Lessons from “The NeverEnding Story”

I was a child when I first saw “The NeverEnding Story.”  It had a huge impact on me.  It stoked my love of fantasy and showed me the power of imagination.  I wrote my first fanfiction.

While I’ve watched it again several times throughout the years, it’s been a long time now.  Last night, however, my local neighborhood association screened it at the park across the street as their annual outdoor movie night film.

Revisiting “The NeverEnding Story” as an adult was an illuminating experience.  I still love the beautiful images, the soundtrack, and the characters, but I was not expecting to understand so much more by viewing it from a somewhat jaded, adult point of view.

Near the end of the film [SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT], there is a showdown between the hero, Atreyu, and Gmork, the giant wolf-like beast who has been sent to kill him.  They are thousands of miles from where they expected to be and do not recognize each other.  As the world is ending around them, and Gmork has told Atreyu that he can have the honor of being Gmork’s last victim, they have the following conversation:

Gmork: Foolish boy. Don’t you know anything about Fantasia? It’s the world of human fantasy. Every part, every creature of it, is a piece of the dreams and hopes of mankind. Therefore, it has no boundaries.

Atreyu: But why is Fantasia dying, then?

Gmork: Because people have begun to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So the Nothing grows stronger.

Atreyu: What is the Nothing?

Gmork: It’s the emptiness that’s left. It’s like a despair, destroying this world. And I have been trying to help it.

Atreyu: But why?

Gmork: Because people who have no hopes are easy to control; and whoever has the control… has the power!

This dialogue hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks, because I feel like I’ve been living this for the past few years.  I’ve struggled to write.  Struggled to maintain a positive attitude.  Struggled to hope.

I keep my political views to myself in public, but I will say that I have been absolutely crushed to watch the discourse in this country devolve into acrimony and hatred.  I see so many people who are angry and so many who have lost hope.

It would be easy to surrender to the emptiness.  To despair.  To the Nothing.

But then I thought harder.  The Nothing comes when people have lost their hopes and forgotten their dreams.  And there is a way to fight it.

Just like in “The NeverEnding Story,” a world can be reborn.  Through dreams and wishes.

I am a writer.  I have a responsibility to do my part to stave off the Nothing–the responsibility of story.  Of imagination and creativity.  Of holding up the banner of hope.

And so, re-energized, I made my way home from the park, ready to take up the charge.  To, as Bastien, the human child who saves Fantasia, said–“I will do what I dream!”

It’s time to shore up Fantasia.

It’s time to dream.