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The Night of Wishes

Michael Ende

  The Night of Wishes

  or, The Satanarchaeolidealcohellish Notion Potion

  Michael Ende

  Translated from the German by

  Heike Schwarzbauer and Rick Takvorian

  Pictures by Regina Kehn


  New York


  435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

  Copyright © 1989 by K. Thienmemanns Verlag

  Translation copyright © 1992 by Heike Schwarzbauer and Rick Takvorian

  All rights reserved.

  First published in German in 1989 as Der satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch by K. Thienmemanns Verlag, Stuttgart–Vienna

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Names: Ende, Michael, author. | Kehn, Regina, illustrator. | Schwarzbauer, Heike, translator. | Takvorian, Rick, translator.

  Title: The night of wishes : or, The satanarchaeolidealcohellish notion potion / by Michael Ende ; illustrated by Regina Kehn ; translated from the German by Heike Schwarzbauer and by Rick Takvorian.

  Other titles: Satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch. English

  Description: New York : New York Review Books, [2017] | Series: New York Review Children’s Collection

  Identifiers: LCCN 2017013742 | ISBN 9781681371887 (hardback)

  Subjects: LCSH: Magic—Fiction. | Wizards—Fiction. | Occult fiction. | Humorous stories. | BISAC: JUVENILE FICTION / Fantasy & Magic. | JUVENILE FICTION / Holidays & Celebrations / Other, Non-Religious.

  Classification: LCC PT2665.N27 S2613 2017 | DDC 833/.914—dc23

  LC record available at

  Cover design by Louise Fili Ltd.

  ISBN 978-1-68137-188-7


  For a complete list of titles, visit or write to:

  Catalog Requests, NYRB, 435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

  Translators’ Dedication

  To Nick and the pink sofa


  Title Page


  Copyright and More Information


  Biographical Notes

  Pitch blackness had settled much earlier than usual over this, the last afternoon of the year. Black clouds darkened the sky and a blizzard had been raging through the Dead Park for hours.

  Nothing was stirring within the Villa Nightmare—except for the flickering shadow of the fire, its green flames burning in the hearth and casting an eerie glow over the sorcerer’s laboratory.

  The works of the pendulum clock above the mantelpiece rattled to life. It was a cuckoo clock of sorts, except that its elaborate mechanism consisted of a sore thumb being struck by a hammer.

  “Ouch!” it said. “Ouch!—Ouch!—Ouch!—Ouch!”

  So it was five o’clock.

  Normally the striking of the clock put Shadow Sorcery Minister Beelzebub Preposteror in an exceptionally good mood, but on this particular New Year’s Eve he cast a rather woebegone glance in its direction. Dismissing it with a listless wave of his hand, he wrapped himself in the smoke of his pipe and brooded away with downcast brow. He knew that big trouble lay ahead. At midnight at the latest—with the coming of the New Year.

  The sorcerer sat in a spacious armchair which had been built out of coffin planks four hundred years ago by a handy vampire. The cushions were made from the pelts of werewolves and had, admittedly, become a little shabby over the years. This piece of furniture was a family heirloom and Preposteror cherished it, although he was for the most part rather progressive and moved with the times—at least as far as his profession was concerned.

  The pipe he smoked was in the shape of a small skull whose green glass eyes lit up with every puff. Little clouds of smoke took all manner of curious shapes in the air: numbers and equations, coiling snakes, bats, little ghosts, but mainly question marks.

  Beelzebub Preposteror uttered a deep sigh, rose to his feet, and began pacing back and forth in his laboratory. He would be held accountable, of that he was certain. But whom would he have to answer to? And what could he present in his defense? And above all, would they buy his excuses?

