Skip to main content

The Neverending Story

The Neverending Story

Michael Ende


(Full name Michael Andreas Helmuth Ende) German illustrator and author of juvenile novels and poetry.

The following entry presents commentary on Michael Ende's juvenile novel Die unendliche Geschichte: Von A bis Z (1979; The Neverending Story) through 2002. For further information on his life and career, see CLR, Volume 14.


A fairy tale in two parts, Ende's The Neverending Story (1979) tells the story of a shy young boy, Bastian Balthasar Bux, learning to value imagination and create a secure self-identity. A best-seller in its native Germany for three years, under its original title, Die unendliche Geschichte: Von A bis Z, the book won the Buxtehuder Bulle and Wilhelm Hauff Prizes in Germany, the Premio Europeo "Provincia di Trento" Award in Italy, and the International Janusz Korczak Prize in Poland, as well as being adopted as a popular symbol of the West German anti-nuclear movement. The novel became a runaway success throughout Europe and Japan before reaching the United States in 1983. Translated into English by Ralph Manheim, the novel achieved strong sales before being turned into a movie in 1986. Published in over twenty-eight countries worldwide, The Neverending Story has endured as Ende's testament to the importance of individualism and, ultimately, the realization of one's dreams in an increasing materialistic and work-oriented universe.


Ende was born on November 12, 1929, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany. His father, surrealist painter Edgar Ende, moved his family to Munich in 1931 to the artist quarters of the city, in the district of Schwabing. Ende indulged in an early appreciation of the arts, likely inspired by the fantastic works of his father and his colleagues, writing stories and poems at the Waldorf School. As a child born between the wars, he was witness to the economic crisis that gripped Germany after World War I and the subsequent rise of the Nazi Party in World War II. His father's work was restricted by the Nazis, instilling in his son an early dislike for authoritarianism which remained with him throughout his life. The Allied bombing of Munich forced the family's return to Ende's birthplace of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where he continued his studies until he was drafted into the German Army, from which he purportedly deserted before the war's conclusion and joined an anti-Nazi group. Upon the close of the war, Ende lacked the finances to attend college and instead won a scholarship to attend drama school, the Otto-Falckenberg-Schauspielschule in Munich, which he attended from 1948 to 1950. He initially found work with an acting troupe in Stuttgart before returning to Munich, where he worked variously as actor, director, and scripter for cabaret acts. Most of his initial efforts in writing were confined to the theater, for which he had a passion, though these scripts attracted little interest and Ende struggled to make a living. Ende's career in children's literature was accidental; his collaboration with illustrator Rienhard Michl started as a friendly effort to create a story for the artist to work on. The resulting works, Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer (1960; Jim Button and Luke the Engine-Driver) and Jim Knopf und die Wilde 13 (1962), told the progressive story of a young African child searching for his true identity. The books proved to be commercial and critical successes, winning the German Youth Prize in 1961 and earning Ende a nomination for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1962. Despite his early success in children's literature, Ende again returned to the theater where his heightened profile enabled him to produce one of his scripts, though the play proved to be commercially unsuccessful. He married actress Ingeborg Hoffman in 1964, and his frustration with continuing critical debates over the nature and quality of his work contributed to his decision to move to Rome in 1970. His third children's book, Momo; oder, die seltsame Geschichte von den Zeit-Dieben und von dem Kind, das den Menschen die gestohlene Zeit zurückbrachte (1973; The Grey Gentleman), is a fable relat- ing the story of a group of grey men who mysteriously offer the townspeople their material dreams in exchange for their free time, which they secret away in a "Timesaving Bank." A warning against materialism, the book earned Ende his second German Youth Prize in 1974. However, it was his next fantasy, Due unendliche Geschichte, for which he is best remembered. A worldwide success, The Neverending Story not only cemented Ende's reputation as a children's author, but it also further enhanced his reputation among anti-materialists, who looked at Ende's works as championing their causes. Following the death of his wife in 1985, Ende returned to Germany, marrying translator Mariko Sato in 1989. In the last decade of his life, he released another dozen works, including 1984's Der Spiegel im Spiegel: Ein Labyrinth, a collection of short stories utilizing his father's abstract paintings for illustrations. Ende passed away August 29, 1995, in Stuttgart, Germany, after a long struggle with stomach cancer.


A tale told in two halves, The Neverending Story follows Bastian Balthazar Bux, a chubby, introverted boy bullied at school, who is struggling to connect with a father still mourning the loss of his deceased mother. He discovers a book with an image of two intertwining snakes on the cover titled The Neverending Story at an antique book store. After stealing the book, he hides in an attic and begins to read the enchanted fairy tale of a magic land called Fantastica, a kingdom formed from the telling of stories. Bastian is introduced to a crisis facing Fantastica, the threat of the encroaching Nothing, a negation of existence that erases everything in its creeping path. The spiritual leader of Fantastica, the Childlike Empress, charges the land's greatest hero, the boy Atreyu, to find the means to save their home. Bastian follows Atreyu's attempts to find their salvation, a journey with many twists that culminates with Bastian's realization that he is the answer to Fantastica's problems. Imbuing the Princess with a new name—the Moon Child—he enters Fantastica, becoming part of the story. This begins the second half of the book, with Bastian journeying across the newly reforged land as a hero of sorts, indulging himself with the spoils of his heroics. As the champion of Fantastica, he has the ability to turn dreams and wishes into reality, although each one costs him a piece of his memory, loosening his grip on the real world to which he must someday return. By story's end, in part due to the machinations of the witch Xayide, he is left with almost no concept of who Bastian was. With the help of the Dame Eyola and the House of Change, he is able to use the Water of Life to regain his former self and return to his father. Despite his desire to return with some of the water to cure his father's melancholia, he loses the water mid-trip. His joyful father, who had been frantically searching for his lost son, breaks down upon finding him. Seeing the tears of his father, Bastian believes them to be the Water of Life he had hoped to impart upon his distraught father, signaling a change in their relationship.


The Neverending Story is an atypical allegorical fairy tale—at once conveying traditional themes relating the power of imagination, the need for self-identity, and the joys of reading, it simultaneously offers a dramatic alteration of the form with an unusual narrative structure for a children's novel. The book's two-part structure combines elements of normative mythological framework in the first half (chapters 1 to 12) with a deconstruction of those self-same aspects in the second (chapters 13 to 26). Utilizing the established fairy tradition, The Neverending Story initially follows the traditional pattern of the heroic quest with a typical boy-hero. However, the book juxtaposes those events, which are related in red ink, with Bastian's sensations while reading about Atreyu in the "real" world, which are revealed in green ink. Further, upon Bastian's entry into Fantastica, which signals the start of the second half of the story, he follows a non-traditional path of an anti-hero. He becomes selfish and eventually drives away his friends, including Atreyu, his seeming other-self, causing critic Maria Nikolajeva to equate him with "the false hero in the fairy tales." And yet, despite his failings, Bastian remains the primary protagonist of the narrative with his attempts to reconnect with the real world driving the plot. Bastian's lost identity is the result of overindulgence of those self-same fantastic dreams, which the first half of the story seemingly advocates. Critics have likened this apparent ambiguity in the book's thematic message to Ende's anti-materialistic beliefs. The story seems to argue that fantasy and imagination are a necessary facet of life, concepts that Ende purports are under threat from a materialistic culture that prizes possessions over art. And yet, Ende's text seemingly tries to offer a warning against overindulgence in any form, even in the pursuit of fantasy and personal glory as Bastian has done. The Neverending Story also serves as form of metafiction, with a book-within-a-book format that encourages literal reader participation, which Kath Filmer has characterized as a story where the "text exists as the neverending story: Bastian's entry to it provides the transformation between mere text and imaginative activity." Among its many other themes, The Neverending Story has attracted critical attention for the story's capacity to function as both a Romantic parody and a symbol of religious skepticism.


Critical reaction to The Neverending Story has been largely mixed. While the book has been hailed for its unique alteration of fairy tale norms—particularly its creative composition, which features two ongoing and differently colored narratives as well as chapters that each begin with a succeeding letter of the alphabet from A to Z—the book has been criticized for its sentimentalism and didactic methodology. As a result, The Neverending Story has been the subject of continuing debates over its critical merit, with reviewers often taking polar opposite views with regards to its quality and suitability for children. Tom Easton, in his review of the English translation, has suggested that The Neverending Story "offers level of meaning—pure wish-fulfillment, paradox and intrigue, a philosophy of fantastic creation. It is thoughtful and astonishing and—perhaps above all—glowing with warmth and love." However, taking a dramatically different view of the book's merits, Neil Philip has negatively described Ende's text as "banal, pretentious, derivative and mind-numbing." Regardless, in the thirty years since its initial release, The Neverending Story has maintained a strong readership, and Gregory Maguire has argued that the story belongs within "a class of superb fantasies for adults … whose most appreciative audience might be young adults."


Selected Children's Works

Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer [illustrations by Reinhard Michl] (juvenile novel) 1960; translated by Renate Symonds as Jim Button and Luke the Engine-Driver; illustrations by Maurice S. Dodd, 1963

Jim Knopf und die Wilde 13 [illustrations by Reinhard Michl] (juvenile novel) 1962

Das Schnurpsenbuch [illustrations by Siegfried Wagner] (juvenile poetry) 1969

Tranquilla Trampeltreu, die beharrliche Schildkröte [illustrations by Marie-Luise Pricken] (juvenile novel) 1972; revised and enlarged edition with illustrations by Manfred Schlüter, 1979

Momo; oder, die seltsame Geschichte von den Zeit-Dieben und von dem Kind, das den Menschen die gestohlene Zeit zurückbrachte [as author and illustrator] (juvenile novel) 1973; translated by Frances Lobb as The Grey Gentleman, 1974; translated by J. Maxwell Brownjohn as Momo, 1985

Das kleine Lumpenkasperle [illustrations by Roswitha Quadflieg] (juvenile novel) 1975

Das Traumfresserchen [illustrations by Annegart Fuchshuber] (juvenile novel) 1978; translated by Gwen Marsh as The Dream-Eater, 1978

Lirum Larum Willi Warum: Eine lustige Unsinngeschichte für kleine Warumfrager [illustrations by Roswitha Quadflieg] (juvenile novel) 1978

Die unendliche Geschichte: Von A bis Z [illustrations by Roswitha Quadflieg] (juvenile novel) 1979; translated by Ralph Manheim as The Neverending Story, 1983

Der Lindwurm und der Schmetterling; oder, Der seltsame Tausch [illustrations by Betina Schlueter and Wilfried Hiller] (juvenile novel) 1981

Die Schattennähmaschine [illustrations by Binette Schroeder] (juvenile novel) 1982

Norbert Nackendick; oder, das nackte Nashorn [illustrations by Binette Schlueter] (juvenile novel) 1984

Filemon Faltenreich [illustrations by Christoph Hessel] (juvenile novel) 1984

Satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch (juvenile novel) 1989; translated by Heike Schwarzbauer and Rick Takvorian as The Night of Wishes; or, The Satanarchaeolidealcohellish Notion Potion, illustrations by Regina Kehn, 1992

Die Geschichte von der Schüssel und vom Löffel [illustrations by Tino] (juvenile novel) 1990

Der Teddy und die Tiere [illustrations by Bernhard Oberdieck] (juvenile novel) 1993


Tom Easton (review date February 1984)

SOURCE: Easton, Tom. Review of The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende, illustrated by Roswitha Quadflieg, translated by Ralph Manheim. Analog 104, no. 2 (February 1984): 165-66.

[In the following review, Easton praises The Neverending Story as "thoughtful and astonishing and—perhaps above all—glowing with warmth and love."]

According to the blurb on the bound galleys Doubleday sent me, The Neverending Story was a best-seller for three years in Germany, and then in Spain, Italy, and Japan; translation rights have sold in twenty-seven countries. The blurb promises the book fame in America too, and it may just be right.

The Neverending Story is by Michael Ende, translated most ably by Ralph Manheim, and illustrated (not in galleys, unfortunately) by Roswitha Quadflieg. It begins as a daydreaming outcast of a boy named Bastian Balthazar Bux finds a strange little bookshop whose gruff proprietor is reading a book bound in copper-colored silk and called The Neverending Story. The book is just what Bastian has always craved, as have all born bookworms—a story that never ends. And he swipes it.

Imagine his feelings when, after taking refuge in the deserted attic of his school, he opens the book and finds it describing his own entry into the bookshop, the proprietor and his reading matter, Bastian's theft of the book, his trip to the attic, and … But that is not until after he has read of a hero's search for the salvation of a kingdom being eaten up by patches of nothingness, learned that the kingdom is that magical realm of the imagination where dwell all the stories ever told (for as long as they retain believers in the real world), and learned that the kingdom can only be saved if a true human will willingly enter the kingdom and give its Childlike Empress a new name.

