Volume III (Summer 2008)
ISSN 1934-4324

Dalyne Tuttle



Adventures in the Deep: The Quest for Reconnection with the Feminine
as Depicted in the Images of The Neverending Story


Cleverly told as a story within a story, the 1984 family film, The Neverending Story, based upon Michael Ende’s book by the same name, invites viewers to join child characters Bastion and his story book counterpart Artreyu as they embark upon a quest to save an empress and the world of imagination she embodies. The vibrant and richly symbolic images in this film, brought to life by screenwriter/director Wolfgang Peterson and Herman Weigel, are used to explore themes of self discovery and the heroic quest and can be interpreted as depicting an inner search for reconnection to the creative feminine self. In this context, seen as a descent into the unconscious, these images express aspects of the heroine’s journey described by Jungian analyst Marion Woodman in her work Leaving My Father’s House, and by family therapist Maureen Murdock in her book The Heroine’s Journey, most specifically, the development of a positive masculine guide and the journey through the depths of being in order to achieve integration with the inner feminine.

All of the main characters in this film are children: Bastion; Arteyu; even the Empress, who is called the Childlike Empress. This is significant because, if viewed as aspects of a single individual’s psyche, these child characters can be recognized as symbolizing all potentiality within an individual. In their book MidlifeSpirituality and Jungian Archetypes, psychologists Janice Brewi and Anne Brennan write, “The Child archetype incorporates our damaged child and transcends it” (195). This child image implies innocence. From analyst Clarrisa Pinkola Estes’ discussion of the condition of innocence in Women Who Run With the Wolves, we learn that the root of the word innocence refers one who is “able to heal any injury or harm to [oneself],” and that a state of innocence may be entered into when one surrenders “cynicism and protectionism” and opens one’s eyes to wonder (149). So it is with deliberate purpose, we might say, that our main characters go forward on their adventure into imagination and the landscape of the unconscious as children. We anticipate the healing transformation that is to come.

Bastion is lost in the world of his father, having recently suffered the death of his mother. He is but a boy, and missing his mother terribly, he escapes into the world of books. His father admonishes Bastion to get on with his responsibilities saying, “Mom’s death is no excuse for not getting the old job done.” In this Bastion’s father represents the values of a patriarchal system concerned almost exclusively with lineal logic and which places “supreme value on what [one does]” (Murdock 6). A conflicting disconnection with the emotional life associated with the body is made apparent when the grieving process is denied by Bastion’s father, and symbolically, we understand that without his mother from whose body he has come, Bastion is separated from his emotive source. On this point Woodman writes, “…his heady Queen is dead, that is his feeling connection to life is not there” (11). The quest, therefore, is laid before us: the search for reconnection with the feminine. Murdock augments this position when she writes, “Experiencing the death of one’s child, parent, or spouse with whom one’s life and identity has been closely intertwined may mark the beginning of the journey to the underworld” (88). Bastion must make his descent to rediscover his feeling self.

It is while taking refuge in an old dusty used book store, here signaling Bastion’s search for self knowledge, that Bastion comes upon a very mysterious book majestically bound and emblazoned with a crest depicting two snakes, one gold, the other silver, entwined and each with the others tail in its mouth. Our first clue along the trail – the snake is an ancient symbol of creative feminine power and the Mother archetype (Baring and Cashford 64). From Woodman we can infer that the gold snake represents conscious intellect and spirit (sunlight), while the silver snake represents the unconscious world of the soul and the life within the body (moonlight) (27). A gray and grumbling bookseller is an unconscious ally here, rather like the instigating magician/cook discussed in the fairytale “Allerleirauh” as told in Leaving My Father’s House, “He knows that conflict makes energy. Cranky and subversive as he appears, his very negativity goads the heroine into acting from her own desires” (Woodman 19). The bookseller backhandedly offers this “special” book to Bastion with the invitation, “This book is not for you,” almost insuring Bastion will take the book away with him, which of course he does because as Murdock tells us, “The descent is a compulsion” (91). Bastion heads for school, again pressing home the point that we are on a journey for self knowledge, but he eschews his regular classes and instead hides himself in an attic, a spooky place filled with things that have been discarded, here an image of retreat to an inner place filled with psychic detritus. What treasure will be brought forth from the compost? Slowly Bastion opens the book entitled TheNeverending Story and his adventure begins.

