Everything You Need to Know About the Neverending Story
The NeverEnding Story is first a novel, then a Film in which we find Falkor, an enigmatic and mysterious Dragon who marked a whole era. What is he hiding behind this story? ?
In 1984, The NeverEnding Story was released, a film adaptation that illustrates the story of a little boy overflowing with imagination. This is how Bastian, ten years old, will enter a fantastic imaginary world called “Fantastica” which has absolutely nothing normal about it. As you will see, the story is fascinating and full of secrets. But before we talk about the film, we have to tell you about the novel that was the basis of everything.
1) Michael Ende’s Novel (1979)
A. Michael Ende’s Tumultuous and Complicated Life
Creating a good novel requires a lot of time, work, and a vivid imagination. In the case of fantasy novels, it also requires an open mind: fantasy literature is full of wonders and strange creatures such as elves, vampires, wizards, and especially… dragons. ?
It is common for authors of this literary genre to have had a long life. In the case of the German novelist, his life is no fairy tale. Michael Ende, who died in 1995 at the age of 65, left an indelible mark on the lives of all the children who immersed themselves in his extraordinary stories.
It all began in 1929, when the future author was born in the city of Bavaria, now considered one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. He is the son of the surrealist painter Edgar Ende. However, the father is persecuted by the Nazi regime, which calls his works “monstrosities”. We’ll let you be the judge of that. For many of his works, he seems to describe the horror and reality of Nazism. No wonder they didn’t appreciate…
To avoid further trouble, the family fled to Munich in 1935. Ende was then only 6 years old. Unfortunately, at his age, he was soon confronted with the war: the city suffered a destructive air raid when he was only 12 years old. He narrowly escaped death by going to see his family in Hamburg just before “Operation Gomorrah” was launched. This operation resulted in the intensive bombing of Munich and its surroundings, killing 35,000 people and wounding more than 125,000. He powerlessly insists on the imprisonment of his father and the assassination of his childhood friends.
In this terrible war, many could have turned to hatred and resentment at seeing his loved ones’ eyes disappear. Michael Ende is different: he develops a love of poetry.
At the age of only 15, the writer was forcibly enlisted in the “Volkssturm”, which literally translates as “People’s Storm”. It is a German popular militia created in 1944 to defend the territory of the Reich during the Second World War. Courageously, Ende refused and joined the resistance to oppose the Nazis. It was only after the war that a veritable electroshock was to take place. This is what will lead him to fight fascism and become a highly recognized author.
B. A Fierce Fight for Peace
At the end of the war, the novelist does not sink, quite the contrary. His life will be marked by a distaste for war, which has somehow developed a deep sense of peace and benevolence in him. He travels a little everywhere and writes a lot. At the same time, he becomes a committed activist and fights for human rights, peace and disarmament. ?️
He studied art and developed a real passion for imaginary worlds. He is particularly interested in the ghost stories of Japan and the mysticism that is all about secret things and parallel realities. It’s very interesting since we find these elements in the fantasy book The Never Ending Story, which he will write later.
C. History and Writing of the Book
The fantastic book of the Never Ending Story or “Die unendliche Geschichte” in German is a concentrate of Ende’s childhood and life in general. It is the result of more than 20 years of, let’s say, rather complicated life! He finally publishes his first edition in the United States published in 1979 and here is the cover.
The fantastic tale plunges us into the story of Bastien, a 10 year old child. He is mocked and harassed at school, which pushes him to lock himself up a little more and more in books. He is rejected by everyone, including his father, who is unable to mourn the death of his wife, Bastien’s mother. ? It is a sad and tragic story that contrasts perfectly with the fantastic world of Fantastica in which he will be immersed afterwards. His encounter with the Falkor Dragon will teach him a lot about life.