The Empress has called him, he has her name—Moon Child—but he is reluctant until he learns the Mobius nature of the book he holds. Then he cries, "Moon Child, I'm coming!" and dives into the story.

What befalls him there? All his wishes come true. He escapes utterly his drab and frustrating origins. In time he grows, he learns the proper use of fantasy, and he escapes again to his own world—where, it seems, he will become a famous writer or other variety of fantasist.

The story offer levels of meaning—pure wishfulfillment, paradox and intrigue, a philosophy of fantastic creation. It is thoughtful and astonishing and—perhaps above all—glowing with warmth and love. It deserves its status abroad, and it deserves as much again here. I only pray that Ende, who can surely retire young (how old is he?) on his royalties, can do as well again.

Have you ever read anything to compare with this book? Perhaps you have, for The Neverending Story is what Myers's Silverlock might have been. The two have the premise, a world where fantasies take life and into which a "real" human can step. But Ende's book is head and shoulders above the other.

Gregory Maguire (review date April 1984)

SOURCE: Maguire, Gregory. Review of The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende, illustrated by Roswitha Quadflieg, translated by Ralph Manheim. Horn Book Magazine 60, no. 2 (April 1984): 228.

Heralded around the world, the novel has made a respectable showing on American best-seller lists. By virtue of its popularity alone it is destined to be considered in a class of superb fantasies for adults, including the works of Le Guin, Tolkien, and Richard Adams. But it is a rambling, sentimental story whose most appreciative audience might be young adults. Bastian Balthazar Bux, a beleaguered boy of "ten or twelve," steals an elaborate book called The Neverending Story and begins to read it. The text he reads is printed in a different color from that of the text which narrates his own experiences; hence, two stories progress through the book. Bastian reads about the country of Fantastica, a magical land which is disappearing bit by bit, needing a human hero to believe in it and rejuvenate it. Eventually, the stories intertwine. Bastian enters into the book he is reading, into the land of Fantastica, and helps to save it from destruction. A gallery of odd creatures and strange events inflate the book. Most satisfying are the suggestions about the importance of narrative in the lives of children; Bastian comes out of his ordeal a stronger, more resilient person. Still, The Neverending Story at times seems just that.

H. J. Schueler (essay date November 1987)

SOURCE: Schueler, H. J. "Michael Ende's Die unendliche Geschicte and the Recovery of Myth through Romance." Seminar 23, no. 4 (November 1987): 355-74.

[In the following essay, Schueler utilizes Northrop Frye's theory of displacement in his examination of how Ende uses the literary constructs of myth and romance in The Neverending Story.]

When I mentioned to a respected senior colleague my intention to attempt a critical analysis of Michael Ende's voluminous best seller, Die unendliche Geschichte [The Neverending Story ], he warned me that some scholars "see red" when they even hear the title since they consider the work to be not really serious literature. My colleague was putting his finger on a highbrow attitude which perpetuates a longstanding bias. As Northrop Frye points out in The Secular Scripture, romance has had a "curiously proletarian status as a form generally disapproved of, in most ages, by the guardians of taste and learning" (23). Frye continues: " … the romancer is considered to have compromised too far with popular literature. Popular literature itself is obviously still in the doghouse" (41). There is no doubt that Frye is justified in claiming, as he does in Spiritus Mundi, that he has helped agitate a "scholarly revolution" which "has resulted in weakening the distinction between classical and popular literature" (22). No other literary critic has done more to liberate romance from the doghouse and to elucidate its central importance as the structural core of all fiction. No discussion of romance can afford to ignore Frye's theory of the genre, and this study is deeply indebted to his insights.

The critical literature on Michael Ende's astonishingly successful book1 is characterized by a surprising degree of uncertainty regarding the genre it should be most appropriately assigned to. The most prevalent tendency is to view Ende in general terms as a representative author of "Fantasyliteratur"2 which has fed what has been termed the "große Phantastik-Welle" or the "Boom in Phantastik" (Wamister 417; Prondczynsky 12). That Ende would prefer not to be associated solely with this boom is indicated by his highly negative response to the film version of Die unendliche Geschichte. Ende rejected the film, which only deals with certain aspects of the first part of the book, as being nothing more than a "fantasy comic" (Hetmann 116) and "ein spektakulärer, perfekt gemachter, aber wesenloser Fantasy-Film."3 Generic literary terms applied to Die unendliche Geschichte range from all-inclusive "Roman" to "modern" or "utopian" "Bildungsroman" (Prondczynsky 87; Göbel 420), to "Märchen" (Göbel 421). This study attempts to offer a contribution to an understanding of the book by focusing on its qualities as a romance while at the same time identifying and elucidating modifications of traditional romance formulas offered by Ende in his attempt to develop what Ulrich Greiner has called "ein Konzept zur Heilung unserer kranken Welt" (14), a myth of redemption of the individual and society.

A consideration worth keeping in mind when discussing Die unendliche Geschichte is the fact that in the rising popularity of romance, exemplified by the triumphant reception of Ende's work, we seem to be witnessing literature coming full circle in its historical movement through the five fictional modes outlined by Northrop Frye in Anatomy of Criticism, from myth and romance through high and low mimetic forms to irony and now back again to myth and romance (33-35). We feel that these wider historical and theoretical implications lend additional urgency to the need to devote some serious critical attention to the works of romancers like Ende.

At one point in Die unendliche Geschichte the lion Graógramán says to Bastian: "Eine Geschichte kann neu sein und doch von uralten Zeiten erzählen. Die Vergangenheit entsteht mit ihr" (225). Here the archetypal nature of the neverending story into which Bastian is drawn is hinted at. The narrative structure which informs the story and accounts for this archetypal quality is that of the quest romance, with many of the stock devices of this literary mode marking not only the "Große Suche" (38) of the fictional hero, Atréju, but also that of the fictional reader-cum-hero, Bastian.

Like one of the great romances of world literature, the Odyssey,Die unendliche Geschichte consists of two main parts of roughly equal length and, like the Odyssey, the second half of the story repeats a number of central themes of the first half in different contexts.4 Unlike the Odyssey, the two parts of Ende's romance each have their own main hero, one of whom, Bastian, plays a threefold role in that, in addition to pursuing his own quest, he not only becomes involved in Atréju's but is also the central figure of what can be viewed as a third part of the story. This section functions in part as a frame. It is written in the ironic mode,5 and deals with Bastian's life in the world of ordinary experience. The relationship between the two heroes is governed in a significant way by the relation of reality to fiction, which is a central theme dominating Die unendliche Geschichte in its entirety. This relation also determines the objects of the heroes' quests. In the second chapter of The Secular Scripture, Northrop Frye mentions two kinds of reality which romance tends to polarize. There is the reality of everyday ordinary experience and a higher kind of reality created by the imagination in art. The latter reality must often be adjusted to a credible context in order to make it plausible in relation to the ordinary reality in which the reader lives. The technique used to achieve this adjustment Frye calls "displacement," a highly useful term which he had already employed in Anatomy of Criticism to outline the historical sequence of modes in literature. Michael Ende achieves "displacement," and thus also the recovery of a meaningful and plausible myth, by his realistic and at times colloquial style, which humanizes the story projected on the hero, and by contrasting the undisplaced parts of the romance with the realistic segments of the story. This important intertwining of the two kinds of reality is given visual expression by what might be considered a somewhat banal trick of printing the romance parts in green while the representational and realistic elements of the story appear in red print. In an interview with Franz Kreuzer, Michael Ende stated: "Diese Sache mit den zwei Farben und dieses Verschränken ist eine Art von Spielregel, die dem Leser angeboten wird. Er wird zu einem Spiel eingeladen" (7). Like the fictional reader Bastian, every real reader is to be drawn into the game of the imagination, play a part in it, and relate it to his own circumstances, thus turning the story into a relevant and truly neverending one.

Die unendliche Geschichte opens in the ironic mode, describing the flight of a short, fat boy from an abhorrent world represented by his teasing schoolmates and the school, "dem Ort seiner täglichen Niederlagen" (13). Bastian Balthasar Bux appears here as the typical hero of the ironic mode, whose power is inferior to that of his peers. That he has the potential to rise above this level and to become a hero of romance is not only intimated by his "poetic," alliterative name but also indicated by the statement he makes to a man with an equally alliterative name, Karl Konrad Koreander, the owner of the "Antiquariat" where Bastian's flight has taken him. Answering Herr Koreander's query about the content of the conversations he tends to hold with himself, Bastian reveals that he possesses powers of the creative imagination: "Ich denk' mir Geschichten aus, ich erfinde Namen und Wörter, die's noch nicht gibt" (9). It is this bent of mind that makes him so receptive to the magical spell which a book he discovers in the bookstore casts on him. The title of the book, "Die unendliche Geschichte," exerts such a strong fascination on Bastian that he is impelled to steal it and to make a getaway to the attic of his hated school. It is here, a place where time seems to have come to a standstill (14) and which serves as the dumping ground for the discarded paraphernalia of an educational system which seemed to exact "eine unabsehbar lange Gefängnisstrafe" (13) from him, that Bastian immerses himself in the undisplaced imaginary world of Die unendliche Geschichte. A little later on we are told that it is books which depict this kind of world that were always Bastian's preferred reading material: "Bastians Vorliebe galt Büchern, die spannend waren oder lustig oder bei denen man träumen konnte, Bücher, in denen erfundene Gestalten fabelhafte Abenteuer erlebten und wo man sich alles mögliche ausmalen konnte" (26). Ende's intention in letting Bastian find this fascinating romance in an old books store seems to be to establish a link between it and the past, the archetypal themes and structures of literature, and having Herr Koreander insist that his store does not carry children's books (7) is a signal by the author, who has, of course, earned his reputation almost exclusively as a writer of children's books, that his romance contains more than the kind of material only suited for the entertainment of the minds of the very young.

The two main parts of Die unendliche Geschichte are romantic stories characterized by an antirepresentational quality which explains the strong affinity Michael Ende feels with such authors as Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges and with painters like Bosch, Breughel, Klee, Chagall and, last but not least, his own father, Edgar Ende (1901-1965), one of Germany's first surrealistic painters (Weitbrecht 70-74). It would be futile to attempt to summarize these two romance parts for the sake of exposition. As in other romances, the plots are episodic and the adventure is at the kernel of the stories with a series of minor adventures making way for a major one which takes the form of a quest. While the three main stages of the quest romance, described by Frye in Anatomy of Criticism (187), can be identified in both Atréju's and Bastian's quest, Ende introduces some modifications to the traditional romance pattern which are important for the interpretation of the central message he intends to convey.

In the first part of Die unendliche Geschichte the archetypal childlike romantic hero of mysterious origin is Atréju.6 The object of his "Große Suche" (38) is to find the "Heilmittel" (42) that will cure the affliction of "die Kindliche Kaiserin" who is "der Mittelpunkt allen Lebens in Phantásien" (34) and who appears here in the traditional role of the damsel in distress. Her deliverance will avert the threatening extinction of Phantásien, "das Reich der Geschichten" (255), the realm of the imagination that knows no boundaries (37). Atréju is discovered and sent on his quest by the centaur, Caíron, who is, of course, associated in Greek mythology with the art of healing. The fact that Caíron, "der berühmteste und größte Arzt in ganz Phantásien" (40) as well as all the best medical doctors of the land cannot find a cure for the empress's mortal affliction (33) signifies that it will be spiritual forces that will effect the restoration of her health.7 As it turns out, Ende also does not equip his hero with the means to complete fully the task of libera- tion, as is traditionally the case in the completed form of the quest romance. Atréju can only serve as the means to draw the true redeemer into Phantásien. The theme of the relation of reality to the imagination demands that not the hero but the fictional reader of the heroic quest will fulfil the ultimate object of this quest.

Before Atréju sets out on his "Große Suche," Caíron invests him with the traditional talisman that will serve as an aid in overcoming the phases of the heroic quest. This talisman is "AURYN," a golden "Amulett" that identifies the bearer as the viceroy of the empress (37). The same motif which had intrigued Bastian as he viewed the illustration on the cover of Die unendliche Geschichte (10) is depicted on one side of the talisman. Two snakes are shown, "eine helle und eine dunkle, die einander in den Schwanz bissen und ein Oval bildeten" (36). This is a modified version of the image of the cycle of time, represented by the traditional symbol of the ouroboros, the serpent biting its own tail.8 From the very outset, then, even before Bastian opened the pages of Die unendliche Geschichte, its central theme had been announced as being nothing less than an attempt to free man from the unredeemed repetitions of his life caught in the cycle of time and to lift him to the level of a heightened reality for the purpose of regaining his true identity. As we shall see, the symbolism of the ouroboros will be introduced again at a crucial point as Bastian approaches the fulfillment of his quest.