Almost immediately upon entering this story within a story, we see an echoing image of the disconnection between the conscious and unconscious selves, the masculine and the feminine. Within the pages of The Neverending Story this disconnect is rendered in the image of the “Nothing,” a great storm that engulfs and consumes the imaginary land of Fantastica, its inhabitants, and everything within this land. Nothing is left when the Nothing strikes, not even the land itself. In The Heroine’s Journey, Murdock quotes psychologist Marti Glenn in describing this experience of the Nothing,

A woman loses her ‘inner fire’ when she is not being fed, when the soul’s flame is no longer fueled, when the promise of the dream held for so long dies. Old patterns no longer fit, the new way is not yet clear; there is darkness everywhere, and she cannot see or feel or taste or touch. Nothing means very much anymore, and she no longer knows who she really is. (74)

Understandably, the Nothing fills all of the many peoples of Fantastica with fear, consternation, and sadness. This may be likened to the grief Bastion feels over the loss of his mother but which he is unable to fully express. Envoys from the four corners of Fantastica are dispatched to the Ivory Tower to beseech the Childlike Empress for help. Mother must be told.

The Ivory Tower where the Empress resides rises from the center of a vast garden in the heart of Fantastica. It is white, shining, and beautiful like a stem of living bone, luminous with pulsing capillaries. The garden that spreads around this structure is a place concerned with growth and fruition, connoting a womb. The Empress herself lives within a lotus blossom at the top of the tower. Such a place can be construed as a “place of feminine wholeness” (Woodman 172), and is extremely significant. According to Joseph Campbell, the lotus is symbolic of the female-male goddess Kwan Yin and Avalokiteshvara, who holds in a left hand a lotus blossom. “They emerge always with a certain mystery [Kwan Yin and Avalokiteshvara]; for they conduct the mind beyond objective experience into a symbolic realm where duality is left behind” (Campbell 152). About this divine being, Campbell goes on to say:

She [Kwan Yin, the goddess of compassion] is blessed alike to the simple and the wise; for behind her vow there lies a profound intuition, world-redeeming, world sustaining. The pause on the threshold of Nirvana, the resolution to forego until the end of time (which never ends) immersion in the untroubled pool of eternity, represents a realization that the distinction between eternity and time is only apparent - made, perforce, by the rational mind, but dissolved in the perfect knowledge of the mind that has transcended the pairs of opposites. (152)

Here in the Lotus then is the integration of the male and female aspects of the psyche or transcending wholeness. But upon arriving at the Ivory Tower, the Fantasticans learn that the Childlike Empress is deathly ill, and her sickness seems somehow to be related to the Nothing attacking this unconscious world. We can infer that this mysterious illness is indicative of Bastion’s loss of his mother and his necessary quest to reconnect with the feminine represented here by the Empress. Woodman describes this connection between Bastion’s quest and the Empress’s illness when she writes:

The connection takes place in the soul, that eternal part of us that is embodied while we are on Earth. In dreams, soul is often imaged as a virgin. Like the virgin forest, she is full of the seeds of possibility, utterly in touch with nature. As an archetypal image she needs human cooperation and human consciousness to keep her transforming and growing. (112)

To this end a warrior is called up. He must endeavor to find a cure for the ailing Empress and stop the Nothing. That warrior is Artreyu, the pathfinder. He is one of the Plains People who hunt the purple buffalo, and he corresponds directly as Bastion’s spiritual warrior self. Here we see an example of the “perceiver and the perceived” (Woodman 123), about which Woodman states, “Without conscious flesh, the Word is not recognized” (118). As Bastion reads the magical book The Neverending Story, he becomes the “conscious witness” of an unconscious part of himself (Woodman 123). Woodman quotes Eric Neumann on this point as well:

The epiphany of that which had hitherto been hidden requires not only an ego to which it can manifest itself, but to an even greater degree, calls for an act of attention and devotion on the part of the ego, an aptitude for being “moved,” a willingness to see what wants to appear. (1)

Bastion is the conscious ego, while Artreyu is his epiphany, and as such Artreyu plays a very important role. Artreyu is a fantasy of “…the positive inner masculine figure” (Murdock 31). Murdock tells us that, “The inner male will be a supportive guide throughout the heroine’s [hero’s] journey” (32). In this context, one views the masculine as “…an archetypal force…not a gender” (Murdock 156).