  His tall, bony figure was clothed in a pleated dressing gown of bilious green silk (bilious green being the Shadow Sorcery Minister’s favorite color). His head was small and bald and looked somehow shriveled, like a withered apple. On his hooked nose perched a pair of huge, black-rimmed glasses, with glittering lenses as thick as magnifying glasses, which enlarged his eyes to an unnatural degree. His ears stood out like handles on a pot and his mouth was as thin as if it had been sliced into his face with a razor. All in all, he was not exactly the kind of guy you would trust at first glance. Yet this did not bother Preposteror in the least; he had never been a particularly sociable character. Given the choice, he preferred his own company and working in seclusion.

  At one point he stopped pacing and pensively scratched his bald dome.

  “If nothing else, potion No. 92 absolutely must get finished today,” he muttered. “I hope that cursed tomcat won’t get in the way.”

  He stepped toward the fireplace.

  On an iron tripod there stood amid the green flames a glass cauldron, wherein simmered a certain brew, which looked rather revolting: black as tar and icky as snail slime. Critically stirring the stuff with a wand of mountain crystal, Preposteror let his thoughts wander as he listened to the whining and wuthering of the blizzard which shook the shutters.

  Alas, the brew would have to bubble for quite a while still before it was finished cooking and properly transmutated.

  As soon as the potion was done, it would render a completely tasteless solution which could be mixed in with every sort of food and drink. All those who partook of it would henceforth firmly believe that everything that Preposteror produced served the progress of humanity. The sorcerer intended to deliver it to all the supermarkets in the city shortly after New Year’s Day, to be sold under the name Mr. Pick-Me-Up’s Diet.

  But he hadn’t gotten that far yet. These things took time—and that was the fly in the ointment.

  The Shadow Sorcery Minister put down his pipe and let his gaze wander through the semidarkness of the laboratory. The reflection of the green fire shuddered against the mountains of old and new books containing all the mixtures and formulas which Preposteror needed for his experiments. Test tubes, glasses, bottles, and spiraling coils glistened mysteriously from the darkest corners of the room, their multicolored liquids rising and falling, dripping and steaming. Tiny lamps blinked continually, punctuating the low humming and beeping of computers and electrical appliances. In a dark recess, luminous globes of red and blue levitated and descended in a soundless and steady rhythm, and smoke swirled within a crystal jar, forming a glimmering spectral flower at regular intervals.

  As we have already mentioned, Preposteror was definitely an up-to-date, state-of-the-art sorcerer; in fact, in some respects he was well ahead of his time.

  But he had fallen hopelessly behind schedule with his deadlines.

  A low coughing startled him.

  He whipped around.

  Someone was sitting in the big old armchair.

  Aha, he thought, here we go. Pull yourself together!

  Now, a sorcerer—and especially one of Preposteror’s ilk—is certainly used to all manner of unearthly creatures appearing in his presence, frequently unannounced and uninvited; but they are usually ghosts carrying their heads under their arms, or villains with three eyes and six hands, or fire-breathing dragons, or other such monstrosities. None of this would have frightened the Shadow
Sorcery Minister in the least; he was familiar with this world. It was, in fact, the daily or nightly company he kept.

  This visitor, however, was completely different. He looked as normal as any man on the street—almost frighteningly normal. And that was what made Preposteror lose his composure.

  The man was wearing a proper black coat, a stiff black hat on his head, and black gloves; a black briefcase was poised on his knees. His face betrayed no emotion whatsoever and was very pale, almost white. His colorless eyes bulged slightly and he stared without blinking. He had no eyelids.

  Preposteror pulled himself together and approached the visitor. “Who are you? What do you want?”

  The visitor took his time. He stared back at his interlocutor for a while with cold pop eyes before answering in a flat voice, “Have I the pleasure of addressing Shadow Sorcery Minister Beelzebub Preposteror?”

  “You have indeed. —Well?”

  “Please allow me to introduce myself.”

  Without rising from his chair, the visitor tipped his hat slightly, and for a split second two small reddish bumps, which looked like pustules, were visible on his smooth white skull.

  “My name is Maggot—Maledictus Maggot, if you please.”

  The sorcerer was still determined not to be impressed. “And what gives you the right to infringe upon my privacy?”

