At the moment I'm reading this lovely story to my son. He's really into it, and gets it in a way I didn't think he would. So I'm wondering what gives this story its never ending flare?
It was written by German writer Michael Ende in 1979.
It is about a little fat boy, Bastian, who runs away from bullies and ends up in a book store. Here he is drawn towards this book called The Never Ending Story. On its cover is the picture of two snakes, entwined, biting each others tail. He steals the book and sneaks up to the attic of his school where he starts to read about a strange land called Fantasia.
Fantasia is suffering from a terrible fate, called The Nothing. The Childlike Empress, who is seriously ill, sends her bravest warrior on a dangerous quest finding a cure both for herself and for Fantasia.
This warrior is a young indian boy called Atreju.
He rides out with his horse Artax to seek this cure.
Atreju is brilliantly interpreted by Noah Hathaway. I was so in love with him back then... Weirdly enough, now he's a martial arts expert, tattooed and dangerously sexy...so I guess, nothing has changed...
A little sidetrack there... The ability to stay on my topic of choice is not always a sharpened sense...
The focus shifts all the time, written in red letters we read about Bastian. Written in green letters we read about Atreju.
Slowly the two boys realize that their stories are the same. And Bastian understand that one little boy can be important. He holds the key to saving The Childlike Empress and Fantasia.
Atreju loses his horse, Artax, to the swamps of sadness, but he gains the neatest riding animal in history of literature. He meets the luck dragon Fuchor, or Falcor as he's named in the film...(in the book Atreju saves Fuchor from a very Sheloby spider, in the film Falcor saves Atreju in the swamps of sadness)
Anything is possible with a little bit of luck. And together they try to get in touch with Bastian, who's only task is to give the Childlike Empress a new name. The Nothing is, just to clarify, a metaphor for the withering imagination in people's minds.
Then the film and the book differs a bit. In the film Bastian finally understands that all he has to do is "not to keep his feet on the ground", and scream out the name Moonchild. In the book he doesn't dare believing such a thing, and forces the Childlike Empress out on a journey of her own, trying to make the connection to our world. It is all a spiral of never ending repetition until Bastian finally gets it.
And this is where book one, and the first film stops. But this is only the first part of the book. The rest is just as brilliant.
Bastian himself is in Fantasia, and the more wishes he makes, the more fantastic Fantasia will become. There is only one drawback here, the more wishes he makes, the less he remembers from his life in the real life and the real world. They made a film of this as well, but please don't watch that, as it is horrible, and Hollywood pink, in the worst meaning of the words.
Bastian makes so many wishes that in the end he forgets who he is. Atreju and Fuchor helps him into a room with a waterfall, and this becomes his redemption.
He finally returns to his own life and his own world, having saved imagination and fantastic stories for the future.
Ende also wrote a fabulous story about a little girl called Momo. The plot is similar to the one in The Never Ending Story, only here it is our time. Our precious time is stolen by men in grey suits. Very dramatic, and very sweet.
I once, a million years ago, saw a film based on this story. I believe it was an Italian film, and it is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. The girl playing Momo was beautiful. I think I must try to track this one down, and show it to my son...obviously after having read him the book first:-)
Back to The Never Ending Story.
This is a story I have loved since I was a child, and I'm now making sure my son continues the tradition.
I urge you to do the same, so millions of children are capable of giving the Childlike Empress a new name.
"Oh, and I forgot to tell you..." ( a little quote from another favorite...coming to a blog near you very soon, and we are talking about Dune), but I really did forget to tell you something. Remember Limahl? He sang the song... oooooh, we did love that song.... "Never Ending Stoo-ry, aaaaaaaaaaa...."