Title: The Neverending Story.
Author: Michael Ende (translated by Ralph Manheim).
Genre: Fiction, teen, YA, fantasy, adventure, philosophical fiction.
Publication Date: 1979.
Summary: Small, fat and insignificant, Bastian Balthazar Bux is nobody's idea of a hero, least of all his own. One day he steals a mysterious book and hides away to read it—only to find himself stepping through its pages into the world of Fantastica. Enchanted, perilous, dying, Fantastica is waiting for a Messiah, its faery people doomed, until Bastian appears as their Saviour—and in doing so saves himself.
My rating: 10/10.
♥ "Why is it so dark, Moon Child?" he asked.
"The beginning is always dark, my Bastian."
♥ "I wish everything would stay like this forever," he said.
"The moment is forever," she replied.
♥ It was AURYN, the Gem, the Childlike Empress's amulet, which made its bearer her representative. Moon Child had given him power over every creature and thing in Fantastica. And as long as he wore that emblem, it would be as though she were with him.
For a long while Bastian looked at the two snakes, the one light, the other dark, which were biting each other's tail, and formed an oval. Then he turned the amulet over and to his surprise found an inscription on the reverse side. It consisted of four words in strangely intricate letters:
♥ All Fantastica, he said to himself, was contained in the book that the Old Man of Wandering Mountain had written. This book was the Neverending Story, which he himself had read in the attic. Maybe his present adventures and sufferings were in the book even now. And maybe someone else would read the book someday—maybe someone was reading it at that very moment. In that case, it must be possible to give that someone a sign.
♥ "I thought you had turned to stone."
"So I had," the lion replied. "I die with every nightfall, and every morning I wake up again."
"I thought it was forever," said Bastian.
"It always is forever," said Grograman mysteriously.
♥ "Are you always alone?"
Again the lion stood still, but this time he did not turn toward Bastian. He kept his face averted and repeated in his rumbling voice: "Alone!"
The word echoed through the cave.
"My realm is the desert, and it is also my work. Wherever I go, everything around me turns to desert. I carry it with me. Since I am made of deadly fire, must I not be doomed to everlasting solitude?"
Bastian fell into a dismayed silence.
"Master," said the lion, looking at the boy with glowing eyes. "You who bear the emblem of the Childlike Empress, can you tell me this: Why must I always die at nightfall?"
"So that Perilin, the Night Forest, can grow in the Desert of Colors," said Bastian.
"Perilin?" said the lion. "What's that?"
Then Bastian told him about the miraculous jungle that consisted of living light. While Grograman listened in fascinated amazement, Bastian described the diversity and beauty of the glimmering phosphorescent plants, their silent, irresistible growth, their dreamlike beauty and incredible size. His enthusiasm grew as he spoke and Grograman's eyes glowed more and more brightly.
"All that," Bastian concluded, "can happen only when you are turned to stone. But Perilin would swallow up everything else and stifle itself if it didn't have to die and crumble into dust when you wake up. You and Perilin need each other."
For a long while Grograman was silent.
"Master," he said then. "Now I see that my dying gives life and my living death, and both are good. Now I understand the meaning of my existence. I thank you."
♥ "Sikanda," he said.
In that same moment the sword darted from its sheath and flew into his hand. The blade consisted of pure light and glittered so brightly that he could hardly bear to look at it. It was double-edged and weighed no more than a feather.
"This sword has been destined for you since the beginning of time," said Grograman. "For only one who has ridden on my back, who has eaten and drunk of my fire and bathed in it like you, can touch it without danger. But only because you have given it its right name does it belong to you."
"Sikanda!" said Bastian under his breath as, fascinated by the gleaming light, he swung the sword slowly through the air. "It's a magic sword, isn't it?"
"Nothing in all Fantastica can resist it," said Grograman, "neither rock nor steel. But you must not use force. Whatever may threaten you, you may wield it only if it leaps into your hand of its own accord as it did now. It will guide your hand and by its own power will do what needs to be done. But if your will makes you draw it from its sheath, you will bring great misfortune on yourself and on Fantastica. Never forget that."
