The Neverending Story is an extended fable detailing the rewards and hazards of escapism. The text is typeset in two colors, with sequences occurring in the world of Bastian Balthasar Bux being set in red and the story that he is reading reproduced in green. In the early phases of the novel, Bastian’s world and the world of the book-within-the-book are distinct, but they gradually intersect until Bastian is incorporated into the story that he is reading.
The miserable and overweight Bastian, whose widower father is a remote figure and who lives in fear of the ridicule of his schoolfellows, takes refuge in an attic so that he may read a book called The Neverending Story, which he has stolen from a strange shop and its mysterious bookseller. He discovers that the story is set in Fantastica, an imaginary world whose outlying regions are being consumed by Nothing—an affliction whose onset corresponded with the illness of the Childlike Empress, who lives in the Ivory Tower.
The empress divines that the hero who can save the world is one Atreyu, and she commissions the centaur Cairon to give him the talisman AURYN. Cairon is alarmed to find that Atreyu is a mere boy but sends him forth nevertheless on the Great Quest.
In the Swamps of Sadness, Atreyu learns from Morla the Aged One that the empress can only be healed if someone from outside Fantastica gives her a new name. After encountering the monster Ygramul the Many, Atreyu and the luckdragon Falkor brave the baleful sphinxes that guard the Great Riddle Gate, the first of three through which he must pass in order to reach...
(The entire section is 668 words.)