Can you believe that I never read this book in my childhood?! I guess we’re all late for something! Although come to think of it, I think it was read to me when I used to go to summer camp. Then, in sixth grade, I recall seeing the film adaptation and didn’t realize what it was until I heard the name Falkor.
It wasn’t until this year my friend gave it to me as a birthday present, I guess he wanted me to go to Fantastica like he once did, so now this is the full experience I can now share my thoughts on.
I began to remember the story the moment I first started reading when Bastian stole the book from the bookstore and then snuck into the school’s attic to read it and for the first half of the book, it consists of going back and forth between the actual story and Bastian’s reactions in between as time goes by.
Fantastica is a world with many fantasy creatures I’d expect like sprites and rock giants, but it is slowly falling apart due to what is called the Nothing, and to top that off, its ruler, the Childlike Empress is gravely ill. The only way to cure her is to give her a new name. The task is bestowed upon Atreyu who first travels to seek answers before he discovers that the name is the only way.
I remember fondly how he first saw the Nothing from a distance and the author described it vividly without being direct. To me, the Nothing is black patches of emptiness eating away at the edges of this world or right in the middle of it.
Then there was the Swamps of Sadness, the saddest part when Atreyu’s steed then sinks below. In the book, they made him talk and upon entering the swamps he tried to encourage his master that it’s hopeless to continue on to find Morla the Aged One for answers. When he can no longer be freed he begs Atreyu to look away, while in the movie he doesn’t speak and Atreyu struggles to pull him out and watches horrifically as he sinks. I think that’s what happened, again, I should probably watch the film again. I do also remember Atreyu being a lot more anxious in it.
I think Falkor is a lot more dragon-ish looking in the book, for a luckdragon that is. In the movie, he looks like a serpent dragon with a canine face. Then again, dragons don’t always have to be visualized with the typical dragon look. I like how optimistic he was.
Another great part was when Atreyu meets the wounded Gmork who is revealed to be the dark creature stalking him, but lost the trail when he freed Falkor from the clutches of Ygramul. Gmork reveals the truth about the Nothing and seems to inadvertently save Atreyu from its pull.
By the time I was halfway through this book, I realized that Bastian reading it and the events in Fantastica were all connected and that he was to give the Empress a new name which was “Moon Child” I’m not sure how he was drawn into Fantastica after that, but from there he began to rebuild it with his own imagination and began to slowly lose his memories of his real self in the process.
This was the point where I began to lose track of what was happening in the book, though it was actually just Bastian wishing for all sorts of things, including to make himself stronger and better-looking. That, unfortunately, costs him allies, and then until the end he realizes he must return home. The part with Dame Eyola and then the Water of Life really scarred me and everything is different when he comes home, like he finally has what he wants in life, which is love.
Even if not everything in the book I could easily follow, I could picture everything vividly and it was an enjoyable read.