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. In 1984 the novel was later adapted into an English language German film of the same name.

Plot summary[edit]

The book centers on a young boy, Bastian Balthazar Bux, neglected by his grieving father after the sudden death of Bastian's mother. One day Bastian enters an antique book store of Carl Conrad Coreander, where he finds his interest held by a book called The Neverending Story. A hopeless day dreamer, Bastian is unable to resist and he steals the book from the shop. He then 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, (an enchantress-like woman with a youthful and luminous appearance) who lives a reclusive lifestyle within Fantastica's capital, the Ivory Tower. A great delegation has come to the Empress to seek her help against a formless entity of darkness called "The Nothing" that intends to destroy Fantastica's very existence. The delegates are shocked when the Empress's physician, a centaur named Chiron, informs them all that the Empress is slowly dying, and in desperation has summoned a boy warrior named Atreyu, to find a cure for her before it's too late. The Empress gives Atreyu the AURYN: a powerful medallion that protects him from all harm. At the advice of the giant tortoise Morla the Ancient One, Atreyu sets off on his mission in search of an invisible oracle, Uyulala, who may know the Empress's cure. In reaching her, he is aided by a luckdragon named Falkor, whom he rescues from the monster 'Ygramul the Many'. By Uyulala, he is told that the only thing to save the Empress is a new name given to her by a human child, beyond Fantastica's borders. As Falkor and Atreyu search for the borders of Fantastica, in a confrontation with wind giants Atreyu is flung from Falkor's back, loses AURYN in the sea, and lands, injured, in ruins of Spook City, a home to various monsters and wicked creatures. There, Atreyu finds the werewolf Gmork, chained and near death, who tells him that all the residents of the city have leapt voluntarily into the Nothing, to become lies and delusions in the human world, thanks to the irresistible pull of the destructive phenomenon. The werewolf reveals as well that he is an eternal servant of The Nothing who wishes to prevent the Empress's chosen hero from saving her; when the princess of the city discovered Gmork's treachery against the Empress, she imprisoned him and left him to starve to death. When Atreyu announces that he is the hero Gmork has sought, the werewolf laughs and succumbs to death. However, upon being approached, Gmork's body instinctively seizes Atreyu's leg in his jaws. Meanwhile, Falkor retrieves the AURYN from the sea which it fell and arrives in time to save Atreyu from being consumed by the rapid approach of The Nothing.

Falkor and Atreyu meet the Childlike Empress, who assures them that they have brought the cure to heal her. As he reads, Bastian suspects that the Empress means that he, himself is the cure, but cannot bring himself to believe it. When Bastian refuses to speak the new name, to prompt him into fulfilling his role as the savior, the Empress herself 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 Coreander, his theft of the book, and all his actions inside the school's attic. Realizing that the story will repeat itself forever without his intervention, Bastian names the Empress 'Moon Child', and suddenly appears at her side in Fantastica, where he restores its existence through his own vivid imagination. The Empress also gives him the AURYN, on which he finds the inscription "DO WHAT YOU WISH" on its back.

For each wish, Bastian loses a memory of his life as a human, and some of his ability to leave the realm of Fantastica. Unaware of this at first, Bastian goes through Fantastica, having adventures and telling stories, while losing his past memories. In spite of the warnings of Atreyu and Bastian's other friends, Bastian uses the AURYN to create monsters and dangers for himself to conquer, which causes some negative side effects for the rest of Fantastica and its inhabitants. After encountering the wicked sorceress Xayide, with the mysterious absence of the Childlike Empress Bastian decides to take over Fantastica for himself, but is stopped by Atreyu, whom Bastian grievously wounds in battle. Ultimately, a repentant Bastian is reduced to two memories: those of his mother and father, and of his own name. After more adventures, Bastian must give up the memory of his parents to discover that his strongest wish is to be capable of love and give love to others (namely his own father). After much searching, and on the verge of losing his final memory, Bastian is unable to find the Water of Life with which to leave Fantastica with his memories. Here, he is found by Atreyu. In remorse, Bastian lays down the AURYN at his friend's feet, and Atreyu and Falkor enter the AURYN with him. Here, the Water of Life demands to know Bastian's name, and if Bastian has finished all the stories he began in his journey, which he has not. Only after Atreyu gives Bastian's name and promises to complete all the stories for him does the Water of Life allow Bastian to return to the human world, along with some of the mystical waters. He returns to his father, where he tells the full tale of his adventures, and thus reconciles with him. Thereafter, Bastian soon confesses to Coreander about his stealing of the book and losing it. Much to Bastian's surprise the Coreander reveals he has also been to Fantastica. He explains to the boy that the book was destined to be lost and is by now most likely repeating its never-ending cycle by moving into the hands of someone else, but that "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, Atreyu's horse
  • Gmork, the werewolf
  • Morla, the giant tortoise/the ancient one
  • Uyulala, the invisible oracle
  • Xayide, the witch


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 Fantasia. Ende requested they halt production or change the movie's name, as he felt 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: Escape from Fantasia, 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. Kinkel, 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) 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. 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.