The Neverending Story Web Page

Poignant Trip to Fantasiana

by Errol Seaton

A best seller in Germany since 1981, "The Neverending Story" is an enchanting tale about a special world, Fantasiana.

On one level, the novel is a children's book: It offers a young hero's succession of suitably fabulous encounters. Because of Ende's technique, however, the story as allegory holds value for adults.

Bastian Balthazar Bux, a fat little boy pestered by his classmates, has one passion--books. In a bookshop one day, he is irresistibly attracted to a book printed in two colors. Its title is "The Neverending Story."

Bastian settles down to read; soon he is enthralled by the drama unfolding in Fantasiana. That kingdom is gradually being consumed by "nothing" spreading everywhere. Inhabitants who have given up hope, who no longer believe destruction of their world can be averted, are simply leaping into the "nothing."

A human who still believes in mysteries and miracles, in sudden reversal of fortune, must come to Fantasiana and give the Childlike Empress a new name, for the country to be saved.

Ende depicts Fantasiana as both a mirror of the human world and an acute perspective from which to view human behavior. He illustrates the transformative potential of imagination and courage, however strong the temptation to abandon hope and, in essence, leap into nothing.

In Fantasiana, "you can never be sure in advance what will be next to what." Therefore, as the luckdragon exemplifies, one must never stop wishing for anything.

The novel itself is printed with red and green type, making it the very book Balthazar reads in the story. This is only one of the clever devices whereby Ende affirms the vital symbiosis he thinks should exist between the real world and the imagination.

Seaton is a free-lance reviewer.

Source: San Diego Union, 23 October 1983