In terms of the quest romance plot structure, the first quest stage, the agon phase or phase of the perilous journey (Anatomy 187), takes Atréju and his horse, Artax, far afield through a series of minor adventures in a somewhat aimless search. In a dream Atréju's quest is given direction and the beginning of the major adventure emerges as he is directed to the oldest creature in Phantásien, the turtle, Morla, who resides in the "Sümpfe der Traurigkeit" (54). The drowning of Artax in the murky waters of these swamps (57) provided Wolfgang Petersen with material for what is probably the most gripping scene of his film version of Ende's romance. Beyond the dramatic qualities of this event, Artax's death is important in terms of the ideology of Die unendliche Geschichte. By ridding his romance of one of the central images of the medieval chivalric romance, Ende clearly distances himself from the ideals embodied by that type of romance. Northrop Frye notes that a medieval chivalric romance projects the ideals of an aristocratic, feudal society, its "ritualized action expressing the ascendancy of a horse-riding aristocracy" (The Secular Scripture 57). This process Frye calls "‘kidnapping’ romance, the absorbing of it into the ideology of an ascendant class" (The Secular Scripture 57). There can be little doubt that Michael Ende is intent on avoiding the "kidnapping" of his romance for any ideology of this kind. Critics of Ende who have accused him of doing just that and who have linked Die unendliche Geschichte to reactionary and even fascist tendencies have not read the romance closely and on its own terms (Binder 597-98). It is also important to note in this connection that Atréju refuses to arm himself before he sets out on his quest. The talisman is his only "weapon" (45). In the second part, Bastian also pointedly dissociates himself from members of a horse-riding feudal society by riding at some distance from them on the "Mauleselin," Jicha, whom the aristocrats consider to be "unter Herrn Bastians Würde" (268). Furthermore, in the story of "Held Hynreck" (253ff) Ende parodies the traditional ideal of heroism exemplified by the quest of the medieval chivalric romance. Hynreck, who has trained more than ten years for his calling (264) and who urgently requires an "Ungeheuer" in order to prove himself as a true hero, is in a sorry state in an age when no real dragons are to be found "weit und breit" (265). Bastian uses his imaginative powers to create the dragon, Smärg, for him and sends him on his heroic quest to rescue the damsel in distress, the princess Oglamár, from this monster. In an ironic postscript we are told that "Held Hynreck" did in fact slay the dragon but no longer felt like claiming the traditional prize, the princess, as his bride, thus underlining the senselessness of his quest. The formula repeated so frequently in Die unendliche Geschichte, "Doch das ist eine andere Geschichte und soll ein andermal erzählt werden" (269), concludes the parody.

Returning to Atréju's perilous journey, it is the turtle, Morla, who reveals the true object of his quest as being the provision of a new name for the empress of Phantásien. This creative act cannot, however, be accomplished by any being belonging to the imaginary world of Phantásien. Morla suggests that Uyulála in the Southern Oracle might know who possesses the required faculty to achieve the task of redemption (61). When Atréju finally reaches the oracle, he learns from the sibylline Uyulála that only a "Menschenkind" can rescue the empress and thus bring about the salvation of Phantásien (111). Once again the call is for a meaningful and creative interrelation between reality and the realm of the imagination.

The second stage of the quest romance is the pathos or death struggle, in which the hero or the antagonist or both die (Anatomy 187). In Atréju's case, the pathos phase is extended and takes the form of two confrontations with powers aligned with the "Nichts," the abstract "dragon" frequently mentioned throughout the story as the expansive power threatening to annihilate Phantásien. The nature of the "Nichts" and the cause for its appearance become clearer during the course of this pathos phase of Atréju's quest. It is also in this stage that "the powerful polarizing tendency in romance" (The Secular Scripture 53) can be clearly perceived. Frye notes "the polarization of ideal and abhorrent worlds" as being "central to romance" (The Secular Scripture 80). This polarization finds expression in such features as polarized characterization, "the up-and-down movement of romance," as well as in the fact that "most romances exhibit a cyclical movement of descent into a night world and a return to an idyllic world" (The Secular Scripture 50-54). Atréju's first death struggle occurs when he undertakes the descent into the night world of the "Tiefe Abgrund" located in the "Land der Toten Berge" (67) and intervenes in the struggle between Ygramul, a scorpion-like being and one of the "Geschöpfe des Abgrunds" (72), and a "Glücksdrache" who has been entrapped in Ygramul's web (68).9 The bite inflicted by Ygramul on Atréju brings about his temporary "death." After his liberation from the web, the "Glücksdrache," Fuchur, who has affinities with the beneficent dragon of the Orient and of alchemical symbolism,10 becomes Atréju's celestial mode of transportation on the upward journey towards the resolution of his quest. It is important to note that Atréju's recovery from Ygramul's deadly bite—which marks the onset of the anagnorisis stage of the quest bringing about the recognition or resurrection of the hero (Anatomy 187)—as well as his subsequent successful entry into the Southern Oracle, where he feels "wie ein neugeborenes Kind" (100), are significantly aided by two figures associated with the field of science. Ende has been criticized for propagating an anti-scientific and anti-intellectual standpoint in Die unendliche Geschichte (Binder 585ff; Prondczynsky 19, 77). There is little doubt that he does indeed deplore what Frye has called "the secession of science from the mythological universe" (The Secular Scripture 14). Thus Ende states that in earlier times nature was thought of "als von wunderbaren und geheimnisvollen Wesen, von Elfen und Zwergen bevölkert," while in our modern age man sees "im Kosmos … nichts mehr als eine teilnahmslose und wesenlose Maschinerie, die nach einer begrenzten Anzahl physikalischer Gesetze funktioniert" (Binder 585-86). Ende is certainly not alone in his concern about the potentially dangerous consequences of the "angeblich wertfreien Wissenschaft" (Binder 585). As far as the views expressed in Die unendliche Geschichte are concerned, the roles played by the scientist Engywuck and his wife make it clear that Ende's condemnation of science is not indiscriminate, dictated by a blind and mystical reliance on the redeeming powers of the emotions. While some scorn is heaped on Engywuck's futile scientific attempts to explain the secrets of the Southern Oracle (84), it is through his telescope that Atréju is able to get a clear view of the gate leading to the oracle (84-85), and it is Engywuck who explains the nature of the three gates through which Atréju must pass in order to reach Uyulála (91ff). It is also Engywuck's wife, Urgl, who administers the potion to Atréju which restores him to life and health after the struggle with Ygramul.

Atréju faces his second death struggle when he meets yet another representative of the forces of darkness who had pursued him from the very outset of his quest in the indeterminate shape of a huge "Schattengeschöpf" (45), a "Wesen aus Finsternis" (68) which now takes on the form of the werewolf, Gmork (137). Gmork, whose mission it is to kill the hero and thus to assure the destruction of Phantásien (147), is chained and dying when he finally meets Atréju in the "Spukstadt" (138), a demonic city of death. The threat posed to the hero by the antagonist is therefore a spiritual one and lies in Gmork's attempt to have Atréju engulfed by the "Nichts": "Aber während ich rede, schließt sich das Nichts von allen Seiten um die Spukstadt, und bald wird es keinen Ausgang mehr geben. Dann bist du verloren. Wenn du mir zuhörst, hast du dich schon entschieden" (142). The nature and cause of the "Nichts" is made clear to Atréju in his conversation with Gmork, which is concerned with the relation of reality to the imagination. Gmork is particularly well suited to elaborate on this topic since he is a being able to move freely between both realms, being at home in neither one (140). What emerges from the dialogue is the recognition that both the very essence of the "Nichts" and the cause for its spreading influence lie in the progressive decline on the part of human beings in the reliance on and use of the creative and salutary powers of the imagination. The allegory that illustrates this inability of man's potential creativity to bring forth a meaningful perception of a higher reality is the deplorable fate of the beings of Phantásien who, by slipping into the "Nichts," transfer into the real world. Instead of manifesting themselves in that sphere as an inner vision, which provides intimations of a timeless realm of a more substantive existence, they appear as a per- version of such a vision, as lies, "Wahnideen in den Köpfen der Menschen," and as ideologies supporting the systems of those who possess "Macht" (142-44). It is a lamentable Orwellian condition in which humankind can no longer distinguish between "Schein und Wirklichkeit" (142). The fictional reader, Bastian, now realizes "daß nicht nur Phantásien krank war, sondern auch die Menschenwelt" and, more importantly, "daß man nach Phantásien gehen mußte, um beide Welten wieder gesund zu machen" (144-45). The relation between the two heroes and the interwoven nature of their joint quests provides, of course, the extended allegory for the desired fruitful interplay between the two worlds.

Atréju's confrontation with Gmork ends with the death of the antagonist and the temporary "death" of the hero, as, even in death, Gmork sinks his teeth into Atréju. The hero's extended anagnorisis is brought about by Fuchur when he rescues Atréju from the clenched jaws of the werewolf and from the "Nichts" which is about to engulf him (154-55). Atréju's final ascent now begins as he flies on Fuchur's back to the "Elfenbeinturm," the abode of the "Kindliche Kaiserin" (156). The "Elfenbeinturm" is replete with images associating it with rebirth as well as with the realm of art. The phoenix, the traditional symbol of rebirth and re-creation, lives in the garden surrounding the tower (27), and the fabled winged horse, Pegasus, is housed in the stable (28). The world of art is further symbolized by an artificial garden of ivory trees, flowers, and animals (160). Atréju's arduous climb up a staircase to the pavilion where he finally comes face to face with the empress, the "Gebieterin der Wünsche" (160), as she is now called, is an ascent to the "point of epiphany" identified by Frye as an important symbolism in romance. It is "the symbolic presentation of the point at which the undisplaced apocalyptic world and the cyclical world of nature come into alignment…. Its most common settings are the mountain-top, the island, the tower, the lighthouse, and the ladder or staircase" (Anatomy 203). Intimations of heaven are usually associated with this point. We are told that Atréju "fand hinter dem Tor eine breite, weiß glänzende Freitreppe, die ihm bis in den Himmel zu reichen schien. Er begann die Stufen hinaufzusteigen" (159). At the point of Atréju's meeting with the empress, the alignment of her "apocalyptic world" and "the cyclical world of nature" takes the form of Bastian's creative act of articulating a new name for the empress. Thus the bridging of the gulf between Phantásien and the world of ordinary experience sets in motion a new creative process. The empress now assures Atréju that he has fulfilled his "Auftrag" by bringing the "Retter" (166) with him who, through a process of identification, had participated in every stage of Atréju's "Große Suche" (167). Through the empress's words to Atréju, Michael Ende in fact singles out romance as the genre best suited to achieving the highest level of reader empathy: "‘Verstehst du nun, Atréju’, fragte die Kindliche Kaiserin, ‘warum ich dir so viel auferlegen mußte? Nur durch eine lange Geschichte voller Abenteuer, Wunder und Gefahren konntest du unseren Retter zu mir führen. Und das war deine Geschichte’" (169).

Before the first part of the romance comes to a close, none other than the author himself as well as his creation, Die unendliche Geschichte, are drawn into the world of Phantásien. It is the empress who goes in search of "der Alte vom Wandernden Berge." Her climb up the "Gipfelwelt des Schicksalsgebirges" (180), where she finds the book in which she has played such a central role and meets her creator in the eggshaped pinnacle,11 is yet another ascent to a point of epiphany which results in the representative of the world of ordinary experience, Bastian, entering the undisplaced world of Phantásien. The meeting between the empress and "der Alte vom Wandernden Berge" symbolizes an inner dialogue between the poet and his creative, shaping spirit which directs him to turn his creation into something more than an endless mirror of its undisplaced reality and to relate it to the sphere of everyday human endeavour (184). Here "der Alte vom Wandernden Berge" represents Michael Ende, the romancer, who remains "ein eminent politisch und sozial engagierter Mensch" (Weitbrecht 11) and as such rejects the concept of l'art pour l'art and demonstrates a deep concern for the reception of his work and for its relevance to the real world. The fusion of reality and the imagination is symbolically achieved by "der Alte" when he retells the story to the empress, including the displaced parts, which now appear in green print. Bastian, who experiences this fusion when he hears his name mentioned by the author, now exclaims the empress's new name. At that moment the egg breaks open and Bastian enters Phantásien as an active participant.12

Referring to those humans who have been able to make the journey to Phantásien and to return enriched by the experience, the empress had told Atréju: "Alle, die bei uns waren, haben etwas erfahren, was sie nur hier erfahren konnten und was sie verändert zurückkehren ließ in ihre Welt" (168). We know, then, that Bastian's sojourn in Phantásien, described in the second part of the romance, will entail a process of trans- formation that will return him to reality as a changed individual. In describing this process, the myth Ende intends to convey emerges ever more clearly as being a myth of the loss and regaining of identity. Atréju's quest had already adumbrated this myth as he experienced a loss and restoration of memory during the course of his journey to the "Elfenbeinturm" (100, 111). Through the process of identification, this journey had, of course, progressively become Bastian's own quest. When Atréju set out on his quest, Bastian had realized that he, too, was "auf einer Großen Suche" (44). Especially the pathos stage of Atréju's quest had elicited Bastian's empathic participation in the hero's struggle. Thus when Atréju is bitten by Ygramul, the antagonist is disturbed by Bastian's scream which echoes through the valley (70). The closest identification between the hero and the fictional reader occurs when the image Atréju sees in the "Zauber Spiegel Tor," one of the gates leading to the Southern Oracle, is that of Bastian. It comes as no surprise, then, that Bastian's own quest emulates Atréju's to a large extent and repeats many of its motifs, including the central theme of the loss and regaining of identity, in different contexts.