♥ "Is it true you've always been here?"
"And the desert of Goab has always existed?"
"Yes, the desert too. Why do you ask?"
"I don't get it," he finally confessed. I'd have bet it wasn't here before yesterday morning."
"What makes you think that, master?"
Then Bastian told him everything that had happened since he met Moon Child.
“It’s all so strange,” he concluded. “A wish comes into my head, and then something always happens that makes the wish come true. I haven’t made this up, you know. I wouldn’t be able to. I could never have invented all the different night plants in Perilin. Or the colors of Goab—or you! It’s all much more wonderful and real than anything I could have made up. But all the same, nothing is there until I’ve wished it.”
“That,” said the lion, “is because you’re carrying AURYN, the Gem.”
“But does all this exist only after I’ve wished it? Or was it all there before?”
“Both,” said Grograman.
“How can that be?” Bastian cried almost impatiently. “You’ve been here in Goab, the Desert of Colors, since heaven knows when. The room in your palace was waiting for me since the beginning of time. So, too, was the sword Sikanda. You told me so yourself.”
“That is true, master.”
“But I—I’ve only been in Fantastica since last night! So it can’t be true that all these things have existed only since I came here.”
“Master,” the lion replied calmly. “Didn’t you know that Fantastica is the land of stories? A story can be new and yet tell about olden times. The past comes into existence with the story.”
“Then Perilin, too, must always have been there,” said the perplexed Bastian.
“Beginning at the moment when you gave it its name,” Grograman replied, “it has existed forever.”
♥ "Couldn't I stay with you forever?"
The lion shook his mane. "No, master."
"Here there is only life and death, only Perilin and Goab, but no story. You must live your story. You cannot remain here."
♥ "There is in Fantastica a certain place from which one can go anywhere and which can be reached from anywhere. We call it the Temple of a Thousand Doors. No one has ever seen it from outside. The inside is a maze of doors. Anyone wishing to know it must dare to enter it."
"But how is that possible if it can't be approached from outside?"
"Every door in Fantastica," said the lion, "even the most ordinary stable, kitchen, or cupboard door, can become the entrance to the Temple of a Thousand Doors at the right moment. And none of these thousand doors leads back to where one came from. There is no return."
"And once someone is inside," Bastian asked, "can he get out and go somewhere?"
"Yes," said the lion. "But it's not as simple as in other buildings. Only a genuine wish can lead you through the maze of the thousand doors. Without a genuine wish, you just have to wander around until you know what you really want. And that can take a long time."
"How will I find the entrance?"
"You've got to wish it."
Bastian pondered a little while. Then he said: "It seems strange that we can't just wish what we please. Where do our wishes come from? What is a wish anyway?"
Grograman gave the boy a long, earnest look, but made no answer.
♥ "'DO WHAT YOU WISH.' That must mean I can do anything I feel like. Don't you think so?"
All at once Grograman's face looked alarmingly grave, and his eyes glowed.
"No," he said in his deep, rumbling voice. "It means that you must do what you really and truly want. And nothing is more difficult."
"What I really and truly want? What do you mean by that?"
"It's your own deepest secret and you yourself don't know it."
"How can I find out?"
"By going the way of your wishes, from one to another, from first to last. It will take you to what you really and truly want."
"That doesn't sound so hard," said Bastian.
"It is the most dangerous of all journeys."
"Why?" Bastian asked. "I'm not afraid."
"That isn't it," Grograman rumbled. "It requires the greatest honesty and vigilance, because there's no other journey on which it's so easy to lose yourself forever."
"Do you mean because our wishes aren't always good?" Bastian asked.
The lion lashed the sand he was lying on with his tail. His ears lay flat, he screwed up his nose, and his eyes flashed fire. Involuntarily Bastian ducked when Grograman's voice once again made the earth tremble: "What do you know about wishes? How would you know what's good and what isn't?"