So Arteyu, the warrior, answers the call, and one of the Empress’s counselors places an amulet around his neck. It is the Auryn, an insignia of two snakes, one silver, and one gold, the same as the crest upon the front cover of The Neverending Story. All within Fantastica recognize this talisman for it marks its bearer as one acting for the Empress. The Auryn also guides and protects the one who wears it. It is the mark of the Mother. This talisman is reminiscent of the golden ring, spinning wheel, and reel in the Allerleirauh story and as such symbolizes Bastion’s tentative connection to the feminine center of being. It is a mark of the covenant being made with the archetypal feminine and in the broader terms of one’s life, can be construed as marking a time when one decides to look within the self for meaning (Woodman 205). Artreyu now carries with him the hope of all Fantastica as he embarks upon his quest, and he takes Bastion along with him. Together they will descend further. Astride his companion, the horse, Artax, Arteyu rides off in search of a cure for the Empress.

Arteyu, however, is not the only one setting out upon a quest. Just as Arteyu and Artax ride off, deep in another part of Fantasia, the wolf, Gmork, a creature of darkness, leaves the blackness of his lair to begin his own search. He hunts Arteyu. Now in fairytales, the image of the wolf is often used as the face of the devourer, the evil one, being one of the few creatures able to prey upon humankind in actual experience. In this tradition Gmork embodies Bastion’s Shadow self: all that Bastion deems unacceptable in himself, all that is considered negative and is suppressed. The Shadow “…is the totality of the weak, dark, unpleasant, ugly side of oneself” (Brewi and Brennan 89). The realization of one’s Shadow is indicative of one’s psychological maturation. As the ego gains definition and form, it begins to distinguish itself to a greater degree from all that is rejected within the psyche, and because the Shadow is a mirror image of the ego, as the ego personality gains definition, so too does the Shadow (Brewi and Brennan 90). As Bastion brings more of his unconscious world into focus in the form of his positive animus, Arteyu, his Shadow also takes form and becomes the wolf, Gmork. All that resides within the psyche must be encompassed in order to attain wholeness. Gmork can be seen as “…the repressed rage that lies hidden beneath depression” (Woodman 114) now being released as Bastion begins to make connection with his feeling self.

Artreyu travels many miles in his search, never realizing that Gmork follows close on his heels, while Bastion reads along in the book. Artreyu searches all the landscapes of the soul: the Silver Mountains, the Desert of Shattered Hopes, and the Crystal Towers until finally he reaches the edge of the Swamp of Sadness. Here, atop Shell Mountain in the center of the swamp lives Morla, the Aged One, the wisest being in Fantastica. Surely she will know where a cure for the Empress might be found. But traversing the Swamp of Sadness is a tricky business, because if one is overtaken by sadness, one will sink into the swamp and drown. Arteyu and his horse begin the hard slog. Artax is Artryeu’s closest friend; together they hunt the purple buffalo upon the grassy plains of their homeland where they are well known. But in the tradition of the story of Inanna as told in The Heroine’s Journey, to make the descent to the underworld, one must relinquish all personal identity to the devouring fires of the passage (102). And so it is that here in the slurping muck of the Swamp of Sadness, Arteyu looses his link with his former identity when Artax is swallowed by the swamp and torn from Artreyu’s heart. Murdock remarks, “When a woman makes her descent she may feel stripped bare, dismembered, or devoured by rage. She experiences a loss of identity, a falling away of the perimeters of a known role and the fear that accompanies loss” (90). Pressed beyond choice, Artreyu continues on his trek, his feet sinking more deeply into the brown mire, his tears fresh on his face, and Bastion cries with him. Murdock tells us that, “This journey to the underworld is filled with confusion and grief… [one] may feel naked and exposed, dry and brittle, raw and turned inside-out” (88). In the distance Artreyu sees Shell Mountain.