In its sprawling and episodic plot, so characteristic of romance, the second part of Die unendliche Geschichte lends itself even less than the first part to a meaningful expository summary. Drawing Bastian into Phantásien, which was the object of Atréju's quest, has assigned to the fictional reader the role of creator entrusted with the task of continuing the expansion of the neverending story. Here an important shift in focus, which had already been foreshadowed when Uyulála revealed that the redeemer of Phantásien can only be a creative "Menschenkind," becomes manifest. It is what Frye has termed "the transfer of the center of interest from hero to poet" and identifies as "the first step in the recovery of myth" followed by a "second, and perhaps final, stage … when the poet entrusts his work to the reader" (The Secular Scripture 185). Bastian's role as both reader and poet encompasses both these stages and it is Ende's wish to entrust his work and the recovery of his myth not only to his fictional reader but to every real reader as well: "Er, Bastian, kam als Person in dem Buch vor, für dessen Leser er sich bis jetzt gehalten hatte! Und wer weiß, welcher andere Leser ihn jetzt gerade las, der auch wieder nur glaubte, ein Leser zu sein—und so immer weiter bis ins Unendliche" (188)!

The agon and pathos stages of Bastian's quest take the form of the fulfillment of a multitude of the hero's wishes. The main thrust of this perilous journey, during which the "pleasure principle" is given free rein, is dictated by the motto imprinted on one side of "AURYN," the talisman that is now entrusted to Bastian by the empress. The motto, which stands in dialectical opposition to the symbolism of the ouroboros displayed on the other side of the talisman, reads "Tu Was Du Willst" and identifies the hero of the quest as the fantasizing mind of the creative individual. In The Secular Scripture, Frye notes:

In traditional romance, including Dante, the upward journey is the journey of a creature returning to its creator. In most modern writers, from Blake on, it is the creative power in man that is returning to its original awareness. The secular scripture tells us that we are the creators; other scriptures tell us that we are actors in a drama of divine creation and redemption.


Before Bastian's creative power can return to its "original awareness," he must learn to impose order upon this power, thus permitting his "Wahrer Wille" to emerge (228). If the "dragon" of Atréju's quest had been the "Nichts," which, as we have seen, was linked to the atrophy of man's imaginative faculties, the monster which Bastian must slay is the uncontrolled proliferation of these powers. The profuse growth of the magical forest, Perelín, which had sprung up from a mere "Samenkörnchen" given to Bastian by the empress (195-96), symbolizes this threatening force. The analogy to the menace represented by the "Nichts" is clearly established when Bastian climbs a tree to survey Perelín (203), thus repeating an act performed by Atréju as he, too, climbed a tree in order to view the extent of the spreading "Nichts" (54). Perelín is associated with the destructive powers of darkness by being referred to as "Nachtwald" (196). It stands untouched by the category of time, being a forest "in dem es keine Jahreszeiten und auch nicht den Wechsel von Tag und Nacht gab" (200), and it represents the expansion of the creations of a highly solipsistic fantast: "Und Bastian stand lange und trank das Bild in sich hinein. Das war sein Reich! Er hatte es erschaffen! Er war der Herr von Perelín" (203). That Bastian recognizes the need to curb the growth of Perelín, which is "unaufhaltsam," is underlined from the very outset by his creative act of transforming the forest into "Goab, die Wüste der Farben" (209). The juxtaposition of these opposing worlds, like the counterbalancing of the inscriptions on the two sides of the talisman, points to the principle of a fruitful dialectical interplay between opposing forces which alone can provide the basis for the growth of a balanced vision of life. The lion, Graógramán, who dies nightly only to return to life again every morning (221), symbolizes the efficacy of this principle by subjecting the powers of the imagination to a shaping and ordering spirit. Bastian says to the lion: "Aber Perelín würde alles verschlingen und sich selbst ersticken, wenn er nicht immer wieder sterben und zu Staub zerfallen müßte, sobald du aufwachst. Perelín und du, Graógramán, ihr gehört zusammen" (222). It is significant that it is Graógramán who explains to Bastian the true meaning of the motto inscribed on the talisman. He tells Bastian that it is not to be interpreted as giving him licence to abandon himself to whatever his wishes may dictate but rather as an admonishment "daß du deinen Wahren Willen tun sollst" (228). The lion's warning that "nichts ist schwerer" soon proves to be justified, as Bastian's quest takes him ever deeper into the labyrinth of his uncontrolled wishes. That this quest takes place in an inner space is made clear not only by setting Bastian apart from "Held Hynreck," as we have already noted, but also by Graógramán's reference to the "Tausend Türen Tempel" through which Bastian must pass and which cannot be perceived in outer reality: "Niemand hat ihn je von außen gesehen, denn er hat kein Äußeres. Sein Inneres aber besteht aus einem Irrgarten von Türen" (227). Only a "true wish" can lead out of this labyrinth (227).

The descent into the "Irrgarten" of the fulfillment of his multifarious wishes and desires, which range from the acquisition of beauty, fame, and courage to the endowment with the creative gifts of a "großer Dichter" (256), whose imaginative creations immediately turn into reality, is accompanied by a continuing loss of memory of elements of Bastian's existence in the world of ordinary experience. This progressive loss of identity reaches its conclusion when Bastian forgets his own name (405). While the loss of memory signifies a loss of identity, it is also intimately linked to the regaining of personal identity, for it is a process that does not entail the total eradication of memory but rather its replacement as an experience of mere meaningless repetition by an act of "creative repetition." This term is used by Northrop Frye in his comments on the "conception of the creative function of memory" (The Secular Scripture 175), which calls upon the individual not merely to return to the past but to "recreate" it. Before Bastian can begin the ascent to such an act, which will permit him to pass through the circle of repetition formed by the ouroboros and to acquire a newly gained identity, he must endure what is the most crucial stage of his perilous journey of descent and process of vanishing identity. This is the encounter with the temptress and sorceress, Xayíde, who has been likened to Circe (Prondczynsky 72) and who appears as a sinister counterpart of both Uyulála and the "Kindliche Kaiserin." Her castle, "Hórek," stands in demonic opposition to the "Elfenbeinturm." Bastian soon succumbs to Xayíde's temptations. He rids himself of Jicha, whom Xayíde considers "kein würdiges Reittier für einen wie dich" (323), and continues his journey to the "Elfenbeinturm" in Xayíde's gaudy palanquin, hardly a fitting mode of transportation for the hero of a spiritual quest. The brief sketch of Jicha's future life is important. It recounts her mating with a winged white stallion, reminiscent of Pegasus, a union that produced a white, winged mule called Pataplán. We hear that Pataplán "machte noch viel von sich reden in Phantásien, doch das ist eine andere Geschichte und soll ein andermal erzählt werden" (325). The story returns here to a central theme in that it symbolizes a fruitful fusion between reality and the imagination which, as we have heard, Bastian knows full well can alone lead to the health of both realms. For the moment, however, his association with Xayíde leads him ever farther away from this goal and deeper into the entanglement of his wishes. Xayíde furthers the most destructive of these wishes, that of wanting to remain in Phantásien, by carrying it to its most extreme manifestation: the determination to replace the empress and to install Bastian as "Kindlicher Kaiser" of Phantásien (347). In a statement that is clearly intended to evoke echoes of Friedrich Schlegel's well-known comments on the nature of romantische Poesie in Athenäums-Fragment 116, Xayíde conjures up a vision of a new Phantásien in which Bastian's imagination will be subject only to his own caprice: "Und während Bastians Augen mehr und mehr in einem kalten Fieber zu glänzen begannen, erzählte Xayíde von einem neuen Phantásien, von einer Welt, die bis in alle Einzelheiten nach Bastians Belieben zu gestalten war, in der er nach Willkür schaffen und vernichten konnte" (347). Needless to say, Michael Ende is highly skeptical of such a "new Phantásien," created by the "Willkür" of the artist, and the all too facile link established by some critics between Ende and Romantic theories of poetry and the imagination, like those of Schlegel and Novalis, is in need of some revision.13

The association with Xayíde leads to the pathos stage of Bastian's quest in which a sinister, yet ultimately salutary, reversal of roles takes place. Atréju's opposition to Xayíde forces him to adopt the role of "antagonist" of the "hero," Bastian, although, as it turns out in the end, in terms of the true object of the quest, the roles of the former co-heroes are, in fact, the reverse of the ones just stated. The struggle with Atréju increases in intensity from a public denunciation of Atréju by Bastian for his opposition to Xayíde, to Atréju's capture and shackling by the metallic servants of Xayíde, and, finally, to his wounding by Bastian in the battle for the "Elfenbeinturm" which ends with this symbol of escapism being consumed by fire, thus obliterating, to Bastian's ultimate benefit, the seat of power he had intended to usurp. It soon becomes evident that, just as Bastian had helped Atréju complete his quest, so now Atréju is aiding Bastian to bring about the resolution of his. This fact emerges clearly during Bastian's visit to the demonic "underworld" of the "Alte Kaiser Stadt" (362ff) which is the abode of all those who had abandoned themselves to the unfettered powers of the imagination and had either become or, like Bastian, had wished to become the emperor of Phantásien, thus losing the ability to find the way back to the world of everyday reality (364-65). The city lacks order and creates the impression of total chaos and madness: "Plan- und sinnlos schienen alle Gebäude durcheinandergewürfelt, als habe man sie einfach aus einem Riesensack dort hingeschüttet…. Kurz, diese ganze Stadt vermittelte den Eindruck des Wahnsinns" (362-63). It is, of course, Atréju who has prevented Bastian from becoming a permanent resident of the "Alte Kaiser Stadt." This powerful symbol of the dire consequences of an uncontrolled reign of the imagination underlines Ende's reluctance to be associated with the literature of pure fantasy and gives evidence of the artistic concerns of an author who, while possessing what Hetmann calls a "phantasmagorische Begabung" (112), has been also rightly referred to as demonstrating "ungeheure gedankliche und literarische Sorgfalt" in all of his works (Weitbrecht 7).

With his escape from the "Alte Kaiser Stadt" (370), the anagnorisis phase of Bastian's quest begins and is heralded by his wish to return to the world of reality (371) and to become a member of a community (372). Bastian has, in fact, realized that he cannot return to a prelapsarian state of harmony which allows for no distinction between good and evil and which is the amoral state presided over by "die Kindliche Kaiserin" (275). The upward movement to a newly gained identity takes him to the Yskálnari (374), a people living in a community in which the individual counts for naught and the "wir" is the supreme value, while the word "ich" is never used (375, 377). The high value Michael Ende places on individualism and the fact that Bastian's process of socialization will not take the form of participation in a socialist form of society are clearly indicated here. Bastian's recognition that in the "Gemeinschaft der Yskálnari gab es Harmonie, aber keine Liebe" (377) signals the emergence of his "Wahrer Wille," the yearning for love. It is in the "Änderhaus," the cabin which is in a constant state of gradual metamorphosis and is the home of Dame Ainola, that this "true will" finally emerges in all clarity. Dame Ainola, who symbolizes the primordial Mother, to whom everything returns and from whom everything issues anew (384), tells Bastian: "dein Wahrer Wille ist es, zu lieben" (394). The "Änderhaus" stands in contrast not only to the artificial exclusiveness of the "Elfenbeinturm" and the ostenstatiousness of Xayíde's castle, but also to the uncontrolled growth of Perelín. It points to a Goethean stress on the relation between nature and art as the ultimate principle of hope.14 The process that brings about the crucial change in Bastian's creative mind is an ascending metamorphosis, the slow evolutionary process of nature: "Die verwandelnde Kraft des Änderhauses tat ihre Wirkung. Doch wie alle Veränderungen ging sie leise und langsam vor sich wie das Wachstum einer Pflanze" (393). The "Änderhaus" also introduces the important symbolism of the return to the womb which heralds Bastian's final breaking away from his former self and his impending ascent to a regained personal identity.15 The symbolism of a return to an embryonic state is the central informing symbolism of Bastian's descent into the "Grube Minroud" (404), which is part of the "Bergwerk der Bilder" housing the "vergessenen Träume aus der Menschenwelt" (401). Here the complementary nature of the symbolism of descent and ascent becomes apparent as Bastian adopts the fetal position while searching for the "forgotten dream" of most immediate significance to him and which turns out to be the image of his father frozen in a block of ice: "Eingerollt wie ein ungeborenes Kind im Leib seiner Mutter lag er in den dunklen Tiefen der Grundfesten Phantásiens und schürfte geduldig nach einem vergessenen Traum, einem Bild, das ihn zum Wasser des Lebens führen konnte" (404). The process of regression undergone by Bastian during his quest has been an ordeal of transmutation which leads to the attainment of a new mode of being. The act of liberating his father's image from its frozen state is the act of recreating memory of which we spoke earlier. This is the required act that permits Bastian to break the cycle of repetition and causes the two serpents forming the ouroboros, which have now acquired huge dimensions and are lying in a dome-like hall, to extend and to form a portal through which the reconciled Atréju leads his co-hero towards the waters of life of which Bastian may now partake (415). Biblical echoes of rebirth and redemption abound. After immersing himself in the waters of life and drinking from them, Bastian regains his personal identity: "Denn jetzt wußte er wieder, wer er war und wohin er gehörte. Er war neu geboren. Und das schönste war, daß er jetzt genau der sein wollte, der er war" (416).