In the days that followed Bastian thought a good deal about what the Many-Colored Death had said. There are some things, however, that we cannot fathom by thinking about them, but only by experience. So it was not until much later, after all manner of adventures, that he thought back on Grograman's words and began to understand them.
At this time anther change took place in Bastian. Since his meeting with Moon Child he had received many gifts. Now he was favored with a new one: courage. And again something was taken away from him, namely, the memory of his past timidity.
Since he was no longer afraid of anything, a new wish began, imperceptibly at first, then more distinctly, to take shape within him: the wish to be alone no longer. Even in the company of the Many-Colored Death he was alone in a way. He wanted to exhibit his talents to others, to be admired and to become famous.
And one night as he was watching Perilin grow, it suddenly came to him that he was doing so for the last time, that he would have to bid the grandiose Night Forest goodbye. An inner voice was calling him away.
♥ "You don't know Princess Oglamar," he said. "I trained more than ten years to acquire my different skills. With iron discipline I avoided everything that could have impaired my physique. I fenced with the greatest fencing masters and wrestled with the greatest wrestlers, until I could beat them all. I can run faster than a horse, jump higher than a deer. I am best at everything—or rather, I was until yesterday. At the start she wouldn't honor me with a glance, but little by little my accomplishments aroused her interest. I had every reason to hope—and now I see it was all in vain. How can I live without hope?"
"Maybe," Bastian suggested, "you should forget Princess Oglamar. There must be others you could love just as much."
"No," said Hero Hynreck. "I love Princess Oglamar just because she won't be satisfied with any but the greatest."
♥ As for Hero Hynreck, he actually succeeded in reaching Morgul, the Land of the Cold Fire. He ventured into the petrified forest of Wodgabay, crossed the three moats of Ragar Castle, found the lead ax, and slew the dragon Smerg. Then he brought Oglamar back to her father. At that point she would gladly have married him. But by then he didn't want her anymore. That, however, is another story and shall be told another time.
♥ "When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain..."
As they explained, this had been sung by a human who had visited Fantastica long years before, name of Shexper, or something of the sort.
♥ They all, even the luckdragon, believed they were looking for the road that would take Bastian back to his world. Bastian thought so too. He himself didn't realize that he had agreed to Atreyu's suggestion only to oblige his friend and that this wasn't what he really wanted. But the geography of Fantastica is determined by wishes, which may or may not be conscious. And since it was Bastian who led the way, they were actually going deeper and deeper into Fantastica, heading for the Ivory Tower at its very center. What the consequences for him would be, he wouldn't learn until much later. For the present, neither he nor his companions had any idea where they were going.
♥ And on top of all that, how was he to know what further damage Smerg might do in Fantastica? Without stopping to think, Bastian had created an unpredictable menace. It would be there long after he was gone and quite possibly kill or maim any number of innocents. As he kenw, Moon Child drew no distinction between good and evil, beautiful or ugly. To her mind, all the creates in Fantastica were equally important and worthy of consideration. But had he, Bastian, the right to take the same attitude? And above all, did he wish to?
No, Bastian said to himself, he had no wish to go down in the history of Fantastica as a creator of monsters and horrors. How much finer it would be to become famous for his unselfish goodness, to be a shining model for all, to be revered as the "good human" or the "great benefactor." Yes, that was what he wanted.
♥ "It's because of AURYN."
Bastian propped his head on his hand and looked sleepily at his friend.
"What do you mean by that?"
"The Gem," said Atreyu, as though talking to himself, "doesn't work the same with humans as with us."
"What makes you think that?"
"The amulet gives you great power, it makes all your wishes come true, but at the same time it takes something away: your memory of your world."
Bastian thought it over. He didn't feel as if anything had been taken away from him.
"Grograman told me to find out what I really wanted. And the inscription on AURYN says the same thing. But for that I have to go from one wish to the next without ever skipping any. That's why I need the Gem."
