'The Neverending Story' Is Full of Hope, Not Sadness

Updated on July 26, 2018
Disastrous Grape profile image

Ash has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.

For anyone who's spent any amount of time on the internet, funny articles and videos about the 80's classic The Neverending Story are inevitable. Said articles are usually horrified reflections on how dismally depressing the movie was for a children's film and how the author was scarred for life.

Honestly, I never understood these people. As a child, I was never depressed or "scarred" from watching The Neverending Story. If anything, I considered it wonderfully entertaining.

I think the reason The Neverending Story never bothered me as a child is because I had it about as bad as Bastian (played by Barret Oliver) . My parents were as emotionally abusive and uncaring as Bastian's father. Kids at school bullied me. Two close family members died. And I spent most of my time moping, alone, reading, and doodling.

It isn't shocking in the slightest that I grew up to be a writer.

For people who have led very depressing lives, The Neverending Story and its joyous neverending contains a message of hope. Not sadness.

I Loved Atreyu

Atreyu (played Noah Hathaway) was a smartass, he was determined, and he was full of hope. He never gave up, even when Artex, his horse died, even when all hope seemed lost, even in the end when the Childlike Empress reveals that the point of his journey was the journey, not the destination.

Atreyu's bitter frustration throughout the movie was also hilarious. The way he yelled at people for not helping him -- Morla in particular -- always tickled me.

He was also clever and brave. For a little kid, he was a great hero to project onto.

Morla Was Hilarious

For some surprising reason, a lot of people found Morla depressing.

Me? I thought him sneezing Atreyu away through the air was hilarious, as well as how little of a shit he gave.

Atreyu had to yell at him, beat him down with wits and logic, and no matter how many times he was knocked down by Morla's overwhelming pessimism, he always got back up again.

There's a pretty strong lesson in that for children.

And I just like turtles.

The Southern Oracle Scene Was Pretty Great

Hugely inappropriate breasts aside, I always loved the scene with the Southern Oracle.

Atreyu's test, on the surface, seems very simple: he has to have the courage to face his true self.

Most people can't do this. Most people can't look in the mirror and recognize their own ugliness: that they are perhaps selfish, greedy, cruel, racist, sexist, homophobic, or just a plain grumpy pants.

No one can stomach the idea that they aren't such a great person after all.

Atreyu actually fails the test, and while people see this as a flaw in the story, I see it as something that makes him utterly human. Just like everyone else, he can't stand to look in the mirror and see that he's actually a lonely, loser kid up in the attic of a school, reading a book.

Aretyu can not handle that, in reality, he is not a cool warrior kid but nerdy, mopey Bastian. He begins to doubt himself at the sheer horror of this, and as this happens, the eyes of the Southern Oracle open to zap him. He dodges at the last minute and -- like a true determined hero -- demands at the top of his voice (as per usual) that the oracle help him.

The Southern Oracle doesn't want to disappear, so it's in their interest that they maybe not zap Atreyu after all and instead try to help.

They tell Atreyu that the Childlike Empress is sick and needs a name

Now Atreyu has a new goal. Plot moves forward.

Honestly, I liked this part. Even after reading so many articles tear it down over the years.

Gmork Was Always Freakin Cool to Me

After becoming separated from Falkor the luck dragon during a storm, Atreyu meets Gmork, the wolf that has been hunting him the entire movie.

That deep, gravely voice. That horrifying size. The way he lurked in the darkness and hissed out his villainous monologue. I thought Gmork was such an awesome character when I was a child. Not saying I'd be friends with him in real life. Just saying he was a good piece of writing to my six-year-old self. It's just a shame the technical limitations of the time made his fight scene pretty ridiculous.

As Gmork explains in his deep, gravely voice, the entire film could be interpreted as a battle against depression. The Nothing is an existential nightmare. It is literally nothingness, the terror of ceasing to exist, the terror of impending death, the terror of knowing that life is pointless.

As a child, you're not supposed to understand the immense gravity of what the characters are struggling against and fleeing from. If anything, you're just supposed to see The Nothing as a dark entity not unlike the villain or Evil Force of Nature in most fantasy adventure films.

The Nothing is literally hopelessness and despair. But still, even as a child, it doesn't fully register. It isn't until you're adult that you look back and go . . . damn.

I'll concede: this was grimdark for a kid's film.

Even then, we could say the same thing about a lot of Disney films. And anyone who knows the real version of most classic fairy tales -- which were written for children -- would not be fazed by this movie.

Tami Stronach Was Simply Amazing

The Childlike Empress (played by Tami Stronach) was, like, the goddess of Fantasia. She knew everything that was happening, both in Fantasia and the real world.

Atreyu gets to her palace and is pissed that she knew everything but didn't tell him jack-shit when he was there six days ago and instead let him go through all that suffering for nothing. He completely unloads on her, and -- once again -- it's hilarious.

I always thought Stronach was perfect as the Childlike Empress. She was so regal, serene, and composed. And her voice was lovely. You see the circles under her eyes and know she has been suffering a long time, and yet, just like Atreyu, she has never given up hope.

Hope that someone out there, somewhere still has the courage to dream and imagine and get wrapped up in a story long enough to reach her palace.

Because the empress doesn't give up hope, even in the face of her world's greatest despair, she and Fantasia are saved.

At the beginning of the movie, it's implied that Bastian lives in a world where people don't read anymore. No one knows how to imagine. They just play arcade games and watch television, which was a bit of an exaggeration for the 80's, I think. Lots of kids were still reading back then. At least, I was.

But kids today? Not surprising a story like this wouldn't appeal to people in 2018. No one today cares about creativity or dreaming and imagining. Most everything is a cold product and is cranked out mechanically with the sole purpose of catching coins -- even this article I'm writing!

I always loved the part where Fantasia is finally gone and there's nothing but darkness. Then a small wisp appears, and it's revealed that it's a single grain of sand -- all that's left of Fantasia.

Bastian still manages to save Fantasia, returns it to its previous state, and gets to make all the wishes he wants.

That's a pretty joyous, optimistic neverending.

© 2018 Ash


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)