(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The Neverending Story is an allegory that provides a neat analysis of the psychological functions of fantasy and eloquent propaganda for its use. The imaginary world of Fantastica provides a refuge for the unhappy child who is as alienated from his father as he is from his peers. At first a mere fellow traveler with Atreyu, Bastian eventually discovers that in Fantastica he can become anything he wants to be—all that he has to do is make up the story for himself. One of the first things that he does after receiving the gift of the Childlike Empress is to conjure up an imposing library filled with his own works, which presages the bookseller’s judgment that Bastian’s encounter with The Neverending Story will make a writer of him.

In providing this conclusion, Michael Ende accepts the common suspicion that the kind of creativity that remains secret and self-centered may be unhealthy but insists that the power of creativity is nevertheless uniquely precious. The healthy use of fantasy, in this way of thinking, is to derive some benefit from it that can be carried back to the real world, and Ende takes this view seriously enough to suggest that the prize that can be carried back is the “Water of Life” itself: something not merely useful but actually vital to enrichment of everyday existence.

The moral of The Neverending Story, therefore, is that fantasy—far from being a threat to the ability to live in the real world—is the natural and invaluable partner of reason and common sense, provided that one can move easily back and...

(The entire section is 647 words.)