believed in any number of strange things (some of them even true, such as climate change), so a reference to occultism isn't perhaps that unusual. However, at least as far as I can recall, the connection was not widely known or discussed at the time of publication (but then I was eight when it was published, so I wouldn't really have been interested in that kind of discussion).

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  • "Everything has always been a nod to Aleister Crowley." Nice answer, but for the specific significance of this name in the context of the story alone, I'd be very interested in an expansion on your idea that "the Childlike Empress does not shine her own light, she projects back the phantasies of children".
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jun 24 '20 at 7:01
  • @Randal'Thor, there really isn't much sourced material to go on. I couldn't sleep last night, so I spent a few hours reading archived interviews with Michael Ende, but those were mostly rants against the state of the world at large and against Bernd Eichinger in particular (Ende really didn't like that movie). Jun 24 '20 at 7:08
  • I don't want to delete my answer (I have a vague feeling that would be cowardly) but still the upvoters should take their votes back, since the answer is wrong; Ende himself denounced the connection to Crowley and said that making the connection was just part of an attempt to connect him to satanists and the like (as I would have known if instead of pouring over ancient contemporary newspaper articles I would just have read the Wikipedia entry). Feb 13 at 21:39
  • You could edit the answer to note that Ende denounced the connection to Crowley; that's useful additional info, and better than outright deleting the Crowley references, since then readers can judge for themselves whether to believe Ende or decide that he was in denial. Also, editing will allow people to undo their votes if they want to :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 17 at 10:42
  • I will. I was pretty sure that people get notified about comments, but could not remember if they got notified of edits. Feb 17 at 16:11

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