Climbing to the top of this vast hill covered with swamp grass, Arteyu calls out for Morla, and to his surprise, the hill begins to shake. Morla, he finds, is a turtle. Her shell back forms the shape of the mountain. This image becomes more significant when we learn from Joseph Campbell that in Native American mythologies, “The dome of the heavens rests on the quarters of the earth, sometimes supported by…turtles” (42), and when Morla‘s head lifts from her shell, we see from her wrinkled countenance that she is a crone. In this light, Morla, the Aged One, becomes part of the very foundations of the psyche. She is bone deep knowledge, a wisdom so ancient, it is timeless, and as Woodman teaches us concerning crones, “She has no investment in ego and she can therefore love with no desire to control. Her clarity brings us in touch with our feeling, puts us in touch with our feminine soul” (203). When lost and discouraged on our journey toward wholeness, this crone aspect of ourselves may show itself and point the way. We see this pattern in the myth of Persephone and Demeter that Murdock relates in The Heroine’s Journey when Hecate suggests to Demeter that she seek out Helios, the Sun God, in order to discover what happened to Persephone. In the same manner, Morla points Artreyu toward the next leg of his journey. She tells him to seek the Southern Oracle and ask the Oracle how the Empress might be cured. Unfortunately, Morla also tells Artreyu that the Southern Oracle is 10,000 miles away. “There are no easy answers in the underworld; there is no quick way out” (Murdock 88).

Discouragement about ever reaching the Southern Oracle in time to save the Empress weighs upon Artreyu’s every step. As hope leaches from him into the muddy waters of the Swamp of Sadness, he sinks deeper into the squelching morass until he is clawing his way forward. Murdock describes this part of a woman’s descent to self when she says, “He takes me down deeper that we have gone before, and I am truly afraid that I will drown. I sputter and swallow too much water as we descend below the swamp” (93). Meanwhile, Gmork follows, closing in upon Artreyu. The wolf’s breath comes in eager gasps as he scents his prey. But just at the moment when Gmork launches himself toward Artreyu, who is floundering in the swamp, a light streaks across the sky, and out of the clouds comes a creature with white, iridescent scales and a long serpent’s tail. It is the luck dragon, Falkor. He snatches Artreyu from Gmork’s grasp and flies away with Artreyu held carefully in his doglike jaws. If Gmork represents all that Bastion suppresses, then Falkor symbolizes all that Bastion aspires to. In this way Falkor is a balancing influence who descends from the sky almost as an aspect of divinity to thwart the devouring threat of the forces of darkness. In the Chinese tradition, dragons were considered “benevolent spirits associated with happiness and prosperity,” and they embodied yang or masculine energy (Storm 222.) In this light, we can liken Falkor to the Sumerian water god Enki who appears in Murdock’s rendition of the tale of Inanna’s descent. Here Enki is described as “…the generative, creative, playful, empathetic masculine” (107) who helps free Inanna from captivity in the underworld. Falkor is an important psychic ally. Joseph Campbell asserts that, “the protective power of …the supernatural helpers of the myths and fairy tales of the world, are mankind’s assurances that the arrow, the flames, and the flood are not as brutal as they seem” (129). Falkor flies Artreyu all the many thousands of miles to the first gate of the Southern Oracle. Bastion flies too, through the pages of the book.

Artreyu wakes from a healing sleep at the very threshold of the first gate of the Southern Oracle. He is attended by Falkor, the Luck Dragon, and two brown, gnarled gnomish people, a husband and wife. Joseph Campbell writes about this very circumstance in HeroWith a Thousand Faces when he says, “With the personifications of his destiny to guide and aid him, the hero[/heroine] goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the ‘threshold guardian’ at the entrance to the zone of magnified power” (77). Here the “threshold guardian[s]” is represented by this gnome couple. Gnomes are creatures of the Earth who dwell amid the roots of trees and in other underground spaces, so here the appearance of gnomes leads us to understand that we are now deep in the underworld, the world of the feeling body. It is this gnome wife who nursed Arteyu after his harrowing experience in the Swamp of Sadness. She is a healer, a simple woman skilled in the use of herbs. She hums over her cauldron, cooking up medicines to heal the sick. Estes tells us that the healer is akin to the wild nature, she “…carries the bundles for healing…she carries the medicine for all things” (10). Her gnomish husband is a teacher, a scientist, who “…carries stories and dreams and words and songs and signs and symbols” (Estes 10). Together they help Artreyu prepare for his encounter with the first gate. Again we may refer to Estes on this point, “Psychically, it is good to make a halfway place, a way station, a considered place in which to rest and mend after one escapes a famine. It is not too much to take one year, two years, to assess one’s wounds, seek guidance, apply the medicines, consider the future” (251). When he feels ready, Artreyu approaches the first gate.