Buoyed by the supreme joy of being able to love (416) and no longer in need of Atréju's support, Bastian now returns to the world of his everyday, ordinary experiences. As in many romances, the story wings back to the beginning and returns the hero to the point of origin, but on a higher level.16 The motto "Tu Was Du Willst" had in effect called upon Bastian to overcome and change the prevailing conditions governing his existence. His inner journey to a restored identity in the imaginary world of Phantásien has brought about such a change, the most immediate indication of which is the establishment of a new relationship with his father, a man with whom he had always found it difficult to communicate (35) but who is now moved to tears by Bastian's wondrous story and, in a totally changed voice, assures his son: "von jetzt an wird alles anders werden mit uns" (422). Here not the escapist quality of romance but its revolutionary potential is revealed as, through the hero's quest, both realms, the inner and the outer, have experienced a process of transformation and have been restored to health. Michael Ende's myth of the loss and regaining of identity is not merely a "Subjekt-Mythos" (Prondczynsky 90), it is a myth of the redemption not only of the individual but also of the society the individual calls home and shares with others.

Northrop Frye assigns to romance a pivotal role in the recovery of myth in an ironic age because at its core is a vision of human life as a quest of an ideal, the story of an ascent to a recovered personal identity in a regained paradise, symbolized in Ende's romance by the restoration of the waters of life. Ende's ultimate hope is that his hero's "Große Suche" will convey to every reader a paradigmatic vision and the message which Frye considers the message of all romance: "de te fabula: the story is about you" (The Secular Scripture 186). As Herr Koreander says to the contrite Bastian after his return from Phantásien: "Jede wirkliche Geschichte ist eine Unendliche Geschichte" (426).


1. After appearing for the first time on best seller lists in the summer of 1980 and remaining on them for five years, Die unendliche Geschichte at one point occupied the first place for 59 consecutive weeks. See Die Zeit 13 April 1984: 14.

2. For a brief and useful overview of this literature see Wunderlich.

3. Qtd. in Gaiser 604. In The Secular Scripture, Frye clearly distinguishes between "fantasy" and "creative imagination" which entails artistic structure and has "the formulaic unit" as its "cornerstone" (36). In his excellent book Zur Geschichte der Einbildungskraft, one of a number he has written on the topic of the imagination and one of the best in the voluminous literature on this theme, Dietmar Kamper makes a similar observation when he writes: "Gerade eine von bloßen Verstandeszugaben befreite Einbildungskraft folgt eigenen strengen Gesetzen—und es ist der mangelhaften Kapazität der Theorien zuzuschreiben, daß derartiges bis heute kaum erkannt werden konnte" (10).

4. Prondczynsky (65-67) briefly mentions a number of random motifs in Die unendliche Geschichte which seem to point to the Odyssey as their source. Although he does consider such motifs as the journey and its cyclical structure, he does not discuss the work in terms of the conventions of romance.

5. The distinguishing criterion of each of the five modes identified by Frye in Anatomy of Criticism is the hero's power of action. The "typical hero of romance" is a human being who is "superior in degree to other men and to his environment" and "whose actions are marvellous." He "moves in a world in which the ordinary laws of nature are slightly suspended" (33). The hero of "the ironic mode" is "inferior in power or intelligence to ourselves, so that we have a sense of looking down on a scene of bondage, frustration, or absurdity" (34).

6. For the symbolism of the child see Cirlot 43-44.

7. Prondczynsky mentions "die Ratlosigkeit der Ärzte" as "ein bekannter Topos" in fairy tales (16).

8. For the symbolism of the ouroboros see Cirlot 235.

9. Gaiser describes a classroom project which chose the Ygramul scene as the basis for the production of a video film.

10. For the symbolism of the dragon see Cirlot 81-85; Bauer, Dümotz, Golowin, and Röttgen 46, 334.

11. For the familiar Romantic motif of the book within the book as well as that of the author playing a role in his own book see Prondczynsky 36-39.

12. For the symbolism of the egg see Cooper 60; Cirlot 90.

13. Prondczynsky states that in Die unendliche Geschichte we have finally returned to Schlegel's "schöne Verwirrung der Phantasie" (9) and also mentions Novalis, as does Binder (586).

14. That Michael Ende has read Faust closely and critically is evident from his comments in the interview with Kreuzer (19).

15. For the cabin as symbol of the womb see Eliade 36-37.

16. The object that reassures Bastian that he has in fact returned to the reality of his school's attic is an important and central symbol which is repeatedly linked to the hero and has been totally ignored by critics. This is the Hebraic seven-branched candelabra which lies amongst the discarded paraphernalia of the school and is mentioned not only upon Bastian's return from Phantásien (419) but also when he first enters the attic as well as during his stay in Phantásien, where the menorah is inscribed on the flag that flutters over his tent during his journey to the "Elfenbeinturm" (321). The quest of the persecuted outsider, Bastian, his perilous journey of the loss and regaining of his identity can in this context be linked to the fate of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany. This is an aspect of Ende's romance that deserves to be investigated in a separate study.

Works Cited

Bauer, Wolfgang, Irmtraud Dümotz, Sergius Golowin, and Herbert Röttgen. Lexikon der Symbole. Wiesbaden: Fourier, 1980.

Binder, Alwin. "Michael Endes ‘Unendliche Geschichte’ als ‘Schule der Phantasie’?" Diskussion Deutsch 86 (1985/86): 585-98.

Cirlot, J. E. A Dictionary of Symbols. Trans. Jack Sage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962.

Cooper, J. C. An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols. London: Thames and Hudson, 1978.

Eliade, Mircea. Rites and Symbols of Initiation. Trans. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.

Ende, Michael. Die unendliche Geschichte. Stuttgart: K. Thienemanns Verlag, 1979.

Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1957.

———. The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1976.

———. Spiritus Mundi. Essays on Literature, Myth, and Society. Bloomington & London: Indiana UP, 1976.

Gaiser, Gottlieb. "Michael Endes ‘Die unendliche Geschichte’ im projekt-orientierten Deutschunterricht auf der Unterstufe." Diskussion Deutsch 86 (1985/86): 599-619.

Göbel, Klaus. "Phantastisch-utopische Literatur und Fantasy-Vermarktung. Zur FSK-Kinderfreigabe des Kinospielfilms ‘Die unendliche Geschichte.’" Wirkendes Wort 6 (1985): 416-26.

Greiner, Ulrich. "Ende und kein Ende." Die Zeit 13 April 1984: 13-14.

Hetmann, Frederik. Die Freuden der Fantasy. Von Tolkien bis Ende. Frankfurt a.M.: Ullstein, 1984.

Kamper, Dietmar. Zur Geschichte der Einbildungskraft. München: Carl Hanser, 1981.

Kreuzer, Franz. Im Gespräch mit Michael Ende und Bernulf Kanitscheider. Zeit-Zauber—Unser Jahrhundert denkt über das Geheimnis der Uhren nach. Wien: Franz Deuticke, 1984.

Prondczynsky, Andreas von. Die unendliche Sehnsucht nach sich selbst: Auf den Spuren eines neuen Mythos. Versuch über eine "Unendliche Geschichte." Frankfurt a.M.: dipa, 1983.

Wamister, Christof. "Das Phantastische, das Reale und das Böse. Bemerkungen zu einer Literaturgattung in Randlage." Schweizer Monatshefte 5 (1986): 417-27.

Weitbrecht, Hansjörg, ed. Michael Ende zum 50. Geburtstag. 2nd edn. Stuttgart: K. Thienemanns Verlag, 1981.

Wunderlich, Werner. "Mythen, Märchen und Magie. Ein Streifzug durch die Welt der Fantasyliteratur." Wirkendes Wort 1 (1986): 26-33.

Ute Oestreicher (essay date 1989)

SOURCE: Oestreicher, Ute. "Michael Ende's Die unendliche Geschicte: A Parody of Romantic Images." Philological Papers 35 (1989): 112-16.

[In the following essay, Oestreicher suggests that The Neverending Story functions as a parodic evolution of German Early Romantic novels.]

Die unendliche Geschichte 1 [The Neverending Story ], a novel by Michael Ende originally published in Germany in 1979 as a children's book, was a spectacular success and was translated into twenty-seven languages within a few years of its original publication.

As an exploration of the creative force and the making of a poet, Ende's book is part of a literary tradition and heir to ideas promoted by the Romantic movement, especially German Early Romanticism. This tradition permeates the symbolic images evoked in the novel. Alexander von Bormann, in an article that goes into some detail about Ende's relationship to German Romanticism, states: "Ganz ausdrücklich stellt Ende seine Märchen-Romane in die Tradition der Romantik."2 One senses Ende's attraction to Romanticism; yet, as a Romantic epigone, Ende has to be careful not to become just one of its imitators. While adapting Romantic models, he has to distance himself from them. He succeeds in showing his affinity for and his reservations towards Romanticism through extensive parody. Ende's primary Romantic models, Novalis's Heinrich von Ofterdingen3 and the pseudonymous Nachtwachen des Bonaventura,4 are parodied through expansion, multiplication, overexplicitness, concreteness, exaggeration, repetition, and didacticism. Thus he creates a novelistic environment which his targeted youthful readers may take at face value, while the sophisticated literary reader will enjoy it as parody.5

His imagery is not restricted to linguistic forms such as metaphors, similes, or personifications, but rather deals with the assignment of colors, with archetypal symbolic figures or objects, and with the landscapes of Phantasien and the creatures which inhabit it. The selection of images which I will analyze is dictated by their similarity to those used by the Romanticists.

The image of the emerging artist in the Romantic Bildungsroman is that of a sublime being who creates or transforms the world out of his own subjectivity. He is usually a young man, like Wackenroder's Joseph Berglinger, Tieck's Franz Sternbald, or Novalis's Heinrich von Ofterdingen, in tune with nature, sensitive to beauty, inspired by love, highly ethical, and innocent as a child. In Heinrich von Ofterdingen, Novalis creates the Poet whose mission it is to bring about the Golden Realm. Ende parodies this august image by making his protagonist a fat, cowardly, ten-year-old boy of mediocre intelligence, who mentally escapes his dreary life by reading fantastic tales and occasionally thinking up his own stories. Novalis implies that Heinrich is a savior figure. Ende parodies this concept by calling Bastian "Retter," even though his salvation of Phantasien is flawed. Where Heinrich in his unselfish love is influenced by Mathilde even beyond her death, Bastian acts out of selfishness. Mondenkind, while building up his self-confidence, actually teaches him self-deception. According to Novalis's plans, Heinrich was to achieve fulfillment. Bastian is almost defeated by his own creation.

Bastian, a counter-image to the positive image of the Poet, displays his kinship to the insane artist of Black Romanticism. He resembles E. T. A. Hoffmann's flawed artist, whose subjectivity is not able to create a world of harmony, turns on him, and drives him to insanity, e.g., Nathanael in Der Sandmann. The self-deceiving projections of Bastian echo those of Nathanael. Ende expands each of these projections into an adventure in the landscape of Bastian's mind. With each projection a piece of reality is lost to Bastian. This deprivation, however, leads to a happy ending and not to the ultimate tragedy of Hoffmann's story.