"Yes," said Atreyu. "It gives you the means, but it takes away your purpose."
"Oh well," said Bastian undismayed. "Moon Child must have known what she was doing when she gave me the amulet. You worry too much, Atreyu. I'm sure AURYN isn't a trap."
♥ "Falkor," Atreyu asked, "do you suppose the Childlike Empress cares about what becomes of Bastian?"
"Maybe not," said Falkor. "She draws no distinctions."
"Then," said Atreyu, "she really is a..."
"Don't say it," Falkor broke in. "I know what you mean, but don't say it."
♥ "When I fought your guards," said Bastian, "I discovered that there was nothing inside their shell of armour. So what makes them move?"
"My will," said Xayide with a smile. "It's because they're empty that they do my will. My will can control anything that's empty."
♥ He kept telling himself that he had made Yikka's dearest wish come true. But that didn't make him feel any better. A person's reason for doing someone a good turn matters as much as the good turn itself.
♥ "Then, O Great Knower, hear our question. What is Fantastica?"
After a short silence Bastian replied: "Fantastica is the Neverending Story."
♥ Bastian turned away and did not reply.
It was plain to Xayide that this was no time to leave him to himself. In such a mood he was capable of slipping away from her. She must comfort him and cheer him up—in her own way. For she was determined to hold him to the course she had planned for him—and for herself. And she knew that in the present juncture no magical belts or tricks would suffice. It would take stronger medicine, the strongest medicine available to her, namely, Bastian's secret wishes.
♥ At length he hit on the idea of wishing for Moon Child to come to him. If he was really all-powerful, if all his wishes came true, she would have to obey him. For whole nights he sat there whispering: "Moon Child, come! You must come! I command you to come!" He thought of her glance, which had lain in his heart like a glittering treasure. But she did not come. And the more he tried to make her come, the fainter became his memory of that glitter in his heart, until in the end all was darkness within him.
♥ "Once you are emperor," said Xayide, "you will put the house in order."
"I want them to want what I want," said Bastian.
♥ A detailed account of the battle for the Ivory Tower would take us too far. To this day Fantasticans sing countless songs and tell innumerable stories about that day and night, for everyone who took part saw it in his own way. Certain of the stories have it that Atreyu's army included several white magicians, who had the power to oppose Xayide's black magic. Of this we have no certain knowledge, but that would explain how, in spite of the armored giants, Atreyu and his followers were able to take the Ivory Tower. But there is another, more like explanation: Atreyu was fighting not for himself, but for his friend, whom he was trying to save by defeating him.
♥ "Do you mean that they're humans?"
Argax jumped up and down on Bastian's shoulder. "Exactly!" he said gleefully.
Bastian saw a woman in the middle of the street trying to spear peas with a darning needle.
"How did they get here? What are they ding here?"
"Oh, there have always been humans who couldn't find their way back to their world," Argax explained. "First they didn't want to, and now, in a manner of speaking, they can't."
Bastian looked at a little girl who was struggling to push a doll's carriage with square wheels.
"Why can't they?" he asked.
"They'd have to wish it. And they've stopped wishing. They used up their last wish for something else."
"Their last wish?" said Bastian, going deathly pale. "Can't a person go on wishing as long as he pleases?"
Argax giggled again. Then he tried to take off Bastian's turban and pick lice out of his hair.
"Stop that!" Bastian cried. He tried to shake the little monkey off, but Argax held on right and squealed with pleasure.
"No! No!" he chattered. "You can only wish as long as you remember your world. These people here used up all their memories. Without a past you can't have a future. That's why they don't get older. Just look at them. Would you believe that some of them have been here a thousand years and more? But they stay just as they are. Nothing can change for them, because they themselves can't change anymore. ..All the ones who can't find their way back try sooner or later to become Emperor. They didn't all make it, but they all tried. That's why there are two kinds of fools here. Though the result, in a manner of speaking, is the same."
