The Never Ending Story began life as a number of films have; it was originally a book, written and printed in Germany. I have not read the book, only the description. From that, I know I prefer the film.
Speaking of which, the movie The Never Ending Story begins by showing us Bastian (short for Sebastian), as he has breakfast with his father. Bastian’s mother died some time ago, and Bastian’s father has been doing his best to take care of him ever since.
Lately, Bastian’s been tardy in getting to school. Not only that, but his grades have been falling. In fact, his teacher has called Bastian’s father to report that when Bastian was supposed to be writing out math equations, he was instead drawing “horses” in his notebook.
“Unicorns,” Bastian mutters dejectedly, “They were unicorns.”
“What’s that?” Bastian’s father asks, having missed what his son muttered.
“Nothing,” Bastian mumbles, but in a tone his father can hear this time.
Bastian’s father extracts a promise from his son to “keep [his] feet on the ground and [his] head out of the clouds.” Bastian is unexcited by this promise, but he makes it anyway, knowing it will please his father.
Bastian’s dad then heads out to work while Bastian goes to school. Halfway there, Bastian meets three boys who go to his school. The boys enjoy throwing Bastian in the dumpster, and though he fights hard, he ends up in the trash. This is the main reason Bastian has been late to school: the three bullies.
Upset that he has been plunked in the garbage yet again, Bastian climbs out of the dumpster and starts on his way to school. But the bullies are waiting for him. They chase Bastian down the streets, trying to catch and grab him so they can throw him in the dumpster again.
Bastian, for once, is faster than they are. He ducks into a store and hides behind the door. The three bullies rush on past, thinking Bastian has continued down the street. Bastian sighs in relief and, as he is getting his breath back, takes a good look at the store he has entered.
It is a book store, filled with volumes of all sizes and ages. Mesmerized, Bastian wanders into the store further, where he meets the owner. The store owner angrily tells Bastian that only book-lovers are allowed in the store. He will find no video games here. Bastian tries to peak at the book in the owner’s lap. It is a large, worn volume, with a crest on the cover that shows two intertwined snakes.
Once again the owner says, “Be off with you!”
“But I like books!” Bastian says, furious in his turn. “I’ve read Treasure Island, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, The Lord of the Rings, the –“
“Yes,” the owner interrupts. “But those are safe books. Were you ever those characters? Were you ever Captain Nemo, watching the dreaded Giant Squid tearing up the Nautilus?”
“Yes,” breathes Bastian. “Yes, I was!”
The owner nods. “I thought so. But those were safe books. This,” he holds up the book he was reading, “This isn’t.”
Suddenly, the store phone rings. The owner lays down the book, stands up, and goes to answer the phone. While he is carrying on his conversation, Bastian carefully writes a note on a scrap of paper. Then he picks up the book, The Never Ending Story, puts the paper down in its place, and hightails it out of the shop.
The owner returns to find his book gone. He reads Bastian’s note: I’ll return it as soon as I’ve read it, the writing promises. The owner goes to the door of the shop and peers through the glass. Strangely, he smiles in a very satisfied manner after Bastian’s disappearing figure.
Bastian makes it to school and heads for his math class – only to find that there is a test in progress. Thanks to the bullies, he is late for a test he is not prepared for. Knowing he cannot enter the classroom in the middle of the test, Bastian escapes to the school’s attic (since when did schools have attics?). There, he pulls up a pad, lies on his stomach, and opens the book.
There he begins reading the story of the land of Fantasia, where all kinds of fantasy creatures live. The peoples of Fantasia are greatly disturbed. It seems a mysterious void known only as “The Nothing” is destroying their world. For instance, a Rock Biter describes how a lake in his people’s country was there one day, and then simply gone the next. It did not dry up or turn murky, and no one drank it dry. One day it was there – the next it was gone, as if it had never been!
An envoy from each of Fantasia’s people has gone to the Ivory Tower at the center of Fantasia to seek help from the Child-Empress. If anyone can stop The Nothing, then surely she can!
Except that the Child-Empress has fallen ill. No one knows why. No one has a cure. So the Empress’s councilor has sent for a great warrior from the Plains People, one who has killed many of the Purple Buffalo and who is renowned for his fighting skill. His name is Atreyu.
The ambassadors and the Empress’s councilor are expecting a grown man. But what they get is a boy no older than Bastian!
However, the boy-warrior is their only hope. So the Empress’s councilor sends Atreyu and his faithful steed, Artax, to the Swamps of Sadness to seek counsel from a wise creature who lives there. Atreyu sets out at once.
But unknown to Atreyu, a creature called Gmork is hunting him and Artax. Sent by The Nothing to kill the hero, Gmork will not rest until he has Atreyu in his jaws!
If I have whetted your curiosity, readers, then I will leave my description of the story here. I saw The Never Ending Story when I was very young, and I loved it. I saw it again not too long ago, and found that I still love it. If you watch the film – or have already seen it – odds are good that you can understand why. I highly recommend this movie to “kids from one to ninety-two.” It is applicable to people of all ages everywhere!
Until next time!
The Mithril Guardian