Ende parodies the Romantic Book of Life image by means of exaggeration, repetition, didacticism, and concreteness. Heinrich von Ofterdingen discovers a mysterious book which depicts him in different situations. He recognizes in it the entirety of his life story, transposed into a different epoch (Novalis 264-65). Novalis softens the contours of time and subtly hints at the concept of timelessness, showing the repetition of life patterns continuing ad infinitum. "Der Schluss des Buches schien zu fehlen" (265). The missing end symbolically reflects the fragmentary nature of Novalis's novel. Ende's novel, by contrast, has a very definite happy ending: Bastian returns to the reality of the frame story, changed for the better through his experiences, which in retrospect are identified as explorations of his own mind. To transcend the ending of the novel, Ende expounds the concept of timelessness. First Bastian finds the book with the title indicating endlessness. When he fails in the naming of the Kindliche Kaiserin, she goes to the Alte and finds him involved in writing the same neverending story with its frame. Ende then reiterates all the repetitions and states over-explicitly: "Ihm kam en so vor, als habe sich die Geschichte schon tausendmal wiederholt, nein, als gäbe es kein Vorher und kein Nachher, sondern als sei alles für immer gleichzeitig da…. Der Kreis der ewigen Wiederkehr war das Ende ohne Ende!" (189-90). The idea in Nachtwachen that chaos and coincidence are the or- ganizing principles for writing the Book of Life is further promoted in the letter game of the insane old Kaiser in Ende's parody. Bastian realizes that he himself is subject to the Beliebigkeitsspiel: Eternal perpetuation might eventually produce words, sentences, even a book: "Wenn man … hundert Jahre, tausend Jahre, hunderttausend Jahre immer weiterspielt, dann … müssen dabei … alle Geschichten, die überhaupt möglich sind, entstehen, … sogar diese Geschichte, in der wir beide uns gerade unterhalten" (368). This meaningless perpetuation matches the nihilistic attitude of the watchman and surpasses it.

The primary Romantic symbolic image is the Blaue Blume. Introduced by Novalis, the Blaue Blume and Mathilde/Sophie are Heinrich's ideals. Novalis merges the two by using flower metaphors to describe Mathilde (271), by Heinrich's dream in which the flower changes into Heinrich's Child-Mistress (277), and by identifying the Blaue Blume and Mathilde with Sophia, the ultimate wisdom. Ende abandons Novalis's magical merging qualities. In his novel the flower and the Kindliche Kaiserin are separate entities. The latter lives in "einem Pavillon, der die Gestalt einer weißen Magnolienknospe hatte. In manchen Nächten, wenn der Vollmond … am gestirnten Himmel stand, öffneten sich die … Blätter weit und entfalteten sich zu einer herrlichen Blüte, in deren Mitte dann die Kindliche Kaiserin saß" (28). Ende trades magic for concreteness. In the second part of the novel, he stresses the emptiness of the flower pavilion. In direct contradiction to Novalis's novel, the would-be poet Bastian cannot be united with his ideal. His futile attempts physically to conquer the flower pavilion are a comical inversion of Heinrich's lofty aspirations.

The dark-light or night-day imagery employed by Ende also parodies Romantic views. Many Romanticists were infatuated with the night and its associated images. They express ambiguous views about it: It represents the irrational, creative world where separations are eliminated and a higher unity is achieved (Novalis's Hymnen an die Nacht). The moon is the symbol of eternal longing (Eichendorff). But the night is also the darkness where danger lurks, where chaos and insanity emerge (Nachtwachen). Ende parodies the Romanticists' longing for the moon by simply naming the central figure of Bastian's aspirations "Mondenkind." To parody the ambivalence of the moon, Ende gives lengthy explanations about the moral equality of all of Phantasien's creatures. The Romantic view of the creative force of the night is parodied in Bastian's first act of reconstructing Phantasien, namely sprouting Perelin, the Night Forest (191). Concreteness and expansion into a veritable landscape are Ende's methods of parody here.

Ende seems mostly indebted to Black Romanticism for his view of the night. All the ugly and dangerous creatures live in the dark, and the disconcerting events all take place at night: "Auf einer … nächtlichen Heide zog sich die Finsternis zu einer großen, schattenhaften Gestalt zusammen. Das Dunkel verdichtete sich, bis es selbst in der lichtlosen Nacht jener Heide als ein gewaltiger Körper aus Schwärze erschien" (45). The big bad wolf of traditional fairy tales and the werewolf cliché of the Romantic gothic novel are magnified in Ende's parody in the shadowy entity Gmork, the impersonation of destruction. In Spukstadt, Gmork, who was previously depicted as a mythical being of immense destructive powers, is reduced to a starving, dying creature, explaining his nihilistic actions with didactic glee (145-46). Ende's parody manages to make the ultimate evil of the figure Gmork seem relatively small compared to the even worse threat of Nothingness. The evil, chaotic, destructive nature of the night and the dark is also shown very concretely in other episodes. The Tiefe Abgrund where the evil spider Ygramul lurks is a "Finsternis …, die bis ins Innerste der Erde zu reichen schien" (67). The Acharai, creatures of utmost ugliness and sadness, are normally surrounded by "völlige Dunkelheit" (278). In another night adventure encounters Xayide, a parody of the fairy-tale sorceress. She exerts her bad influence through manipulation of the night-side of Bastian's personality (316, 325, 341, 346). The wishes propelling him through Phantasien are born out of his dark unconscious. He trades his memories for the fulfillment of his wishes and thus gradually approaches total amnesia. He is in danger of sinking into the darkness of insanity, as represented by the Alte Kaiser Stadt. This topsy-turvy world is reminiscent of the society in Nachtwachen.

Images of destruction are frequently found in Romantic literature. Ende's model is primarily Nachtwachen. The basis for Nachtwachen's ultimate nihilism is the premise that heaven is empty or at best the domain of a madman. In this world it is heroic to face the Nothing, which is death without hope for a rewarding afterlife. In Ende's novel, the Nichts is born out of the absence of imagination. It is concretized as a growing blob of nothing which eats away at the landscapes and figures of Phantasien. Although its threat to the fantastic realm is dramatized and seemingly taken seriously, one should not over- look the parodistic aspect. Ende modernizes the social criticism levelled at Christianity by the author of Nachtwachen and bedevils instead the unimaginative, technological society of today, where the Nichts is created by the lack of fantasy.

Ende parodies Romantic images of rebirth and regeneration, Novalis describes how, after his loss of Mathilde and a long pilgrimage, the weary Heinrich is being nurtured by Sylvester and his garden. The intimacy between man and nature portrayed in this scene has a healing effect (328-29). Similarly Bastian finds solace in nature, concretized as Dame Aiuola, a temporary substitute for Bastian's dead mother. She is a Mother Nature figure who sprouts fruit out of her own body and nurtures Bastian, now reduced to the infant state (392). By translating Novalis's metaphors into concrete characters and phenomena, Ende ridicules his model.

Another regenerative image is the Water of Life. In the last chapter of Ende's novel, the black and the white snake, who bite into each others' tails and thus form an oval, encircle the Water of Life, into which Bastian must immerse himself in order to get back to the human world. This snake symbol is also represented on the book Bastian finds and on the amulet, the Auryn, given to him by the Kindliche Kaiserin. By doubling the number of snakes and depicting them in black and white, and by extending the traditional eternity and regenerative symbol of the circle to an oval, Ende parodies romantic models, such as the snake circle in Novalis's "Fabel und Eros" fairy tale (294) and in Goethe's "Märchen."6 Novalis introduces the Water of Life in the beginning of his novel as the source near which the Blaue Blume grows. When Heinrich drinks from it, he is penetrated by spiritual aspirations, and his sensuousness awakens when he bathes in it (196). When Bastian at the end of his explorations swims in the Water of Life and drinks it, "Freude erfüllte ihn…. Er war neu geboren … jetzt wußte er: Es gab in der Welt tausend und tausend Formen der Freude, aber im Grunde waren sie alle eine einzige, die Freude, lieben zu können" (416). What Novalis sows as a premise, Ende reaps at the end of his novel in the form of a laborious moral.

These many examples indicate that Die unendliche Geschichte is not just a children's story but indeed a literary parody. Ende parodies by being overly obvious, concretizing metaphorical allusions, expanding a simple image into a complete landscape, or personifying an idea. Often he uses multiplication and contrast to ridicule his models. While he is successful with these methods, his didactic mode often gets tedious. The didacticism may be his concession to the children who are targeted as readers on the first and most superficial level of the novel. It is the seriousness of these didactic passages which tend to be more obvious than the tongue-in-cheek, mocking qualities of his parody.


1. Stuttgart: Deutscher Bücherbund, 1979.

2. "Kultbücher für Aussteiger: Michael Endes Märchenromane," Merkur 37 (1983): 709.

3. Paul Kluckhohn and Richard Samuel, eds., Novalis Schriften: Die Werke Friedrich von Hardenbergs, 2nd ed., 1 (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1960).

4. Bonaventura [pseud.], Nachtwachen (Penig, ed., Journal von neuen deutschen Originalromanen 7 [1804 (1805)]); reprinted in Die Nachtwachen des Bonaventura (Munich: Goldmanns Gelbe Taschenbücher, vol, 627, without year) 81.

5. To my best knowledge nobody else has interpreted Ende's novel as a Romantic parody. I have carefully researched articles on Die unendliche Geschichte written in several Western languages. While other articles were written about Ende's novel in languages I do not know, which may contain similar concepts, the ideas expressed in this paper are my own.

6. "Das Märchen," in: Goethes Werke 6 (Hamburg: Wegner, 1951) 232-33.

Maria Nikolajeva (essay date May 1990)

SOURCE: Nikolajeva, Maria. "How Fantasy Is Made: Patterns and Structures in The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende." Merveilles and Contes 4, no. 1 (May 1990): 34-41.

[In the following essay, Nikolajeva utilizes Vladimir Propp's theory of the fairy tale model to compare Ende's The Neverending Story with traditional fairy tale modes.]

The structural approach to literature is just one of many approaches and, like most research methods, it proves to be very fruitful in some fields and totally unapplicable in others. Structural analysis which has a rooted tradition in many countries has produced its most successful results in folklore studies, presumably because in folklore the recurrent elements of the narrative are most obvious.

Since fantasy has grown out of myth and fairy tale, it is often possible to trace the recurrent mythological patterns in modern works of fantasy. The use of those patterns by different authors may be conscious or unconscious, and it may produce good as well as bad results.

The Neverending Story by the West German author Michael Ende (1979, English translation 1983) is worthwhile material for structural research, since the patterns of fantasy in this book are quite tangible. However, it is important to bear in mind that, like most good literature, it consists of a multitude of layers on different levels of language and meaning and may therefore be considered from various points of view. I have chosen to look at structures and will disregard as much as possible messages, ideas, psychological problems, educational values, etc. Of course it is the structures that carry messages, while messages determine structures; but that is not my primary concern.

The Neverending Story has become an international best-seller, and while critics have been mostly positive, there are also such as Neil Philip who calls the book "banal, pretentious, derivative and mind-numbing." I think that in his evaluation Philip has failed to acknowledge the intentional use of patterns and clichés by the author, which may or may not aim at parodying well-known fantasy stories. Whichever the case, Michael Ende has succeeded in producing a splendidly constructed narrative in which the framework and building blocks are apparent to the trained eye, but never obtrusive to the fascinated reader.

It may seem natural to start a structural analysis of a work of modern fantasy by applying Vladimir Propp's model for Russian fairy tales. Since we have stated that fantasy has taken over quite a few structural elements from the fairy tale, the model can be expected to be fruitful. It has indeed been applied in studies of fantasy, for instance in the Ph.D. dissertation "E. Nesbit. An Entrance to the Magic City" by Dennis L. Armstrong. The author uses Propp's method to study the fantasy novel The Magic City by Edith Nesbit, which is by no means an accidental choice. Of all the novels by Nesbit, and probably many other fantasies, The Magic City follows most closely the narrative pattern of the traditional magical tale. The study is thus nothing more than a more or less mechanical transposition of Propp's functions onto another text.

There are, however, considerable difficulties in applying Propp's model directly to fantasy, which arise from the essential differences between fantasy and the fairy tale. First, fantasy does not follow the rigid pattern of the narrative built up by centuries of oral tradition but is instead shaped by a particular author's arbitrary will. Second, fantasy is a synthetic genre that has assimilated traits and motifs from the adventure story, nonsense, the chivalrous romance, etc. Third, much more than the fairy tale, fantasy involves a "many-move" narrative structure, where each move is a separate sequence of functions and moves often do not follow each other, but are intertwined and may even have independent sets of characters.

