The Neverending Story

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This article is about the novel. For the 1984 film, see The NeverEnding Story (film). For other uses, see The Neverending Story (disambiguation).
The Neverending Story
1997 Dutton edition cover
Author Michael Ende
Original title Die Unendliche Geschichte
Translator Ralph Manheim
Illustrator Roswitha Quadflieg
Country Germany
Language German
Genre Fantasy novel
Publisher Thienemann Verlag
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 448
ISBN 3-522-12800-1
OCLC 7460007
LC Class PT2665.N27 U5

The Neverending Story (German: Die unendliche Geschichte) is a German fantasy novel by Michael Ende that was first published in 1979. The standard English translation, by Ralph Manheim, was first published in 1983. The novel was later adapted into several films.

The majority of the story takes place in the parallel world of Fantastica (Phantásien in the original German version), a world being destroyed by a mysterious force called the Nothing. The first protagonist is a young warrior who is asked by the Empress of Fantastica to set off and find a way to stop the Nothing; the other protagonist is a boy from the real world, a reader of a novel with the same title, for whom the story gradually becomes more and more realistic.

Plot summary[edit]

The book centers on a boy, Bastian Balthazar Bux, neglected by his father who has sunken into despair after his wife's death. While running from some bullies, Bastian bursts into the antique book store of Carl Conrad Coreander. Bastian, who loves books and storytelling, finds his interest held by a book called The Neverending Story which Coreander has been reading. Unable to resist, he steals the book and runs away with it. Bastian hides in his school's attic, where he begins to read.

The story Bastian reads is set in the magical land of Fantastica, ruled by the benevolent and mysterious Childlike Empress. A great delegation has come to the Empress to seek her help as a formless entity called The Nothing has begun to spread through the land. The delegates are shocked when the Empress's chancellor, a centaur, informs them that the Empress is dying. No one is sure if her illness has caused the Nothing or is being caused by it. The Empress has called for a great hero, a boy warrior named Atreyu, to go on a quest through all Fantastica to find a cure. To Atreyu, the Empress gives AURYN: a powerful medallion that protects him from all harm.

Atreyu sets off in search of an invisible oracle, Uyulala, who may have the answer. In reaching her, he stumbles across many dangers and wonders. He is aided by a Luckdragon named Falkor, whom he rescues from Ygramul the Many, a being made up of a swarm of venomous insects with a hive mind and a single eye, who takes the shape of a giant spider. Finally reaching Uyulala, he is told that the only thing that will save the Empress is a new name given to her by a human child, and that the only way to find a human child is to travel beyond Fantastica's borders.

As Falkor and Atreyu search for the borders of Fantastica, Atreyu is flung from Falkor's back, losing AURYN in the sea. He lands, injured, in a place called Spook City. There, Atreyu meets Gmork, a werewolf. Gmork tells him that all the residents of Spook City have flung themselves voluntarily into the Nothing, where they will become lies and delusions in the human world. All Fantasticans turn into lies when they enter the human world, which is why no humans have come to them in many years, and why they are so determined to destroy Fantastica.

The werewolf reveals that he is a servant of the Nothing who wishes to prevent the Empress's chosen hero from saving her, thus speeding up the destruction of Fantastica. When the Princess of Spook City discovered Gmork's treachery against the Empress, she imprisoned him and left him to starve to death. Just as Atreyu announces that he is the hero Gmork has sought, the werewolf laughs cruelly and drops dead, catching Atreyu's leg in his jaws during a reflex after he dies. Falkor retrieves AURYN and rescues Atreyu.

Falkor and Atreyu return to the Childlike Empress and tell her that while they found her cure, they were unable to locate a human child. The Empress assures them that they not only found such a child, they have brought him with them to her. All that Atreyu has suffered was necessary to draw the human child into their world. Now all this child must do is speak the Empress's new name and Fantastica will be saved. In the real world, Bastian gradually comes to suspect that the Empress is talking about him, but he cannot bring himself to believe it.

Since Bastian refuses to speak the name, the Empress herself takes up the quest. Traveling through Fantastica, she eventually locates the Old Man of Wandering Mountain, who possesses a book also entitled The Neverending Story, which the Empress demands he read aloud. As he begins, Bastian is amazed to find the book he is reading is repeating itself, beginning once again whenever the Empress reaches the Old Man—only this time, the story includes Bastian's meeting with Correander, his theft of the book, and all his actions in the attic. Realizing that the story will repeat itself forever without his intervention, Bastian finally calls out the name—Moonchild—he has chosen for the Empress.

Bastian immediately finds himself in Fantastica with the Empress. She and a single grain of sand are all that remains of the land. Telling him that he must rebuild the land with his stories and wishes, the Empress gives him the grain of sand. Bastian silently wishes the grain was something living, whereupon it immediately turns into a seed that grows an immense jungle, the beginnings of the new Fantastica.