  “Oh,” said Mr. Maggot without so much as a smile, “if you will allow me to say so, dear sir, you of all people should not ask so foolish a question.”

  Preposteror knitted his fingers so tightly that his knuckles cracked. “You don’t come from . . . ?”

  “Quite right,” confirmed the gentleman, “from there,” simultaneously pointing downward with his thumb.

  Preposteror swallowed dryly and said nothing.

  His guest continued, “I have come at the personal behest of His Hellish Excellency, your most worthy benefactor.”

  The sorcerer attempted to feign a pleased smile, but his teeth suddenly seemed to be glued together. Only with great difficulty was he able to stutter, “What an honor.”

  “That it is, dear sir,” answered the visitor. “I have been sent by the Minister of Pitch Darkness himself, His Excellency Beelzebub, whose name you are permitted to enjoy the undeserved honor of bearing. My unworthy self is merely an executive body of the lowest category. Once I have carried out my mission to the satisfaction of His Excellency, I can hope to soon be promoted—perhaps even to head of a spooking department.”

  “Congratulations, Mr. Maggot,” stammered Preposteror. “And what might your mission be?” His face had taken on a slightly greenish tinge.

  “I have come here in an exclusively official capacity,” Mr. Maggot declared, “as a bailiff, if you will.”

  The sorcerer had to clear his throat; his voice sounded thick. “But what, by all the black holes in the universe, do you want with me? To foreclose? There must be some mistake.”

  “We shall see,” said Mr. Maggot.

  He extracted a document from his black briefcase and held it out to Preposteror. “You are no doubt familiar with this contract, most honored Shadow Sorcery Minister. You yourself in person entered into it with my boss and signed it with your own hand. It states that you shall be granted extraordinary powers in this century by your benefactor—quite extraordinary powers indeed—over all of nature and all your fellow mortals. It also states, however, that each year you are obliged to render extinct, by means direct or indirect, ten species of animal, be it butterfly, fish, or mammal. Furthermore, five rivers are to be polluted, or one and the same river five times. Moreover, at least ten thousand trees are to die off, and so on and so forth, down to the final clauses: each year to bring at least one new plague into the world by which humans or animals or both together shall perish. And lastly: to manipulate the climate of your country in such a way that the seasons go out of kilter and either droughts or floods occur. You have met only half your obligations this past year, most honored sir. My boss finds this very, very regrettable. He is—if I may be so graphic—annoyed. You know what it means when His Excellency gets annoyed. Do you have anything to state by way of rejoinder?”

  Preposteror, who had repeatedly attempted to interrupt his visitor, now burst out, “But the old year isn’t over yet! Shades of dioxin, it’s only New Year’s Eve. I’ve still got until midnight.”

  Mr. Maggot fixed him with a lidless gaze. “By all means, and do you intend”—here he cast a quick glance at the clock—“to make up the difference in these few remaining hours, dear sir? Do you indeed?”

  “Of course!” croaked Preposteror. But then he hung his head and murmured meekly, “No, it’s impossible.”

  The visitor rose and approached the wall near the fireplace, where all the Shadow Sorcery Minister’s diplomas hung neatly framed. Preposteror, like most of his peers, attached the greatest amount of importance to such titles. One diploma, for example, said B.A.B.A. (Brotherhood of the Academy of Black Arts), another DR. H. C. (Doctor Horroris Causa), a third PR. A.I. (Professor of Applied Infamy), and yet another A.B.C. (Association of the Brocken Council), and so on.

  “Now, listen here,” said Preposteror, “let’s be reasonable. It’s really not a question of bad will; I’ve got more than enough of that, I can assure you.”

  “Really?” asked Mr. Maggot.

  The sorcerer wiped the cold sweat from his bald dome with a handkerchief. “I’ll catch up with everything as soon as possible. His Excellency can rest assured. Please tell him so.”

  “Catch up?” asked Mr. Maggot.