"What two kinds? Tell me, Argax! I have to know!'
"Easy does it," said Argax, giggling as he tightened his grip on Bastian's neck. "The one kind gradually used up their memories. And when they had lost the last one, AURYN couldn't fulfill their wishes anymore. After that, they came here, in a manner of speaking, automatically. The others, the ones who crowned themselves emperor, lost all their memories at one stroke. So the same thing happened: AURYN couldn't fulfill their wishes anymore, because they had none left. As you see, it comes to the same thing. Here they are, and they can't get away."
"Do you mean that they all had AURYN at one time?"
"Naturally!" said Argax. "But they forgot it long ago. And it wouldn't help them anymore, the poor fools!"
"Was it..." Bastian hesitated. "Was it taken way from them?"
"No," said Argax. "When someone crowns himself emperor, it simply vanishes. Obviously, because how, in a manner of speaking, can you use Moon Child's power to take her power away from her?"
♥ "They can't talk anymore. YThey've lost the power of speech. So I thought up this game for them. As you see, it keeps them busy. It's very simple. If you stop to think about it, you'll have to admit that all the storis in the world consist essentiall of twenty-six letters. The letter s are always the same, only the arrangement varies. From letters words are formed, from words sentences, from sentences chapters, and from chapters stories. Now take a look. What do you see?"
Y X C V B N M A S D F G H J K L O A
Q W E R T Z Y I O P U
A S D F G H J K L O A
M N B V C X Y L K J H G F D S A
U P U I U Z T R E W Q A S
Q S E R T Z U I O P U A S D A F
A S D F G H J K L O A Y X C
U P O I U Z T R E W Q
A O L K J H G F D S A M N B V
G K H D S R Z I P
Q E T U O U S F H K O
Y C B M W R Z I P
A R C G U N I K Y O
Q W E R T Z I O P L U A S D
M N B V C X Y A S D
L K J U O N G R E F G H I
"Yes, of course," said Argax with a giggle, "it usually makes no more sense than that. But if you keep at it a long time, words turn up now and then. Not very brilliant words, but still words. 'Spinachcramp, for instance, or 'sugarbrush,' or 'nosepolish.' And if you play for a hundred years, or a thousand or a hundred thousand, the law of chances tells us that a poem will probably come out. And if you play it forever, every possible poem and every possible story will have to come out, in fact every story about a story, and even this story about the two of us chatting here. Its only logical, don't you think?"
"It's horrible," said Bastian.
"I wouldn't say that," said Argax. "It depends on your point of view."
♥ All his plans had collapsed at one stroke. His thoughts seemed to have been stood on end—like the pyramid he had seen. What he had hoped was his ruin and what he had feared his salvation.
♥ But wishes cannot be summoned up or kept away at will. They come from deeper within us than good or bad intentions. And they spring up unannounced.
And so, before he knew it, a new wish arose within him and little by little took form.
For days and nights he had been wandering all alone. And because of being alone, he yearned to belong to some sort of community, to be taken into a group not as a master or victor or as any special sort of person, but merely as one among many, perhaps as the smallest or least important, provided his membership in the community was unquestioned.
♥ The men on the platform held one another clasped by the shoulders and looked fixedly forward. At first sight, they seemed to be standing motionless. Actually they were swaying very slowly, in perfect unison—in a sort of dance, which they accompanied by chanting over and over again a simple and strangely beautiful tune.
At first Bastian regarded this song and dance as some sort of ceremony, the meaning of which escaped him. Then, on the third day of the voyage, he asked one of his three friends about it. Evidently surprised at Bastian's ignorance, the sailor explained that those men were propelling the ship by thought-power.
More puzzled than ever, Bastian asked if some sort of hidden wheels were set in motion.
"No," one of the sailors replied. "When you want to move your legs, you have only to think bout it. You don't need wheels, do you?"