As Fantastica is a land of stories, Bastian soon realizes that if he invents a story, the story will instantly become the truth. The Empress has also given him AURYN, which he finds bears the inscription "DO WHAT YOU WISH" on its back. He is told that this inscription is in fact a warning: he must discover what it is that he truly wants. While all his wishes come true if he is wearing AURYN, there is a price to be paid: for each wish, Bastian loses a memory of his life as a human. If he runs out of memories, he will be unable to make more wishes and will become trapped in Fantastica forever.

Unaware of this at first, Bastian goes through Fantastica having adventures and telling stories, while slowly using up his supply of memories. In spite of the warnings of Atreyu and Bastian's other friends, Bastian gradually becomes consumed with the idea of being loved and admired by all Fantastica and uses AURYN to create monsters and dangers for himself to conquer (endangering all Fantastica in the process). Finally, when the creatures of Fantastica beg him to stop, Bastian becomes angry and decides to conquer the Childlike Empress herself so that he can take her place as the beloved Childlike Emperor. However, he is unable to continue his journey, as he is now down to two memories: the memory of his mother and father, and his own name.

Bastian sets out to find the only thing he can wish for without losing himself: his own True Wish, which will also bring him back to the Real World. After more adventures, Bastian must give up the memory of his parents to discover that his True Wish is to be capable of love. Now he must go to the center of Fantastica to the Water of Life, which will restore him. But after much searching, and on the verge of losing his final memory, Bastian is unable to find the Water of Life.

At this point, he is found by Atreyu. In remorse, Bastian lays down AURYN at his friend's feet, only to find that AURYN itself is the center of Fantastica. Atreyu and Falkor enter AURYN with him. The Water of Life demands to know Bastian's name, but he has forgotten it. It also wants to know if Bastian has finished all the stories he began in his journey, but he has not. Only after Atreyu vouches for Bastian's name and promises to complete all the stories for him does the Water of Life allow Bastian to enter and drink.

Bastian tries to bring back the Water of Life for his father, but finds upon returning to the Real World that he has spilled it. He runs home to his father, where he tells the full tale of his adventures within The Neverending Story. Upon finishing, Bastian looks up to see tears in his father's eyes, and he realizes that he has brought the Water of Life after all.

Having grown to a responsible person wishing to shoulder the consequences for what he has done, Bastian decides to confess to Coreander about stealing his book and losing it, but Coreander denies ever owning such a book. Coreander then reveals he has also been to Fantastica, and that the book has likely moved into the hands of someone else who needs it. But this, the book concludes, "is another story and shall be told another time."


  • Atreyu
  • Bastian Balthazar Bux
  • The Childlike Empress/Moon Child
  • Falkor, the luckdragon
  • Carl Conrad Coreander
  • Artax


"AURYN" redirects here. For the Spanish boy band, see Auryn.

AURYN is a mystical Ouroboros talisman in The Neverending Story. In the novel, AURYN is always spelled in capital letters and is revered by all Fantasticans, referred to as "The Gem" and "The Glory" (German: das Kleinod, der Glanz). It is a symbol of its mistress, the Childlike Empress, who is also called "The Golden-Eyed Commander of Wishes" in reference to her relationship with AURYN. While the book makes noteworthy the point that the image of AURYN is on its "cover(s)", it does not actually refer to it as AURYN.

A common misconception is that AURYN is a simple magical object that grants wishes. The truth is that AURYN's power flows from the Childlike Empress and that it can only be used with her permission. The powerful amulet cannot be used against her and if she does not grant the use of it to someone they are unable to influence AURYN.

The name of the amulet is not the same as that of a simple inanimate object. The word 'the' never precedes that amulet's name (i.e., never "the AURYN"). Instead, it is used simply as AURYN, a proper noun like a person's name.

Two mythological serpents, symmetrical, bite at the other's tail. In the book, they form an oval, and are not intertwined. One serpent is white and one is black. Each has an eye to correspond to the color of the book's print, red and green. The two snakes represent the dual nature of the two worlds, Fantastica and Reality, but also the twin nature of their mutual creation and destruction. On the back of AURYN are these words:

"Do what thou wilt" (German: "Tu, was du willst").

AURYN helps guide Atreyu through Fantastica in his quest to find a cure for the ailing Childlike Empress, and in turn defeat the Nothing. It serves him clandestinely, but does return him to the Ivory Tower. Although Atreyu believes himself to have failed in finding the human child past the borders of Fantastica, the Childlike Empress informs him to the contrary and that indeed the boy had been with him all along.

In the hands of the Childlike Empress, AURYN displays greater powers even in the face of the Nothing. She releases seven spirits to serve her as she ventures across her tattered realm to find the Old Man of Wandering Mountain. They carry her chariot and provide a haven for Atreyu and Falkor within.

Bastian blesses the Childlike Empress with her new name. She presents him with AURYN; her only request being that he follow the instructions written on the back. While it grants him the power to make wishes and imagine more of Fantastica, it drains him of his memories which are his only way back to his world. Bastian searches for the same obscure boundaries of Fantastica, only to realize it is within AURYN itself.