  “Damnation,” cried Preposteror, “quite simply, circumstances have arisen which have made it impossible for me to fulfill my contractual obligations on time. Just a slight extension and everything will be all right again.”

  “Circumstances?” repeated Mr. Maggot, all the while continuing to peruse the diplomas in a rather uninterested manner. “What circumstances?”

  The sorcerer stepped closer to him and urgently addressed his stiff black hat. “Presumably you know yourself that what I have accomplished in the last few years went far beyond my contractual obligations.”

  Mr. Maggot turned and treated Preposteror’s face to his opaque stare. “Let’s say it was satisfactory—no more, no less.”

  The Shadow Sorcery Minister was starting to babble as his panic increased, until he, all in a muddle, finally blurted out, “You just can’t conduct a campaign of destruction without the enemy noticing it sooner or later. It is precisely because of my special achievements that nature is now beginning to defend itself. It is preparing to retaliate—it just doesn’t know yet against whom. Of course, the first ones to rebel were the elemental spirits: the gnomes, dwarfs, nymphs, and elves; they are the most clever. It took an enormous amount of time and effort to catch and render harmless all those who had found us out and could stand in the way of our plans. Unfortunately, they can’t be destroyed, since they are immortal, but I was able to lock them up and paralyze them completely with my magic powers. By the way, it is a remarkable collection—if you care to see for yourself, it is out in the hallway, Mr. Slug . . .”

  “Maggot,” said the visitor, without taking him up on his offer.

  “What? Oh, ahem, yes, of course, Mr. Maggot. I beg your pardon.”

  The sorcerer managed a nervous giggle. “The remaining elemental spirits have gotten cold feet and fled to the four corners of the earth. So we are rid of them for good.

  “But meanwhile, even the animals have become suspicious. They have called a High Council and decided to send secret observers to every point of the compass in order to find the root of all evil. And unfortunately, I have been host to one of these spies for about a year. A small tomcat. Fortunately, he is not exactly what you’d call bright. He’s asleep at the moment, in case you’d like to look in on him. Truth be known, he sleeps a great deal—and not just because he is a lazy puss.”

  Here the sorcerer grinned. “I’ve made certain that he doesn’t notice what I’m reall
y up to. He doesn’t even realize that I know why he is here. I’ve fattened him up and pampered him to the point where he is convinced that I’m a great animal lover. He worships the very ground I levitate above, the little nincompoop. But you will understand, most honored Mr. Slug . . .”

  “Maggot!” said the other, rather sharply this time. His pale countenance was illuminated solely by the nervous flickering of the fire and now looked extremely inhospitable.

  The sorcerer literally wilted. “Forgive me, forgive me.” He struck his forehead with the palm of his hand. “I’m a bit distraught, the stress, you know. It was pretty nerve-racking fulfilling my contract and keeping one step ahead of this spy in my own home at the same time. Even if he is a simpleton, his sight and hearing are excellent—as with all cats. I have been forced to work under the most adverse circumstances, you must admit. Above all, unfortunately, it has cost me time, a lot of time, most honored sir, ahem—”

  “Distressing,” interrupted Mr. Maggot, “most distressing indeed. However, all of that is really your concern, dear Minister. That doesn’t change the contract any. Or could I be mistaken?”

  Preposteror squirmed. “Believe me, I would have gladly vivisected that cursed cat, broiled it alive on a skewer, or kicked it all the way to the moon a long time ago, but that would have alerted the High Council of Animals for sure. They know that he is living with me. And it is much more difficult to deal with animals than with gnomes and other such riffraff—or even with people. People are hardly any trouble, but have you ever tried hypnotizing a locust or a wild boar? Nothing doing! And if all the animals on earth, large and small, were suddenly to unite and attack us, then no magic potion would save us! That’s why extreme caution is required! Please explain that to His Hellish Excellency, your most honored boss.”

  Mr. Maggot took his briefcase from the chair and turned to the sorcerer. “Conveying explanations is not within my department.”