Th only different between a person's body and a ship was that to move a ship at least two Yskalnari had to merge their thought-powers into one. It was this fusion of thought-power that propelled the ship. If greater speed was desired, more men had to join in. Normally, thinkers worked in shifts of three; the others rested, for easy and pleasant as it looked, thought-propulsion was hard work, demanding intense and unbroken concentration. But there was no other way of sailing the Skaidan.
♥ One day it struck him that Yskalnari lived together so harmoniously, not because they blended different ways of thinking, but because they were so much alike that it cost them no effort to form a community. Indeed, they were incapable of quarreling or even disagreeing, because they did not regard themselves as individuals. Thus there were no conflicts or differences to overcome, and it was just this sameness, this absence of stress that gradually came to pall on Bastian. Their gentleness bored him and the unchanging melody of their songs got on his nerves. He felt that something was lacking, something he hungered for, but he could not yet have said what it was.
This became clear to him sometime later when a giant mist crows was sighted. Stricken with terror, the sailors vanished below deck as fast as they could. But one was not quick enough; the monstrous bird swooped down with a cry, seized the poor fellow, and carried him away in its beak.
When the danger was past, the sailors emerged and resumed their song and dance, as though nothing had happened. Their harmony was undisturbed, and far from grieving, they didn't waste so much as a word on the incident.
"Why should we grieve?" said one of them when Bastian inquired. "None of us is missing."
With them the individual counted for nothing. No one was irreplaceable, because they drew no distinction between one man and another.
Bastion, however, wanted to be an individual, a someone, not just one among others. He wanted to be loved for being just what he was. In this community of Yskalnari there was harmony, but no love.
He no longer wanted to be the greatest, strongest, or cleverest. He had left all that far behind. He longed to be loved just as he was, good or bad, handsome or ugly, clever or stupid, with all his faults—or possibly because of them.
But what was he actually like?
He no loner knew. So much had been given to him in Fantastica, and now, among all these gifts and powers, he could no longer find himself.
♥ "A long, long time ago," the flowery woman began, "our Childlike Empress was deathly ill, for she needed a new name, and only a human could give her one. But humans had stopped coming to Fantastica, no one knew why. And if she had died, that would have been the end of Fantastica. Then one day—or rather one night—a human came after all. It was a little boy, and he gave the Childlike Empress the name of Moon Child. She recovered, and in token of her gratitude she promised the boy that all his wishes in her empire would come true—until he found out what he really and truly wanted. Then the little boy made a long journey from one wish to the next, and each one came true. And each fulfillment led to a new wish. There were not only good wishes but bad ones as well, but the Childlike Empress drew no distinction; in her eyes all things in her empire are equally good and important. In the end the Ivory Tower was destroyed, and she did nothing to prevent it. But with every wish fulfillment the little boy lost a part of his memory of the world he had come from. He didn't really mind, for he had given up wanting to go back. So he kept on wishing, but by then he had spent all his memories, and without memories its not possible to wish. So he had almost ceased to be a human and had almost become a Fantastican. He still didn't know what he really and truly wanted. It seemed possible that his very last memories would be used up before he found out. And if that happened, he would never be able to return to his own world. Then at last he came to the House of Change, and there he would stay until he found out what he really and truly wanted. You see, it's called the House of Change not only because it changes itself but also because it changes anyone who lives in it. And that was very important to the little boy, because up until then he had always wanted to be someone other than he was, but he didn't want to change."
♥ "I always wanted a child," she said, "a child I could spoil, who needed my tenderness, a child I could care for—someone like you, my darling boy."
Bastian yawned. He felt irresistibly lulled by her sweet voice.
"But," he objected, "you said your mother and grandmother waited for me."
Dame Eyola's face was now in darkness.
"Yes," he heard her say. "My mother and my grandmother also wanted a child. They never had one but I have one now."
Bastian's eyes closed. He barely managed to ask: "How can that be? Your mother had you when you were little. And your grandmother had your mother."
