The Neverending Story

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The Neverending Story
1997 Dutton edition cover
AuthorMichael Ende
Original titleDie unendliche Geschichte
TranslatorRalph Manheim
IllustratorRoswitha Quadflieg
PublisherThienemann Verlag
Publication date
September 1, 1979[1]
Media typePrint
LC ClassPT2665.N27 U5

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

Plot summary[edit]

The book centres on a boy, Bastian Balthazar Bux, an overweight and strange child who is neglected by his father after the death of Bastian's mother. While escaping from some bullies, Bastian bursts into the antiquarian book store of Carl Conrad Coreander, where he finds his interest held by a book called The Neverending Story. Unable to resist, he steals the book and hides in his school's attic, where he begins to read.

The story Bastian reads is set in the magical land of Fantasia, a place of wonder ruled by the benevolent and mysterious Childlike Empress. A great delegation has come to the Empress to seek her help against a formless entity called "The Nothing". The delegates are shocked when the Empress's physician, a centaur named Cairon, informs them that the Empress is dying, and has chosen a boy warrior named Atreyu to find a cure. Upon finding Atreyu, Cairon gives him AURYN: a powerful medallion that protects him from all harm. At the advice of the giant turtle Morla the Aged One, Atreyu sets off in search of an invisible oracle known as Uyulala, who may know the Empress's cure. In reaching her, he is aided by a luckdragon named Falkor, whom he rescues from the creature Ygramul the Many. By Uyulala, he is told the only thing that can save the Empress is a new name given to her by a human child, who can only be found beyond Fantasia's borders.

As Falkor and Atreyu search for the borders of Fantasia, Atreyu is flung from Falkor's back in a confrontation with the four Wind Giants and loses Auryn in the sea. Atreyu lands in the ruins of Spook City, the home of various creatures of darkness. Wandering the dangerous city, Atreyu finds the wolf Gmork, chained and near death, who tells him that all the residents of the city have leapt voluntarily into The Nothing. There, thanks to the irresistible pull of the destructive phenomenon, the Fantasians are becoming lies in the human world. The wolf also reveals that he is a servant of The Manipulators, the force behind The Nothing. They wish to prevent the Empress's chosen hero from saving her. Gmork then reveals that when the princess of the city discovered his 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 wolf laughs and succumbs to death. However, upon being approached, Gmork's body instinctively seizes Atreyu's leg in his jaws. Meanwhile, Falkor retrieves Auryn from the sea and arrives in time to save Atreyu from the rapid approach of The Nothing.

Falkor and Atreyu go to the Childlike Empress, who assures them they have brought her rescuer to her; Bastian suspects that the Empress means him, but cannot bring himself to believe it. When Bastian refuses to speak the new name, to prompt him into fulfilling his role as 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 in the attic. Realizing that the story will repeat itself forever without his intervention, Bastian names the Empress "Moon Child", and appears with her in Fantasia, where he restores its existence through his own imagination. The Empress has also given him Auryn, on the back of which he finds the inscription DO WHAT YOU WISH.

For each wish, Bastian loses a memory of his life as a human. Unaware of this at first, Bastian goes through Fantasia, having adventures and telling stories, while losing his memories. In spite of the warnings of Atreyu and Bastian's other friends, Bastian uses Auryn to create creatures and dangers for himself to conquer, which causes some negative side effects for the rest of Fantasia. After being abetted by the wicked sorceress Xayide, and with the mysterious absence of the Childlike Empress, Bastian decides to take over Fantasia for himself, but is stopped by Atreyu, whom Bastian grievously wounds in battle. Bastian then meets human beings, who came to Fantasia earlier but could not find their way out, eking out a meaningless existence there. Ultimately, a repentant Bastian is reduced to two memories: that of his father, and of his own name. After more adventures, Bastian must give up the memory of his father to discover that his strongest wish is to be capable of love and to give love to others.

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 Fantasia with his memories. Here, he is found by Atreyu. In remorse, Bastian lays down Auryn at his friend's feet, and Atreyu and Falkor enter Auryn with him, where 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. After drinking the Water of Life, Bastian returns to his original form, and feels comfortable and happy with it. He wanted to bring the water also to his father. He returns to his father, where he tells the full tale of his adventures, and thus reconciles with him. Afterwards, Bastian confesses to Coreander about stealing his book and losing it, but Coreander denies ever owning such a book. Coreander reveals he has also been to Fantasia, and that the book has likely moved into the hands of someone else and that Bastian—like Coreander—will eventually show that individual the way to Fantasia. This, the book concludes, "is another story and shall be told another time".



