A couple of months ago, I took my kids to see The Neverending Story at the movie theater for the 30th anniversary. We had a lot of fun -- there was a little documentary first about the filming of the movie, and about a kerfuffle with Michael Ende (he hated the ending) -- and the movie was beautiful to see on the big screen. Naturally, I promptly wanted to re-read the book, but I wanted my 13yo daughter to read it first. It's one of her favorite movies, and so I've seen it several times over the years, but I haven't read the novel since the mid-1990s.
My kid still hasn't gotten around to reading it my battered old paperback, but a couple of weeks ago at work I was going through the children's literature/YA section and moving a bunch of things down to the reading lounge, where they will get more use. There was a mystery book with black tape on the spine and no title on the cover, but when I opened it up it turned out to be a fairly early edition of The Neverending Story, complete with two-color text and illustrations! (The 'real world' action is in purple, the Fantastica parts in green.) So I checked it right out and brought it home, and I had a lot of fun reading it in the proper way.
|26 chapters begin with consecutive letters, A-Z|
Bastian is an imaginative, lonely little boy whose distant father is wrapped in his own grief. The kids at school tease him for being weird, and Bastian finds comfort in the stories he makes up and in books. He steals a book from a bookstore, hides in the school's attic, and doesn't plan to go home. The book tells the story of Fantastica, a land falling apart, and Atreyu's quest to find the a human being who can save it. Bastian is stunned to find that he is part of the story, and frightened to participate, but eventually he enters Fantastica as its Savior and starts re-making the land with his wishes...which take away his memory. Forgetting who he is, Bastian becomes proud and corrupt, and if he loses his last memory, he will never go home. He doesn't want to anyway.
If you've seen the movie but never read the book, you really really ought to go out and get a copy to read. It's an excellent, and very strange, story that offers no certainty of a happy ending. Not a lot of child protagonists turn into corrupt tyrants partway through! The film that everybody knows actually only covers the first half of the book; they made a sequel that sort of covered the second half, but it wasn't very good. And the film ending is just about the opposite of what Ende wrote; he hated it so much that he tried to stop the release of the film. I think that was kind of a silly thing to do, and I love the movie, but the novel is longer, deeper, and a good deal weirder.
I'm not a huge fan of the names, though. Probably they sounded a lot better in the original German. I tend to think that they're a little overdone in spots -- Bastian Balthazar Bux is not my favorite name ever. On the other hand, Atreyu is a perfect name!