What is incredible is that this novel is the exact parallel of the life of the writer Ende, even if turned in a different way, we grant you that. If for you the comparison is not clear, here it is:
?The difficult childhood of the little Bastian and the novelist
A willingness to flee conflict and violence, on the one hand fleeing harassment, on the other hand fleeing war
?Being alone: Ende felt this profound loneliness when he had to flee Munich, seeing his father imprisoned and his friends die, left to fend for himself. Bastien has no friends and his father does not pay any attention to him. ?
Which suggests one thing: the kid in the never-ending story and Michael Ende are actually the same person.
2) The Neverending Story: the Film by Wolfgang Petersen (1984)
A. The Intrigue of the World of Fantastica
Fascinated by fantastic legends, the filmmaker and director takes his inspiration from Ende’s book (in agreement with him) to make a film full of adventure. The release date is set for November 1984, a few years after the novel.
While reading a book, Bastian is plunged into the Kingdom of Fantastica which is in danger: this world risks being devoured by what is called “The Nothing”. Yes, funny name, but you’ll understand. ? A boy named “Atreyu” (the one you see in the video just above) is charged with a unique mission: to save this world and solve the illness that eats away at the empress of Fantastica, the one who rules the hidden world and sees to its proper functioning. The princess is deeply touched by what is happening to her world.
The amazing thing is that even when we are immersed in a fantastic and wonderful world, there is always an aspect of sadness that brings us back to reality, just like the war for Michael Ende. Just like the harassment Bastien is undergoing at school. So there are some pretty sad scenes in the film, but that’s also what makes it beautiful.
For example, Artax is a horse in the never-ending story. He is also Atreyu’s faithful companion. In the script, Artax is full of doubts and dies tragically at the end. It is precisely the definition of “nothing” that is destroying Fantastica. The “nothing” is darkness. Afterwards, we understand that the less Artax has loved ones to lose, the more he fights in his mission to save the fantasy world he wants to become the hero of.
This is another incredible parallel with Ende’s childhood: he saw his world collapse first at the economic level, then at the political level (arrival of the Nazis), and finally at the human level (war and destruction). In itself, and more precisely, the “nothing” is fascism, which is rapidly rising and causing the death of Ende’s country.
Thereafter, Bastian takes the power of the imaginary world and becomes emperor by obtaining a magic gem that will grant all his wishes. He becomes a different person, he who has always wanted to escape the reality of the martyred child of the school. He becomes cruel and sows terror.
Once again, this is the allegory of Michael Ende who saw his friends, neighbors, and his entire country bow to Nazi propaganda and sometimes even adhere to its ideology. Yet it is destructive and profoundly evil: it results in the destruction of Fantastica. ?
Unfortunately, the novelist did not have the power to write another ending for Germany’s descent into Nazism. But he could for Bastian.
B. The Role of Falkor, the Benevolent Dragon
Falkor (also called “Dragon of Luck“), is the most important fantasy being in the Fantastica world. Without him, fantasy film would never have had the cult status it did. He represents the ubiquitous Chinese Dragon on many lucky jewels such as this Sacred Talisman Necklace.
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This white Dragon built from aircraft parts first became the companion of Atreyu, then of Bastien. Many children who saw the movie more than 30 years ago thought it was a golden retriever type dog. Not really, but it’s true! The novelist and the director confirmed that it was indeed a dragon with the features and fur of a dog. An original combination. ?
In the most striking scene of the film, “Falkor’s Flight“, we see Atreyu flying over Fantastica on the back of the snow-furred dragon.
Falkor symbolizes the last hope for the imaginary world, he is the pillar that has saved the world from the threat of “nothing”.
Ultimately, this film has a powerful power: that of telling the horrors of war and Michael Ende’s childhood in an incredible and unsuspected way. Sometimes we are immersed in fantasy, but at the same time we are brought back to reality more than any other film of the genre very subtly. This story is about a world in the midst of destruction, like the one he had to live in. That’s why it’s called the “Never-ending Story”: for the person we were, we are and we will be in the world we grow up in. A definitely cult and touching film. ?
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