The first gate is within a vast, rocky canyon, flanked by two enormous sphinxes. They sit very erect, taloned feet planted before them, bare breasts bold and daunting. Their eyes are closed. Artreyu approaches cautiously, remembering the little gnome’s teaching: the sphinx’s eyes will stay closed until they feel the presence of one who does not have a sense of his/her own worth. Then the sphinx’s eyes will open and strike dead the one passing. When crossing this way, one who thinks herself kind may find she is cruel, and one who thinks herself brave may perceive her own cowardice. According to analysts Anne Baring and Jules Cashford in their book, The Myth of the Goddess, the sphinx is a representation of the ancient Bird Goddess “in her aspect as the bringer of death and regeneration” (60). To approach the mysteries of the feminine, one must have courage, for the unveiling that occurs at these inner gates mean the “removal of old illusions and false identities that may have served in the upper world but count for nothing in the Netherworld” (Murdock 105). The sphinxes at this gate are reminiscent of Inanna’s underworld sister, Ereshkigal, discussed in The Heroine’s Journey, “She demands that we look at those parts of ourselves from which we have split….Her impersonal force is not only destructive but transformative…” (104). The adventure in the deep is a forge where one is tempered, “…chastened and cleansed by the fires of transformation” (Murdock 88). Artreyu clutches the talisman around his neck, closes his own eyes, and runs headlong through the gate. He passes through to the other side but only to find himself in the rages of a blizzard.

Artreyu is bounded on all sides by shifting curtains of blinding snow. Unable to see through the torrent, he feels his way forward, arms outstretched. Woodman speaks of this condition when she writes, “Too much consciousness too fast can result in temporary blinding” (30). Emotions that are denied expression can become frozen in time, growing into mountains of ice that block our access to parts of ourselves, and obstruct the flow of our energies. In support of this point, Murdock tells us, “Feelings that are not acknowledged do not go away, they go underground and bind us to the past” (121). Within Bastion, this is just such a frozen place, perhaps the place of his grief. Having felt his way along through the blizzard, Arteyu comes upon a mirror set into the frozen mountainside like a gateway. It is the second gateway to the Southern Oracle. Within this mirror one sees reflected the true image of oneself. Here one is “released into what is true in themselves. Or flee” (Woodman 202). Looking curiously, cautiously into the mirror, Artreyu spies not his own image, but that of Bastion. So, the perceiver is perceived. Reading this in his magical book, Bastion gives a great gasp as a connection is made between his unconscious and conscious selves, and he becomes aware that the warrior, Artreyu, is an aspect of himself. Woodman advances this idea when she writes, “To speak about all this that is happening to you, that is the flesh becoming Word, the masculine bringing the experience to consciousness in the body” (246). Having endured the hardships of his journey through the story, Bastion’s ego has grown strong enough to “…dialogue with the unconscious energies that are pushing [him] into new territory” (Woodman 205). Artreyu reaches out a hand to touch the glass and the reflection held there, and he realizes that he is able to pass through this icy mirror and move on to the other side.

On that other side, he finds himself once more before two immense sphinxes, but these radiate a brilliant blue light. They are the Southern Oracle. Deep within Bastion, this is a shrine, his inner connection to the divine, and a place where hidden knowledge may be revealed. It is Bastion’s experience of the sacred. The two sphinxes speak to Artreyu in resonating, ethereal tones, “Do not be afraid,” they tell him. “We have been waiting a long time.” Like Parsifal in Murdock’s telling of the Fisher King story (155), Arteyu asks his question, “What ails the Empress?” He is made to understand that, in order to be saved, the Empress must be given a new name, and only a human child can do this, one found beyond the boundaries of Fantastica. But even as the sphinxes tell him this, they begin to crumble. Without the nourishing flow that comes from connection with the feminine, all structures within the psyche begin to break down. We sense that time grows short; the Nothing draws nearer. Artreyu frantically begins to run. He must reach the borders of Fantastica. He calls out for Falkor, and Falkor appears. Together they fly away over the Sea of Possibilities in search of a human child.