The narrative in The Neverending Story falls clearly into two parts, or moves (chapters 1-12 and 13-26); in the first Atreyu is hero, in the second Bastian. Hero is one of the seven characters that Propp singles out in a fairy tale, the others being: the princess, the false hero, the dispatcher, the donor, the helper, the villain. Since fantasy historically grew out of the fairy tale, it has inherited its system of characters but has transformed it according to its own purposes.

Atreyu, in the first move, is a typical "low hero" of the fairy tale, an orphan of unknown parentage, "Son of All." The Childlike Empress is the princess who has to be saved from evil, while she is at the same time the donor who presents the hero with a magic object. Cairon the centaur is the dispatcher: it is he who tells Atreyu about his mission and sends him on the quest. Falkor the luckdragon is the helper who assists Atreyu and provides for his spatial transference. Finally, the Nothing is the villain of the story, the unuttered evil force threatening the princess and the whole country.

The sequence of functions in the first move is quite close to that of the traditional fairy tale. It develops from villainy through mediation, counteraction and departure into a series of trials, where the hero encounters different donors—characters who through advice, a magic agent or in some other way assist him on his journey. The first encounter is in a dream, when the purple buffalo whom Atreyu has not killed tells him to go and see Morla. The second donor is Morla herself, who reveals the secret of the Childlike Empress's illness. Further, Atreyu saves the luckdragon from the monster Ygramul, whereupon the luckdragon becomes his helper and they are both transferred by Ygramul to another part of the world. Engywook the gnome guides Atreyu to the Southern Oracle, which tells him to search for a human. And the last encounter is with Gmork the werewolf. All these adventures may seem to be separate moves, but they are repetitions of the same function, donor'strial; it is very common in the fairy tale, where, however, three is the most common number. Here we have at least six.

During the whole journey Atreyu is pursued by the werewolf, the accomplice of the evil forces, and he is more than once rescued by Falkor, the wonderful helper. When Atreyu returns to the Ivory Tower, his mission is completed, and Fantastica can be saved.

Chapter 12 is a short intermediate move in which Atreyu is abandoned and the Empress herself becomes the hero, which is not uncommon in the fairy tale. She is now searching for her deliverer, and the Old Man of Wandering Mountain is her magic helper and donor.

The second move presents a slightly different pattern. Bastian is the hero and Atreyu his helper. There is no villain, and the Childlike Empress is a dispatcher and donor, who presents Bastian with a magic amulet and sends him off on his adventures. But she is not the only donor here; Bastian acquires a magic sword from Grograman the lion, a magic jewel from the inhabitants of the Silver City, an invisibility belt from Xayide the enchantress. Bastian misuses all these magic objects in the same way as the false hero in fairy tales. He draws the sword from the scabbard by force, uses the stone to satisfy his vanity, eavesdrops while invisible on his friends, and in all cases brings grief to himself and the whole country.

Here, too, we do not have separate moves in Bastian's multiple adventures but a repeated function of hard tasks, that is, Bastian's wishes, and by solving the tasks Bastian gradually gets closer and closer to his destination.

Some functions that are less significant for the narrative are to be found in the second move, such as Bastian's unrecognized arrival at the Silver City and his subsequent recognition by Atreyu, as well as his branding by the amulet he is wearing and his transfiguration in the end. Note that unlike the traditional fairy tale, in which the hero is transfigured into a prince, Bastian turns from the superman he has become in Fantastica back into his own self.

The very last function in Propp's sequence, wedding, which is identical with reward, is represented by Bastian's reunion with his father, but actually this and the very first function, "active absence"—that is, Bastian's hiding in the attic—are set in the frame story.

Now, I would not venture to maintain that Michael Ende is acquainted with Propp's theory, but he is obviously aware of the narrative structure of the traditional fairy tale and follows it in his book. Furthermore, he must be very much aware of the most common recurrent elements, patterns or motifs of the genre he works with.

Hereby I proceed from the syntagmatical analysis of the text to the paradigmatical, extracting from the narrative the elements which may be called "genre markers."

One of these motifs is what I have chosen to call a Closed World (the terminology is used in my Ph.D. dissertation). This motif is characteristic of the subgenre sometimes called "high fantasy," of which Tolkien is the most brilliant representative. A Closed World is a self-contained mythical universe, which, though quite independent from reality, still implies a kind of contact through the reader's mind.

As far as I know, The Neverending Story is unique in the way in which it introduces the reader into the narrative. Bastian is sitting in the school attic reading a high-fantasy book of a quite traditional type. Michael Ende is clever enough not to describe his imaginary world at one go, but after attentive reading we get quite a vivid picture of Fantastica. It is populated by every possible kind of mythological creatures, from dragons, gnomes, unicorns, fauns, sprites and salamanders to less familiar rock chewers, bark trolls, flimflams, sassafranians, shadowcamps and so on. It appears that every folk has its own kingdom and its own local tongue, though a common language, High Fantastican, is used among them, and they are all united under the rule of the wise and ageless Childlike Empress. The dimensions of Fantastica seem to be enormous; evidently it has no boundaries, which is, of course, a beautiful symbol.

It is not until halfway through the story that the magic world suddenly opens and the reading boy is drawn into it. Some hints of the coming contact are spread over the narrative, first in the form of insertions describing Bastian in his attic and his reaction to the story he is reading. Incidentally, these insertions, marked by a different print color, are much more numerous than most readers would guess. When asked, most people say there are 12-15; there are actually forty-eight of them. I find this fact worth mentioning because it shows how skillfully Michael Ende has interwoven the two seemingly independent stories.

The two direct instances of contact are when Atreyu meets Ygramul and hears Bastian's cry of aversion and later when he sees Bastian in the magic mirror. When Atreyu gets back to the Ivory Tower, the frontier between the two worlds is almost gone: Bastian no longer reads the story, he sees and feels it.

Bastian is by no means privileged in his involvement with Fantastica, as humans seem to have been visiting this world from times immemorial—at one place a certain Shexper is mentioned, for example. The book dealer, Mr. Coreander, also admits having been to Fantastica. Quite a few humans who have not been able to come back live in the Town of Old Emperors. The purpose of Bastian's visit is thus to recreate the fantastic world and then return to his own. The latter action he accepts unwillingly until he realizes its necessity.

The way back lies through his wishes in more senses than one, since at the end the wish-granting amulet AURYN itself turns into a magic door.

The second part of the narrative thus takes place in an Open World in which Bastian is a messenger from reality. The price he must pay for his omnipotence and the endless string of granted wishes is the loss of memory of his own world. But as long as he remembers it, Bastian keeps wondering about how the two worlds are connected. In the desert he tries to send a message to his own world, probably to someone reading the neverending story, by writing his initials with the colored sand. Later he uses a magic jewel to impress the Three Deep Thinkers, and in the blaze of the gem the old attic appears for a second.

Another thing worth mentioning here is a prophesy that some day Fantastica and the world of humans will be one. Whether Michael Ende is implying the coming Golden Age on Earth or a more traditional paradise of the dead is uncertain.

Contact between the two worlds is maintained through a magic talisman, which is another common motif borrowed from folklore and familiar from other works of fantasy. The most important talisman in The Neverending Story is the book itself, since it exists in both worlds. Bastian is reading it in reality, while in Fantastica the Old Man of Wandering Mountain is writing it. When Bastian comes back the book is gone, which suggests that someone else may read it next.

Another amulet that exists only in Fantastica is AURYN. When carried by Atreyu it gives protection and guidance, but in Bastian's hands it turns into a powerful magical agent. By and by it enslaves and corrupts its bearer, much like the ring in Tolkien's trilogy. But only through the amulet can Bastian get home and, remarkably, he bears the door with him all through his journey in Fantastica. The door symbolism also occurs when Atreyu has to go through the three magical gates into the oracle and when Bastian wanders in a maze of doors trying to find and formulate his next wish.

The importance of names is prominently stressed in The Neverending Story. The reader is initiated into the magic of names when Bastian Baltazar Bux and Carl Conrad Coreander are introduced. To save Fantastica from the Nothing, a new name must be given to the Childlike Empress. It is then set forth in Part Two that the threat to the Fantasticans lies in their inability to invent new stories and new names. To create the new Fantastica, Bastian has to give names to things; the forest Perilin, the desert Goab. To possess magic objects he must name them: the sword Sikanda, the stone Al Tsahir, the belt Ghemmal. It is well known that in old witchcraft, as well as in primitive societies of our own times, learning the true names of things, animals or people gives unlimited power over them.

When Bastian ultimately loses his name as the price for his last wish, he loses his identity as well; he is no longer Bastian, but a boy without a name. He is known as such until he is back in his own world.

Still another motif familiar from other fantasy literature is the relativity of magic time. It is active during Atreyu's journey to the Southern Oracle—seven days pass, while to him it seems only one. This anticipates Bastian's travels in Fantastica, which may have taken years or even centuries of Fantastican time—at one place it is mentioned that he has been there for many thousands of years—while a single night has passed in his own world.

All these patterns are easily recognized. The whole of Part Two—Bastian's adventures in Fantastica—is a series of narratives, each of which draws on a well-known story: the myth of creation, the myth of death and resurrection (in the image of Grograman the lion, which is also an obvious parallel to C. S. Lewis and his lion Aslan). Biblical allusions appear with the presentation of Bastian as the Savior, and the wise mule carrying him is, of course, a direct quotation. Further we find chivalrous romances as well as the medieval motif of the contest of the bards; the dragon Smerg immediately reminds us of Tolkien's Smaug; the evil enchantress Xayide may again be a borrowing from C. S. Lewis, as are the battle for the Ivory Tower and the apocalyptic vision of the end of the world. Images like the Three Wise Men, or the City of Fools, or the mysterious picture mine, and last but not least the Water of Life, all have their origins in earlier works of literature.

The question may arise whether Michael Ende is a helpless imitator who is not able to invent a story of his own and is simply borrowing the ideas of others. To answer this I will turn to the Russian semiotist Yury Lotman. In his article "The canonical art as an information paradox," he shows that texts with a high degree of regularity and predictability (for instance, folklore or medieval art) are sometimes more informative than texts which at first might seem "original" and "innovating." According to Lotman, the paradox is explained by the fact that canonical (or "ritual") texts not only mediate information (as most texts from the 19th and 20th century are supposed to do) but also generate it. The receiver of a canonic text is already acquainted with the information it contains, but the text stimulates or generates an inner stream of information in the receiver's mind. The very idea of a canonic text is, according to Lotman, to create a favorable situation for the receiver's meditation.

If we try to see fantasy in this light we may state that The Neverending Story is a canonical text and that Michael Ende's purpose is not to provide the reader with new and original information. It is, on the contrary, to make us recognize images and patterns that have been known before and to stimulate the reader's reflections on these objects. Michael Ende's use of clichés is conscious and skillful and serves ultimately the very message of the story. All Bastian's adventures are products of his own imagination, inspired by books. It is he who is a blank copyist as long as he does not realize the goal of his quest. This is how an author of fantasy may work with familiar patterns and mold them according to his own purposes. Because Michael Ende does this more openly and consistently than most authors, his book provides an excellent illustration.

Works Cited

Philip, Neil. The Times Literary Supplement (January 6, 1984).

Armstrong, D. L. "E. Nesbit. An Entrance to the Magic City." Ph.D. diss. The Johns Hopkins University, 1974.

Propp, Vladimir. Morphology of the Folktale. London: Austin, 1968.

Nikolajeva, Maria. The Magic Code. Ph.D. diss. Stockholm, 1988.

Lotman, Yu. "Kanonicheskoye iskusstvo kak informatsionny paradoks" [The Canonical Art as an Information Paradox]. Problemy kanona. Moscow, 1973. 16-22.

Harold Nelson (essay date 1991)

SOURCE: Nelson, Harold. "The Neverending Story." In Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Volume 5, edited by Kirk H. Beetz, pp. 2443-48. Washington, D.C.: Beacham Publishing, Inc., 1991.

[In the following essay, Nelson argues that The Neverending Story is a novel that highlights the importance of fantasy, creating histories, and exploring the narrative fabric of the world.]

About the Author

Michael Ende was born on November 12, 1929, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, in what is now West Germany. His family moved to Munich in 1931. His father, surrealist painter Edgar Ende, settled the family in the artists' quarter of Schwabing, where Ende was surrounded by the avant-garde. He went to school at Maximilians Gymnasium until 1943, when the Munich schools were evacuated due to allied bombing and he returned to Garmisch. After World War II, unable to afford a university education, Ende accepted a scholarship to study acting at the Otto-Falckenberg-Schauspielschule in Munich. He acted briefly with a regional theater troop in Stuttgart before returning to Munich, in 1948, where he struggled as a freelance writer. Ende married actress Ingeborg Hoffman in 1964.

