The premise of the original Neverending Story (both book and film) represents the coming of a plague dubbed as the ‘Nothing’, where the world is coming to an end because people lack the imagination to keep it stable. Most movies dealing with the apocalypse have adults running about to stop it from happening, yet the Neverending Story is the exact opposite. The Neverending Story presents a world where children are allowed to make choices without adult interference; how a child goddess goes to great lengths in acting as a guide to stop the ‘Nothing’ from destroying a world imbued with creativity and imagination; and how misconceptions of juvenile daydreaming breaks down to teach us how gifted children carry the imagination to actually bring about change.
It may be dubbed as a coming of age story, where the transition to puberty is generated by blighted dreams and hopeless fantasies. The ‘Nothing’ does not represent the end of the world, but the end of human imagination and the rise of apathy.
Interesting fact? The elder populace in Fantasia relies on the young to save their world. The leader of all their consciousness is the moon child empress, who represents the ruling order of the fictional land of Fantasia. An extraordinary being, the child empress is the incubator of all imagination generally found in childhood and somehow lost in adulthood.
Fantasia is an art world, where no social boundaries exist and mythological figures as well as inanimate objects live together in harmony. The entire world, a metaphor of the human imagination, is dependent on planet earth to survive and thrive. The female child empress is particularly dependent on Sebastian to save Fantasia from vanishing. There is a correlation here between change, heroism and the feminine.
It is no surprise that the mythological savior is a child goddess. In archetypal mythology, child motifs are an anticipation of future developments. They pave the way to progress, rather than stay bitter behind the times. “The more wishes you make, the more magnificent Fantasia will become,” says the child empress to Sebastian after she encourages him to save Fantasia from being destroyed. Since Sebastian is an earthling child, he lives between what archetypal mythology calls the opposites.
That line between the conscious and unconscious: light and darkness. His comprehension of both gives him the power of transformation for the common good, which the empress plays a huge role in as the female messiah in action. She is the vehicle of transformation leading other male child heroes, like Sebastian and Atreyu, to act. She is the commander of the male child heroes. They unite the opposites into a complete whole. The child empress in all her perfection is noted for her impact as a mediator and bringer of healing. In archetypal mythology, she is the complete ‘whole’. Being part of the larger ‘whole’ means that she accepts her connection to the group outside her fantasy realm-namely humans.
She looks human, but is wholly supernatural or semi-divine making her ever more susceptible of not fitting into the norm. She is the bridge between human conscious and unconscious, meaning that she is the bridge between the divine and human nature. The divine, which the Fantasia she lives in is made of, is a symbol of collective light preserved by the seeds of all human idealism. The light is the conscious, whereas the unconscious is the ‘nothing’ force or the villainous side of human nature waiting to destroy the light. The child empress envisages the ‘nothing’ as the end of all idealism. What happens if the children, the conscious of all human race, do not preserve their imagination as a way of fighting the nothing? “Then there will be no Fantasia anymore,” says the empress when Sebastian asks a similar question.
Her power lies in her guidance and encouraging the young to pursue their dreams and ambitions. “Fantasia can arise in you… in your dreams and wishes,” says the empress to Sebastian after he follows her request to save the world through being creative by choosing a new name for her. Her new name is a symbol of cultural rebirth, but that is another story.
Sci-Fi Author Ursula LeGuin's Stories of Class War, Religious Dissension, Identity Politics and More