The Neverending Story

Atreyu. Artax. Engywook. Gmork. Princess Moonchild. Although these sound like the names of prescription anti-depressants, they aren't. No, these are the names of the warriors and scientists and big bad wolves that teach a bookish boy named Bastian how to be brave in The Neverending Story.

You see, young Bastian's life is a living hell because some ridiculously tough middle schoolers keep bullying him. How tough are they? They are so tough that they can toss poor Bastian into an industrial dumpster that is about twice as tall as they are. (If child-tossing ever becomes an Olympic sport I think they stand a good chance at winning the gold.) The sad thing is that Bastian never stands up for himself against these vicious denim-clad bad boys. At least he doesn't until a chance encounter with a sarcastic nerd changes his life forever...

It all starts after a particularly bad dumpstering prompts Bastian to hide out in a bookstore instead of going to school. At first the bookseller is a stone cold dick to his only potential customer, accusing Bastian of being an illiterate know-nothing. (To be fair Bastian probably smelled like hot garbage at this point, so any assumptions about his lack of culture were probably justified.) Bastian responds by telling the old man that he's a voracious reader, having already completed the Wizard of Oz and the Last of the Mohicans and the Lord of the Rings. (Not the Hobbit, mind you - the Lord of the Rings. Which means that Bastian is either a liar or a madman; normally kids who are only halfway to puberty don't have the time and energy to claw their way through thousands of pages of Tolkien's meandering bullshit about talking trees.) Anyway, the bookseller dangles a forbidden book in front of Bastian's greedy eyes and then conveniently leaves to take a phone call.

Bastian, being a good Christian child, immediately steals The Nevernding Story and hides himself in a nearby attic to read it in peace. He discovers that the book is an epic adventure about outrageous characters like a granite-chewing giant called the Rock Biter and an apathetic turtle called the Ancient One. But while all of those characters are fun, the character that really speaks to Bastian the most is the hero - a young warrior named Atreyu, who is the only person who can stop a plague called The Nothing before it destroys the land of Fantasia.

Atreyu is a perfect proxy for Bastian: he's the same age and the same build, but he is much more bold. He faces setback after setback, but he never quits. He doesn't stop after his horse Artax drowns in the swamp of sadness. He doesn't stop after some Sphinxes with noticeably erect nipples nearly melt him with their laser eyes. He doesn't stop after he is forced to come face to face with his innermost self in a magical mirror. He doesn't stop when a flying furball named Falcor the Luck Dragon accidentally drops him from a great height. Hell, Noble Atreyu doesn't even stop when an evil talking wolf called the Gmork says some mean things to him. (That was truly his worst challenge.) Atreyu's example of preservation and dedication helps young Bastian slowly realizes the truth: that he needs to man up. And sure enough, by the end of the movie he will have become strong enough to turn the tables on his oppressors by tossing them into an industrial dumpster.

Now, you might think that the moral of the story is that two wrongs make a right, and sure, the Neverending Story would be a great title for a movie about how eye for an eye justice tends to create inescapable cycles of escalation. But Bastian was reading a a fantasy epic, not a book called "Israel-Palestine: It All Started After One Particularly Bad Dumpstering", and as such, he learned a completely different lesson.

What Bastian actually learned was that Fantasia can only exist as long as he is an active participant in that world. Without his imagination to bring it to life, and without his inventions adding to the edges of its world, it would die alone on the page. And it is with that spirit in mind that I would like to share some haikus that I wrote after watching this movie. They might not be much, but they are my best attempts at helping to keep Fantasia alive.

1.

Don't dumpster that kid!

He still has some use in him.

Recycle that shit

2.

Emo Horse Artax

Fails to Win Show or Place at

The Feelings Derby

3.

The swamp of sadness

consumes another pony

whole (non-marshmallow)

4.

Rock Biters Bite Rocks

An odd culinary niche

A potluck nightmare

5.

Trial by Sphinxes

Don't look at their erect nips

or else: laser death

6.

Brave Atreyu rides

bareback on the luck dragon

Finger crossed Re: AIDS

7. 

We face our true selves

He's brave; I write joke haikus

I can live with that

 

Winner: Me

The Neverending Story on IMDB