"No," my darling boy," said the voice hardly above a whisper. "With us it's different. We don't die and we're not born. We're always the same Dame Eyola, and then again we're not. When my mother grew old, she withered. All her leaves fell, as the leaves fall from a tree in the winter. She withdrew into herself. And so she remained for a long time. But then one day she put forth young leaves, buds, blossoms, and finally fruit. And that's how I came into being, for I was the new Dame Eyola. And it was just the same with my grandmother when she brought my mother into the world. We Dames Eyola can only have a child if we wither first. And then we're our own child and we can't be a mother anymore. That's why I'm so glad you're here, my darling boy..."
♥ "I did everything wrong," he said. "I misunderstood everything. Moon Child gave me so much, and all I did with it was harm, harm to myself and harm to Fantastica."
Dame Eyola gave him a long look.
"No," she said. "I don't believe so. You went the way of wishes, and that is never straight. You went the long way around, but that was your way. And do you know why? Because you are one of those who can't go back until they have found the fountain from which springs the Water of Life. And that's the most secret place in Fantastica. There's no simple way of getting there."
After a short silence she added: "But every way that leads there is the right one."
♥ "..Once you've forgotten something you don't know you ever had it."
"What am I forgetting now?"
"I'll tell you at the proper time. If I told you now, you'd hold on to it."
"Must I lose everything?"
"Nothing is lost," she said. "Everything is transformed."
♥ "Now you have found your last wish," she said finally. "What you really and truly want is to love."
"But why can't I, Dame Eyola?"
"You won't be able to until you have drunk of the Water of Life," she said. "And you can't go back to your own world unless you take some of it back for others."
Bastian was bewildered. "But what about you?" he asked. "Haven't you drunk of it?"
"No," said Dame Eyola. "It's different for me. I only needed someone to whom I could give my excess."
"But isn't that love?"
Dame Eyola pondered a while, then she said: "It was the effect of your wish."
"Can't Fantasticans love? Are they like me?" he asked anxiously.
She answered: "There are some few creatures in Fantastica, so I'm told, who get to drink of the Water of Life. But no one knows who they are. And there is a prophecy, which we seldom speak of, that sometime in the distant future humans will bring love to Fantastica. Then the two worlds will be one. But what that means I don't know."
♥ "Don't let it worry you," she said. "And don't worry about tomorrow morning. Go your way. Everything is just as it should be."
♥ And there in the snow lay the pictures, like jewels bedded in white silk.
They were paper-thin sheets of colored, transparent isinglass, of every size and shape, some round, some square, some damaged, some intact, some as large as church widows, others as small as snuffbox miniatures. They lay, arranged more or less according to size and shape, in rows extending to the snowy horizon.
What these pictures represented it was hard to say. There were figures in weird disguise that seemed to be flying through the air in an enormous bird's nest, donkeys in judge's robes, clocks as limp as soft butter, dressmaker's dummies standing in deserted, glaringly lighted squares. There were faces and heads pieced together from animals and others that made up a landscape. But there were also perfectly normal pictures, men mowing a wheat field, women sitting on a balcony, mountain villages and seascapes, battle scenes and circus scenes, streets and rooms and many, many faces, old and young, wise and simple, fools and kings, cheerful and gloomy. There were gruesome pictures, executions and death dances, and there were comical ones, such as a group of young ladies riding a walrus or a nose walking about and being greeted by passersby.
.."They are forgotten dreams from the human world," Yor explained. "Once someone dreams a dream, it can't just drop out of existence. But if the dreamer can't remember it, what becomes of it? It lives on in Fantastica, deep under our earth. There the forgotten dreams are stored in many layers. The deeper one digs, the closer together they are. All Fantastica rests on a foundation of forgotten dreams."
Bastian was wide-eyed with wonderment. "Are mine there too?" he asked.
"And you think I have to find them?"
"At least one," said Yor. "One will be enough."
"But what for?" Bastian wanted to know.
Now the miner's face was lit only by the faint glow of the hearty fire. Again his blind eyes looked through Bastian and far into the distance.
