This Folio Life: Bringing The Neverending Story to life

Artist Marie-Alice Harel had always dreamed of illustrating The Neverending Story. So, when the commission came up to illustrate the Folio edition, she knew she had to do it – despite her ever-increasing workload! In this blog, Harel explores her inspiration and process illustrating Michael Ende’s magical story. 


The Slipcase


This is one of the first things I did for the book, after reading the story and taking detailed notes about characters, descriptions and moments to illustrate.

The slipcase is a representation of the Night Forest, to echo the ‘desert of colours’ illustration that is at the centre spread of the book. I thought a lot about ways to represent the symbolism of the story through the design of the book itself. There are lots of contrasting, Yin-Yang like elements beyond the symmetry of the story itself. The black and white snakes motif is another example.



What started as a test drawing ended up being the final artwork. It's happened before with other projects with The Folio Society, but I'm still surprised. My process with them is unique to me, and all the more interesting. 

I had designed the slipcase with the idea that the linework would be foiled in copper, as if the book behind was shining through. But that would have been a lot of foil and impossible from a production point of view. So instead, we went with a subtle pearl foil on selected flowers and fruits of this magical forest, which is semi-transparent and so allows the colours to still be visible at certain angles.


The Mouse


I spend too much of my time worrying about work, fighting for deadlines, reasoning with myself about imposter syndrome, being anxious about not doing enough, about doing too much...

So once in a while it's good to just stop and remember how lucky I am to be drawing erudite mice for a living (among other things), how much I love my job (despite the difficulties of a freelance creative life) and how good it is to be able to work on amazing stories like this gem by Michael Ende.

This mouse was the first one I inked, of the 40 or so drawings inside the book.


Illustrations by Marie-Alice Harel

Illustrations by Marie-Alice Harel



The Lion


This double page illustrated spread, placed at the centre of the binding, balances and mirrors the slipcase enclosing the book. The slipcase represents Perilin, the Night Forest, which each morning crumbles and creates Goab, the Desert of Colours. I was enthralled by these scenes and descriptions. The Neverending Story is filled with wonders, but I wanted to pay a specific tribute to this symbolic dance between desert and forest: one of the most memorable moments from the book for me. 

The illustration is watercolour, pencil (and some pastel) on stretched hot-pressed watercolour paper. 


Grograman, the Many-Colored Death, standing on a dune in the desert of Goab, looking down at Bastian (and at us, the reader) on their first meeting.  



The Alphabet


Michael Ende divided The Neverending Story into 26 chapters, each one beginning with a different letter of the alphabet (in order). 



I had a lot of fun designing a full illuminated alphabet for the chapters of the Folio Society edition. They were drawn and inked on paper, before moving to digital to assemble the different layers. Like the rest of the book, the letters were printed in two pantone colours.

It was a bit scary not to know exactly how the two inks would layer up, but it worked out just fine in the end... Phew.

Illustrations by Marie-Alice Harel