Ende published his first book, Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer, in 1961 and a sequel, Jim Button and the Wild 13, in 1962. His first novel won the German Youth Book Prize in 1961 and was nominated for the Hans Christian Andersen Prize in 1962. He wrote The Grey Gentleman in 1974 (published in English in 1986), which won the German Youth Book Prize that year. Ende achieved international recognition shortly after Unendliche geschichte was published in 1979. Ralph Manheim translated this best seller into English, and it was published as The Neverending Story in 1983.


The Neverending Story is a wonderfully imaginative story, with incredible settings, astonishing characters, and a series of cliffhanger episodes. Ende's book describes what landscape and life might be in a different world. The novel begins with the hero, Bastian Balthazar Bux, a fat ten-to-twelve-year-old boy, stealing a book and hiding in the school attic to read it. He does not want to go to class; he wants to escape his unhappy life. He is immediately caught up in the story, which begins with a will-o'-the-wisp meeting a rock chewer, a nighthob, and a tiny in the Howling Forest; he learns that all of them are going to see the Childlike Empress. They want to report to her that the Nothing is overtaking Fantastica. Atreyu, the hero of the first half of the novel, his friend Falkor, the luckdragon, and other marvelous characters search for a way to stop the Nothing's steady advance, but they are unable to find any. Only a human can do so by believing in Fantastica and giving it new life through renaming the Childlike Empress. Bastian becomes the human hero who does so; Bastian's story and Fantastica's story merge in the middle of the novel. Bastian becomes a character in the book he is reading, and he creates this book through his wishes in the second half of the novel. After doing so, he discovers his wishes are often foolish, mean, or egotistical. He finally separates himself from the world he has created and returns to the human world, to his father and to the bookseller whose book he stole.

The novel contains more than surprising settings, characters, and actions. Like other good fantasies, it serves as a metaphor for human life. It tells the story of a physical and spiritual quest, of Bastian's growth in creativity, compassion, and confidence. In the telling, it raises questions about friendship, the function of literature and imagination, the problems of growing up, and the relationship of wishes and reality. Many people have recognized these deeper levels of the novel. The Neverending Story has been translated into about twenty-five languages, has been a best seller throughout the world, and has won literary awards in Germany, Italy, and Poland.


The Neverending Story occurs in the school attic, where Bastian reads the book he has stolen, and in Fantastica, the land where the action occurs and where Bastian goes after he enters the book. Bastian is outside of the school only at the beginning and at the end of the novel. At the beginning he is on his way to school when he stops in the bookstore and steals the book; at the end he goes home to his father and returns to the bookstore for a final meeting with Mr. Coreander.

As its name implies, Fantastica is a fantasy land, a fantastic place that "rests on a foundation of forgotten dreams" of all humankind. The characters of fantasy stories live in it, and the settings of fantasy stories form its terrain, making Fantastica a constantly changing landscape inhabited by characters who are at times bizarre, touching, or ominous. Because people in the real world have lost interest in fantasy, the Nothing is eroding Fantastica, and Bastian enters the land to rescue fantasy and to add to it.

Themes and Characters

The Neverending Story examines how stories benefit people by giving them histories and futures, by helping them imaginatively explore possibilities, and by helping them learn who they are. By highlighting the importance of stories in the lives of Bastian and the inhabitants of Fantastica, the book raises questions about the relationships between narrative and the real world, the writer, the reader, and other stories. Although Ende raises these questions, he never answers them, preferring the rich indeterminacy of ambiguity. The only idea he promotes is fantasy's importance.

Ende left West Germany for Rome years before The Neverending Story was published to escape the political atmosphere. However, members of the West German peace movement adopted the book as their text because of its emphasis on imagination.

The Neverending Story is unique among quest stories because it emphasizes the importance of stories and the imagination so directly. Its other themes, however, are fairly standard among quest stories. These center on Bastian's growth, and they include his losing and regaining personal identity, his growing toward such good characteristics as self-confidence and generosity, and his learning that goodness is generally rewarded and that wickedness is generally punished. In the end he is brought to understand that human nature and life itself are mixtures of bitterness and happiness and that forgiveness, compassion, and generosity are necessary to make life worthwhile.

The main characters in Fantastica are the Childlike Empress, Atreyu, and Falkor. The Childlike Empress, or Moon Child as Bastian renames her, is the center of Fantastica, the creative impulse who regularly needs renaming by humans. She never evaluates any creature in Fantastica but gives all creatures in Fantastica and the land itself the power to be. The Nothing consumes Fantastica in the first part of the novel because no human has given the Childlike Empress the creative energy she needs. Atreyu is the hero of the first half of the book and functions as Bastian's conscience, guide, and helper when Bastian becomes entwined in the story. Bastian resists Atreyu's suggestions at times, so Atreyu also becomes Bastian's adversary. Falkor is the luckdragon who helps Atreyu and Bastian.

Literary Qualities

Michael Ende wrote The Neverending Story in German, and Ralph Manheim translated the novel into English. His translation is accurate, graceful, and readable; Manheim has succeeded in making the English version seem as if Ende had written the novel in English.

The English translation retains the visual attractiveness of the German original. It is printed in two-color type, with red for Bastian's story, the "real" story of the book, and green for the fantasy story Bastian reads and enters. The novel is a sophisticated alphabet book; the first sentence in each of its twenty-six chapters begins with a successive letter of the alphabet. Illustrator Roswitha Quadflieg provides ornate versions of these letters, along with illustrations of scenes, characters, and objects. The ornate letters and the illustrations give the book the look of a medieval manuscript and emphasize the fact that the book is a fantasy.

The action in The Neverending Story is loosely structured. Events do not follow as logical or inevitable a sequence as they would if the novel were based more fully on character development or on action. Ende compensates for this structural looseness by regularly introducing unique settings and characters and by creating variations on what has come before.

The larger structure of The Neverending Story follows the usual pattern of epic fantasy in which heroes undertake a great quest. While on this quest the hero grows in stature and understanding.

Social Sensitivity

Some of the characters in The Neverending Story are evil. A few are conventional monsters, such as the werewolf who tracks Atreyu and the witch who manipulates Bastian, but most of the evil characters are original, interesting, and unique. Although they are potentially harmful, they are not frightening. When Atreyu confronts Ygramul The Many, he discovers that "the monster was not a single, solid body, but was made up of innumerable small steel-blue insects which buzzed like angry hornets."

Death is a possibility and a threat in Fantastica, but important characters do not die. Ygramul stings Atreyu and Falkor, the luckdragon, who then escape through luck and trickery to continue their quest. Violence also exists in Fantastica, but Ende never dwells on it, and he always places it in a clear moral context. Sometimes violence is necessary to right wrongs, but gratuitous violence is never acceptable. The Neverending Story is thought-provoking, but never offensive.

Carol A. Burbridge (review date November-December 1997)

SOURCE: Burbridge, Carol A. Review of The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende, illustrated by Roswitha Quadflieg, translated by Ralph Manheim. Book Report 16, no. 3 (November-December 1997): 33-4.

[The Neverending Story, t]his reprint of a 1979 German fantasy (translated in 1983) finds Bastian Balthazar Bux, a lonely 10-year-old, taking refuge from school bullies in an old bookstore. Drawn to an old book titled The Neverending Story, he decides to steal it. Hiding from his tormentors in the cold school attic, Bastian is soon caught up in the magical world of Fantastica. Fantastica and its ruler, the childlike empress, are doomed unless a hero can perform an unspecified quest. Bastian himself actually becomes one of the characters in the story and must face challenges and foes before Fantastica is righted once again and he can return to the real world a changed and better person. Colorful imaginary characters, the eternal struggle between good and evil, and a search to find oneself combine to make a story readers won't want to end. Dutton editors have wisely used different color inks to help readers differentiate between reality and Fantastica. Despite its length, fantasy readers and those who have seen the movie on TV or video will enjoy this modern classic. Recommended.

Maria Nikolajeva (essay date 2002)

SOURCE: Nikolajeva, Maria. "From Collective Character to Intersubjectivity: Metafictive Intersubjectivity—The Neverending Story." In The Rhetoric of Children's Literature, pp. 106-09. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2002.

[In the following essay, Nikolajeva offers a critical reading of The Neverending Story that highlights the differences between the diegetic and hypodiegetic levels of the text.]

The Neverending Story shows how the reader's subjectivity is created. The protagonist, Bastian, is reading a book. He is so fascinated by what he is reading that he gets more and more involved, until he is literally drawn into the narrative and becomes a character in it. This is a metafictive device aimed at erasing boundaries between reality and fiction, and interrogating our perception of reality as "real" (see Hutcheon 1988; Nikolajeva 1996, chap. 7).

The two parts of the novel repeat each other, showing the hero's quest, with a vast repertoire of recognizable events and figures. However, while Atreyu in Part I behaves like a real hero, showing bravery and ingenuity, Bastian in Part II acts not even as an antihero but as a false hero of the fairy tale, making wrong decisions and undoing everything that Atreyu has accomplished. Reading the two narratives as mirror images of each other and interpreting the two characters intersubjectively, we see that in the first part Bastian adopts the subject position of the protagonist in the story he is reading (just as real readers would adopt Bastian's subject position) and shows such a great empathy that he finally gets into direct contact with Atreyu. First, as Bastian is reading about Atreyu's encounter with the monster Ygramul, he cannot refrain from crying out:

A cry of fear escaped Bastian.

A cry of terror passed through the ravine and echoed from side to side. Ygramul turned her eye to left and right, to see if someone else had arrived, for that sound could nor have been made by the boy who stood there as though paralyzed with horror.

Could she have heard my cry? Bastian wondered in alarm. But that's not possible.

          (76f.; author's emphasis)

Later, looking into the magic mirror, Atreyu sees Bastian instead of his own reflection:

He saw a fat little boy with a pale face—a boy his own age—and this little boy was sitting on a pile of mats reading a book. The little boy had large, sad-looking eyes, and he was wrapped in frayed gray blankets….

Bastian gave a start when he realized what he had just read. Why, that was him! The description was right in every detail.

          (106; author's emphasis)

In terms of metafiction, we can note that on these occasions the boundary between the diegetic level (Bastian's reality) and the hypodiegetic level (Atreyu's reality) is tentatively breached, only to be completely eradicated later on. In terms of intersubjectivity, it is essential to remember that Bastian is a fat, unlovable, unhappy boy, bullied in school and neglected by his father; his mother has recently died. By adopting Atreyu's subjectivity, he becomes everything he wishes to be: handsome, brave, endowed with magical powers, and dispatched on an exciting and dangerous mission. Atreyu is an archetypal fairy-tale hero: of unknown origin and chosen for a heroic deed. However, while Atreyu possesses all the qualities of which Bastian dreams, Atreyu's task is to find someone who is more powerful, someone who can save Fantastica and its ruler the Childlike Empress. This someone is, of course, Bastian, and his powers are language (he can give people and things names) and imagination. Thus, although Atreyu does not know as much about Bastian as Bastian knows about him, he is very much aware of the existence of this double. As confirmed by the second part, the novel is really about Bastian and his identity quest. Atreyu's story is used to show the way, to create a pattern. Part II is the deconstruction of the pattern. Atreyu is constantly beside Bastian, as his squire and also as a voice of conscience, which Bastian tries to silence. The final portrait of the protagonist is created by the interplay of the two subjectivities.

An attempt at metafictive intersubjectivity is also to be found in Sophie's World, where the protagonist is created through the interplay of characters on different diegetic levels.



Filmer, Kath. "Beware the Nothing: An Allegorical Reading of Ende's The Neverending Story." Mythlore 12, no. 4 (summer 1986): 34-6.

Offers a reading of The Neverending Story that emphasizes its themes of antinihilism, promotion of literary goals, and support for the Weltanschauung worldview.

———. "Religion and Romanticism in Michael Ende's The Neverending Story." Mythlore 18, no. 1 (autumn 1991): 59-64.

Labels The Neverending Story as a subtly religious work that nevertheless abounds with skepticism.

Stableford, Brian. "Brilliant Invention, or Endless Tedium?" Fantasy Review 7, no. 4 (May 1984): 29-30.

Describes The Neverending Story as a "brilliant and beautiful book."

Additional coverage of Ende's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Gale: Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Vol. 5; Children's Literature Review, Vol. 14; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 118, 124; Contemporary Authors—Obituary, Vol. 149; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vols. 110, 136; Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 31; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 75; Literature Resource Center; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, Eds. 1, 2; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults Supplement, Ed. 1; Something about the Author, Vols. 42, 61, 130; Something about the Author—Obituary, Vol. 86.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"The Neverending Story." Children's Literature Review. . 12 Aug. 2019 <>.

"The Neverending Story." Children's Literature Review. . (August 12, 2019).

"The Neverending Story." Children's Literature Review. . Retrieved August 12, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.