The Neverending Story, one of my favorite movies as a kid, was on television last night. I won’t lie. Long ago, I created a mix tape that started with its theme song, and I had a crush on Atreyu. However, the subtleties of that film went straight over my head as a child. I was more concerned with the courageous adventure, the sadness of Artax’s death amidst the fog and mud of the Swamp of Sadness, the wind blowing through the fur of the flying luck dragon, the fanged terror of G’mork, and the idea of being a character in a book I was reading.
Those details alone entranced me, but watching it now, there is so much more to appreciate. Much like the clapping to save Tinkerbell and the mailing of letters to Santa Claus, the importance of imagination drives The Neverending Story’s plot. Indeed, if the dreamers stop their dreaming, the Nothing will take over and destroy Fantasia.
“But I can’t,” screamed Bastian. “I have to keep my feet on the ground!”
Do we really? To an extent, of course, we all cannot forget our daily responsibilities, but that’s the fun of life as a writer. Our feet touch down on occasion, but they aren’t tied down with the restraints of gravity.
The Southern Oracle tells Atreyu, “If you want to save our world, you must hurry. We don't know how much longer we can withstand the Nothing.”
The ominous black swirling clouds and thunder crashes of the Nothing scared me as a child. The symbolism of it echoes my passion for writing today. The Nothing is the lack of imagination, the lack of people who wonder and of children who find the world “curiouser and curiouser” to borrow a line from Lewis Carroll.
But as the Rockbiter said, “They look like big strong hands, don’t they?”
His hands failed him, but yours don’t have to. Pick up your pens or stretch your fingers over that keyboard. What are you going to write? Racing snails? Ivory Towers? Grains of sand that can create new kingdoms? As I’m ending a semester of teaching an overload and having little time to play with language, I’m thinking about diving back into a new project.
It’s funny how a childhood favorite film can act as a call to arms. We must all do our part to fight the Nothing. Meanwhile, what is the name that Bastian gives the empress at the end of the movie? That's been bothering me for years!