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."[2]

"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.[3]

On September 1, 2016, the search engine Google featured a Google Doodle marking the 37th anniversary of The Neverending Story's initial publication.[1]

Adaptations and derivative works[edit]


The album Wooden Heart by Listener was based on or heavily influenced by The Neverending Story, as has been confirmed by the band.[4] Different songs represent different ideas of the plot or characters, which can be seen on the band's lyric page for the album.[5]

The Spanish indie rock band Vetusta Morla derived its name from the ancient turtle in the novel.

The band Bayside released a song called 'They Looked Like Strong Hands' on their self titled album in 2005, referencing the speech Rockbiter gives to Bastian.


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. It covered only the first half of the book, ending at the point where Bastian enters Fantastica (renamed "Fantasia" in the film). Ende, who was reportedly "revolted" by the film,[1] requested they halt production or change the film's name, as he felt it had ultimately and drastically deviated from his novel; when they did neither, he sued them and subsequently lost the case.[6] The music was composed by Klaus Doldinger. Some electronic tracks by Giorgio Moroder were added to the US version of the film; the title song, Never Ending Story, composed by Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey, became a chart success for Limahl, the former singer of Kajagoogoo.[7]

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 plot elements primarily from the second half of Ende's novel, but told a 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 primarily based only upon the characters from Ende's book, having an original new story. The film was lambasted by film critics for its poor and laughable dialogue and special effects and was a box office bomb.[8]


From 2003 through 2004, the German publishing house AVAinternational published six novels of different authors in a series called Legends of Fantastica, each using parts of the original plot and characters to compose an entirely new storyline:

  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].


The world première of the stage production took place in 2012 in Brisbane, Australia, by the Harvest Rain Theatre Company.[9][10]

In Germany, The Neverending Story has been variously adapted to a stage play, ballet, and opera[11] which premiered both at Trier and at Weimar Nationaltheater on April 10, 2004 and was subsequently staged at Linz Landestheater on December 11, 2004. The scores to both the opera and the ballet versions were composed by Siegfried Matthus. The opera libretto was by Anton Perry.

In Canada, the novel was adapted to stage for the Stratford Festival for the 2019 season adapted by David S. Craig with original music by Hawksley Workman.[12]


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-six 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, was produced in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, through December 2000-August 2002 and distributed by Muse Entertainment, airing on HBO in 2002. It was aired as four 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.

Google Doodle[edit]

On 1 September 2016, a Google Doodle, created by Google artist Sophie Diao commemorated the publication of the work.[13]

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.[14]

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.[15]

In 2001, the German video game studio attraction published their Ende-inspired video game, AURYN Quest.[16]


  1. ^ a b c Graham, Chris (September 1, 2016). "What is the The Neverending Story, who wrote it and why is it worthy of a Google Doodle?". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 5 October 2017. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  2. ^ Nickerson, Susan L. (1983-10-15). "Book Review: Fiction". Library Journal. R. R. Bowker Co. 108 (18): 1975. ISSN 0363-0277.
  3. ^ Nikolajeva, Maria (2002). The Rhetoric of Character in Children's Literature. Scarecrow Press. pp. 106–108. ISBN 0-8108-4886-4.
  4. ^ "Listener - Tickets - Downstairs - Chicago, IL - June 29th, 2016". Kickstand Productions. Archived from the original on 2016-08-13. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
  5. ^ "Listner". Archived from the original on 2016-08-26. Retrieved 2016-06-29.
  6. ^ Mori, Yoko. "Michael Ende Biography". Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-09-29.
  7. ^ Die unendliche Geschichte (1984) on IMDb
  8. ^ Elley, Derek (27 December 1994). "The Neverending Story III". Vairety. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  9. ^ Dionysius, Bobbi-Lea (4 May 2012). "World Premiere of The Neverending Story: Magical, enchanting and spectacular". Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  10. ^ "the neverending story". 2 May 2012. Archived from the original on 20 December 2018. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  11. ^ "Die unendliche Geschichte" (in German). Online Musik Magazin. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-02-02.
  12. ^ "The Neverending Story". Stratford Stratford Festival. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  13. ^ "37th Anniversary of The Neverending Story's First Publishing,". Archived from the original on 2018-09-01. Retrieved 2018-08-09.
  14. ^ "NeverEnding Story, The". World of Spectrum. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  15. ^ "Neverending Story II, The". World of Spectrum. Archived from the original on 2014-02-26. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  16. ^ "Auryn Quest for Windows". MobyGames. Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2007-06-23.