Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story is a timeless tale of adventure, imagination, and self-discovery. The story revolves around Bastian Balthazar Bux, an innocent but awkward, socially outcast, and greatly misunderstood pre-teen boy of a widowered father who finds himself metaphorically and literally lost within the pages of a magical book entitled The Neverending Story.
Inside the book, Bastian discovers a terrible affliction has befallen the enchanting land of Fantastica, a mystic world full of rock creatures, purple buffaloes, and wind giants (to name a few). The malevolent force he finds is slowly and sporadically consuming Fantastica and all of its inhabitants. It is called the Nothing, and it threatens to destroy the world of Fantastica forever unless someone is able to find the one who will give the Childlike Empress a new name.
The Childlike Empress, also known as the Golden-Eyed Commander of Wishes, is an aloof, seemingly omnipotent, and mysterious girl that rules Fantastica. She is the fabric which holds Fantastica together, and in essence she is Fantastica. Her desire for a new name (which she claims wills save the world) leads a brave young warrior on an arduous journey to find someone who can give her a new moniker. That warrior’s name is Atreyu.
Atreyu is a strong and persevering hunter turned adventurer whose quest begins upon receipt of a message from the Childlike Empress to locate the giver of her new name. Though he does not fully understand his mission or final destination, Atreyu resolves himself to fulfill the request of the Childlike Empress. Bastian also resolves himself to see Atreyu’s story to the end, but he eventually realizes that Atreyu is not the only one on a mission from the empress and his own fantasies of extraordinary adventure will be realized sooner than he thinks.
Further examination of The Neverending Story, its plot, and its characters reveals a number of parallels to the mythological motifs of the philosophers and academics who established and illustrated them. Bastian, Atreyu, and the Childlike Empress are especially subject to comparison with the theories and observations of scholars such as Carl Jung, Jean Shinoda Bolden, and Vladimir Propp. In the following paragraphs, I shall demonstrate their findings and explore the results.
JUNG AND BASTIAN
Carl Jung identified and described numerous archetypes, but he arranged them all into four primary archetypes: persona, anima/animus, shadow, and self. Bastian appears to personify the self archetype from the very beginning of the story. Despite his bullying classmates, the neglect from his father, and the lack of understanding from his teachers, Bastian remains true to his identity. He is idiosyncratic in nearly every facet of his personality, even in the face of taunts and dismay from students and elders, and he remains this way until he finds himself in the world of Fantastica.
No longer in his world, Bastian embodies another of Jung’s...