"Listen, Bastian Balthazar Bux," he said. "I'm no great talker. I prefer silence. But I will answer this one question. You are looking for the Water of Life. You want to be able to love, that's your only hope of getting back to your world. To love—that's easily said. But the Water of Life will ask you: Love whom? Because you can't just love in general. You've forgotten everything but your name. And if you can't answer, it won't let you drink. So you'll just have to find a forgotten dream, a picture that will guide you to the fountain. And to find that picture you will have to forget the one thing you have left: yourself. And that takes hard, patient work. Remember what I've said, for I shall never say it again."
♥ While Bastian looked at the picture that lay before him in the snow, a longing grew in him for this man whom he did not know, a surge of feeling that seemed to come from far away. Like a tidal wave, almost imperceptible at first, it gradually built up strength till it submerged everything in its path. Bastian struggled for air. His heart pounded, it was not big enough for so great a longing. That surge of feeling submerged everything that he still remembered of himself. And he forgot the last thing he still possessed: his own name.
♥ "AURYN is the door that Bastian has been looking for. He carried it with him from the start. But—it says—the snakes won't let anything belonging to Fantastica cross the threshold. Bastian must therefore give up everything the Childlike Empress gave him. Otherwise he cannot drink of the Water of Life."
"But we are in her sign!" cried Atreyu. "Isn't she herself here?"
"It says that Moon Child's power ends here. She is the only one who can never set foot in this place. She cannot penetrate to the center of AURYN, because she cannot cast off her own self."
♥ In this last moment, when he no longer possessed any of the Fantastican gifts but had not yet recovered his memory of his own world and himself, he was in a state of utter uncertainty, not knowing which worlds he belonged to or whether he really existed.
But then he jumped into the crystal-clear water. He splashed and spluttered and let the sparkling rain fall into his mouth. He drank till his thirst was quenched. And joy filled him from head to foot, the joy of living and the joy of being himself. He was newborn. And the best part of it was that he was now the very person he wanted to be. If he had been free to choose, he would have chosen to be no one else. Because now he knew that there were thousands and thousands of forms of joy in the world, but that all were essentially one and the same, namely, the joy of being able to love.
And much later, long after Bastian had returned to his world, in his maturity and even in his old age, this joy never left him entirely. Even in the hardest moments of his life he preserved a lightheartedness that made him smile and that comforted others.
♥ "Mr. Coreander," Bastian asked. "How do you know all that? I mean—have you ever been in Fantastica?"
"Of course I have," said Mr. Coreander.
"But then," said Bastian, "you must know Moon Child."
"Yes, I know the Childlike Empress," said Mr. Coreander, "though not by that name. I called her something different. But that doesn't matter."
"Then you must know the book!" Bastian cried. "Then you have read the Neverending Story."
Mr. Coreander shook his head.
"Every real story is the Neverending Story." He passed his eyes over the many books that covered the walls of his shop from floor to ceiling, pointed the stem of his pipe at them, and went on:
"There are many doors to Fantastica, my boy. There are other such magic books. A lot of people read them without noticing. It all depends on who gets his hands on such books."
"Then the Neverending Story is different for different people?"
"That's right," said Mr. Coreander. "And besides, it's not just books. There are other ways of getting to Fantastica and back. You'll find out."
"Do you think so?" Bastian asked hopefully. "But then I'd have to meet Moon Child again, and no one can meet her more than once."
Mr. Coreander leaned forward and lowered his voice.
"Let an old Fantastica hand tell you something, my boy. This is a secret that no one in Fantastica knows. When you think it over, you'll see why. You can't visit Moon Child a second time, that's true. But if you can give her a new name, you'll see her again. And however often you manage to do that, it will be the first and only time."
♥ "Bastian Balthazar Byux," he grumbled. "If I'm not mistaken, you will show many others the way to Fantastica, and they will bring us the Water of Life."
Mr. Coreander was not mistaken..
But that's another story and shall be told another time.