Bastian is a fat, ordinary boy, who is always picked on by his fellow students and ignored by his father. Escaping a band of bullies, Bastian slams into a books store. Inside is a grumpy old man is reading a strange book with two snakes curling around each other eating each other’s tails — The Neverending Story. Drawn to the book, Bastian steals it when the man’s back is turned. He runs to the attic of his school and begins reading. As he follows a young hunter’s journey to save the Childlike Empress, Bastian is surprised to discover that he is drawn more and more into book itself, into a world that is very much real.
I always loved the movie as a kid and I still love it now. I wanted to hang out with Atreyu, the hunter, and ride Falcor, the Luck Dragon. I wanted to visit this dangerous beautiful world in which a childlike empress was in charge of everything. I even liked the subpar sequel with the super cute Jonathan Brandis as lead.
As is to be expected the book has far more subtlety and depth than the movie. Though I was surprised to find that both movies were adapted from the book with the end of the first movie being the midpoint of the book.
The childlike empress is much so much more in the book, closer to the spiritual soul of Fantastica. She loves everyone and everything equally, including those considered evil by other, because all has a purpose and a place to her. Atreyu is even more steadfast and brave, and Falcor is beautiful and far less creepy.
Bastian’s journey throughout The Neverending Story becomes more of a spiritual quest in the book than the simplified adventure that the movies (especially the sequel) present. He does have many grand adventures, but as he looses his memory, he loses a part of himself. He rises and falls, does grand deeds and fails, and in the end he must find his way back home.
This is really a brilliant story, and I wish I had had the chance to read it before seeing the movies that affected me so much and left such an imprint on my mind. I still the love the movies for what they are and as a part of my childhood nostalgia, but the book is amazing. I almost wish it really was never ending.