In the mystical interior of AURYN, two gargantuan serpent statues stand sentry, one shining brighter than white, the other darker than black. They guard the Waters of Life, a waterfall and pool that serve as the exit from Fantastica. The statues refuse Bastian's passage, for he had left many stories unfinished in Fantastica. Atreyu, however, agrees to undertake the quest, which allows Bastian to return to his world. When Bastian touches the waters, their truthful properties dissolve the illusion of his glamour wishes, and he returns to being a fat little boy, instead of a Fantastican prince, but this time he has learned to love himself as he truly is. At this point the snakes of AURYN allow him to return to his world.


Susan L. Nickerson of Library Journal writes in a review that "Imaginative readers know the story doesn't end when the covers close; the magic to be found in books is eternal, and Ende's message comes through vividly."[1]

"The two parts of the novel repeat each other", as Maria Nikolajeva states in her book The Rhetoric of Character in Children's Literature, in that Bastian becomes a hero but then in the second half he "acts not even as an antihero but as a false hero of the fairy tale." The characters of Bastian and Atreyu can also be seen as mirror halves.[2]

Adaptations and derivative works[edit]


A German dramatized audioplay under the title Die unendliche Geschichte (Karussell/Universal Music Group 1984, directed by Anke Beckert, music by Frank Duval, 3 parts on LP and MC, 2 parts on CD)

In March 2012 Tantor Media released an unabridged audiobook of The Neverending Story narrated By Gerard Doyle


The NeverEnding Story was the first film adaptation of the novel. It was released in 1984, directed by Wolfgang Petersen and starring Barret Oliver as Bastian, Noah Hathaway as Atreyu, and Tami Stronach as the Childlike Empress. The music was composed by Klaus Doldinger. It covered only the first half of the book, ending at the point where Bastian enters Fantastica. Ende requested they halt production or change the movie's name, as it had drastically deviated from his novel; when they did neither, he sued them and subsequently lost the case.[3]

The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter, directed by George T. Miller and starring Jonathan Brandis and Kenny Morrison, was released in 1990. It used a number of plot elements from the second half of Ende's novel, but told an essentially new tale.

The NeverEnding Story III, starring Jason James Richter, Melody Kay and Jack Black, was released in 1994 in Germany and in 1996 in the US. This film was based only upon the characters from Ende's book, having a completely new story.


From 2003 through 2004, the German publishing house AVAinternational published six novels in a series called Legends of Fantastica:

  1. Kinke, Tanja (2003). Der König der Narren [The King of Fools]. 
  2. Schweikert, Ulrike (2003). Die Seele der Nacht [The Soul of the Night]. 
  3. Isau, Ralf (2003). Die geheime Bibliothek des Thaddäus Tillmann Trutz [The Secret Library of Thaddaeus Tillman Trutz]. 
  4. Fleischhauer, Wolfram (2004). Die Verschwörung der Engel [The Angels' Plot]. 
  5. Freund, Peter (2004). Die Stadt der vergessenen Träume [The City of Forgotten Dreams]. 
  6. Dempf, Peter (2004). Die Herrin der Wörter [Empress of the Words]. 


In Germany, The Neverending Story has been variously adapted to a stage play, ballet, and opera[4] which premiered at the Linz Landestheater on December 11, 2004.[5] The scores to both the opera and the ballet versions were composed by Siegfried Matthus. The opera libretto was by Anton Perry.


The 1995 animated series was produced by Nelvana, under the title of The Neverending Story: The Animated Adventures of Bastian Balthazar Bux. The animated series ran for two years, and had a total of twenty episodes. Director duties were split between Marc Boreal and Mike Fallows. Each episode focused on Bastian's further adventures in Fantastica, largely different from his further adventures in the book, but occasionally containing elements of them.

Tales from the Neverending Story, A one season-only TV series that is loosely based on Michael Ende's novel The Neverending Story, produced (in Montreal, Quebec, Canada during December 2000-August 2002[1]) and distributed by Muse Entertainment, and aired on HBO in 2002. It was aired as 4 two-hour television movies in the US and as a TV series of 13 one-hour episodes in the UK.[1] The series was released on DVD in 2001.

Computer games[edit]

A text adventure game was released by Ocean Software in 1985 for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and Atari 800.[6]

A computer game based on the second film was released in 1990 by Merimpex Ltd under their Linel label and re-released by System 4 for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64.[7]

In 2001, the German video game studio Attaction published their Ende-inspired video game, AURYN Quest.[8]


  1. ^ Nickerson, Susan L. (1983-10-15). "Book Review: Fiction". Library Journal (R. R. Bowker Co.) 108 (18): 1975. ISSN 0363-0277. 
  2. ^ Nikolajeva, Maria (2002). The Rhetoric of Character in Children's Literature. Scarecrow Press. pp. 106–108. ISBN 0-8108-4886-4. 
  3. ^ Mori, Yoko. "Michael Ende Biography". Retrieved 2007-09-29. 
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "NeverEnding Story, The". World of Spectrum. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  7. ^ "Neverending Story II, The". World of Spectrum. Retrieved 2014-02-20. 
  8. ^ "Auryn Quest for Windows". MobyGames. Retrieved 2007-06-23.