The Nothing From The NeverEnding Story Is One Of The Most Insidious Villains Of All Time

Don't let the wondrous world of Fantasia fool you, "The NeverEnding Story" is a dark, depressing movie. The late, great Wolfgang Petersen's venture into family-friendly fantasy was a groundbreaking marvel of practical effects and mature storytelling, but its serious themes and sincerely traumatic moments are often overshadowed by the iconography of Bastian triumphantly riding on the back of Falkor the luck dragon and the upbeat, catchy theme song. In reality, "The NeverEnding Story" is better classified as "baby's first existential crisis," and it's all thanks to the Nothing.

The Nothing is, as described by G'Mork, "The emptiness that's left ... like a despair destroying this world." The antagonist of "The NeverEnding Story" is not a terrible beast, a corrupt ruler, or even a supernatural force, it is simply the metaphysical representation of the absence of all things. Hope, joy, love, imagination, and all of the rest of the sensations that make life worth living are all sucked away, devoured by the Nothing, leaving a path of sorrow and depression in its wake.

To make matters worse, the existence of Nothing is the result of "human apathy, cynicism, and the denial of childish dreams." Meaning, humanity has forgotten a sense of wonder and imagination, and our own outlook on existence has created an inescapable void that is consuming all that we hold dear, until there's only Nothing left. Can you imagine trying to wrap your head around this idea as an elementary schooler? No wonder so many of us had an emo phase in high school.

How do you fight what you can't see?

"The NeverEnding Story" presents the Nothing as a raging storm, because film is a visual medium and "invisible force consuming all things" doesn't exactly translate on screen. The storm visual is perfect because it captures the demoralizing inevitability of its power. Those who inhabit the world of Fantasia seem generally happy and cheerful but eventually realize they are unable to live out their lives to the fullest, as the constant threat of the Nothing taking them away has cast a shadow over them all. There's a looming sense of dread around every corner, and it has even inspired some characters, like the Rockbiter, to feel as though life isn't worth living.

Much like the Swamps of Sadness, the Nothing serves as a metaphor for both grief and depression. As the Nothing continues to consume, it becomes harder and harder to resist the inevitability. All signs point to hopelessness and loss, and fighting to see another day feels like an impossibility. The Nothing creeps into your consciousness the same way mental illness can, completely hijacking any rational thought and replacing it with despondency. The Nothing, much like depression, is debilitating. Trying to fight the Nothing (much like trying to fight depression) feels impractical, because the only way to stop it is to utilize the very thing it destroys – hope, love, and imagination. It sounds a lot like being asked "haven't you tried not being depressed?"

There's always hope

Despite its desolate thematic elements, "The NeverEnding Story" is ultimately one about pursuing hope against all odds. The entire world of Fantasia is inevitably sucked up by the Nothing, but is revived once Bastian finally learns to embrace the future, and find better ways to cope with his negative feelings. Fantasia can be revived with just a single grain of sand, and the hope that things don't have to always be this way. It's a tiny step toward rebuilding a magical world, just as those of us enduring depression or grief make small steps each day on our path to healing. Clinging on to the hope for a better tomorrow is what allows us to make it through the day. As disconsolate as "The NeverEnding Story" sounds on paper, it's ultimately a story many depressed kids took solace in seeing affirmed on screen.

The Nothing is a reminder that the dark things we feel are as real and threatening as we believe them to be, and it's okay to be afraid of it. Depression, grief, and turmoil don't have to be the defining feelings in our lives, and hoping for better is never futile. Our lives don't have to be consumed by the Nothing, and they are always worth telling in a never-ending story.