The vast Sea of Possibilities represents a shift into the unknown realm of possible futures, and as such, we understand that the work now to be done will involve choice and the application of will. But far out over this sea, Artreyu and Falkor find they can go no further when they are confronted by the wild, buffeting winds of the Nothing. Falkor is tossed about like a feather by these fierce winds, and Artreyu is knocked from his back, falling helplessly into the sea. Falkor, beaten back by the driving winds, cannot reach him. So it is that some time later, Artreyu wakes on an unfamiliar shore. The Auryn is gone from around his neck, and Falkor is no where in sight. He calls and he calls, but Falkor does not appear. He is alone, and without the reassuring solidity of the Auryn against his chest, he feels naked. Murdock describes this part of the journey, when one may feel “…an incredible sense of emptiness, of being left out, shunned, left behind, without value...She may feel homeless, orphaned, in a place of in-between” (105). The beach, in this sense, can be considered an image of the in-between with the land on the one hand and the sea on the other. Unsure which way he should go, when Artreyu finds the foot prints of a wolf in the sand, and he begins to track the animal.

Artreyu follows the footprints into a ruined city, symbolic, perhaps, of old patterns and old attitudes, old projections no longer inhabited. On this point, while referencing the “Allerleirauh” fairytale, Woodman tells us, “Preparing to wear the gold dress means dismantling central control and beginning the arduous process of pulling back projections and owning our own light and darkness” (32). Even as Artreyu wanders warily down one of the city streets, great cracks appear in the ground, shaken apart by the tremors of the Nothing. To escape, he climbs the stairs of what appears to be a temple, and stepping inside, he is astounded to find upon the walls murals depicting all the segments of his journey: his old life hunting on the plains with Artax; Artax sinking into the Swamp of Sadness; his meeting with Morla, the Aged One; his passage through the gate of the Southern Oracle; his flight with Falkor; and finally, an image unfamiliar to him, that of himself facing the wolf, Gmork. Now, in Leaving My Father’s House, Rita Greer Allen writes about the first of the Greek Fates who is called Clothos. She is the spinner and weaver of the web of life. She arrives at one’s birth to spin the thread that will run through one’s life (Woodman 332). This temple, this sacred space, then can be said to hold the life thread of Bastion’s journey in his image as spiritual warrior. The murals on the walls we can liken to a dream image Greer relates in the same book, Leaving My Father’s House. She describes thick paper veils construed as experiences she has passed through, until “with the passage through the final veil,” she is able to see into the dark mysteries of her own soul (Woodman 332). In the same way Artreyu’s past experiences are laid out before him like cave paintings on the walls of the ruined temple. The last image, however, in which Artreyu confronts the dark aspect of Gmork, is one that evokes the present moment. Indeed, Gmork is already within the temple waiting.

As we have said, Gmork represents Bastion’s shadow self: all that he rejects, suppresses, and blocks out. Woodman reminds us that “When blocking happens, on an archetypal level, it becomes evil” (320). Behind him, Artreyu hears Gmork’s deep growl, and turning, he sees the wolf framed in a cave-like opening in the far wall. Gmork’s eyes shine with a menacing green glow in the half light filtering down through the ruined dome of the temple ceiling. Snarling, Gmork speaks, and Artreyu questions. In this way Bastion gleans from his shadow all that may be of use to him on his journey, for Gmork is full of dark secrets. Fantastica, we learn from the wolf, is the world of human fantasy, the world of human dreams and hopes, and therefore, has no boundaries. As he speaks Gmork delights in the despair evident in Artreyu’s face upon hearing this news. Gmork knows about Artreyu’s quest. When people forget their dreams, the wolf continues, when they loose hope, the emptiness left behind breeds despair. It is this despair that fuels the Nothing destroying Fantastica. People with no hope are easy to control, Gmork adds, and the one who has that control then has the power. In this speech we sense the long reach of the arm of patriarchy and all that is concerned with domination and power, that authority demanding unquestioning conformity. Staring into the wolf’s eyes, Artreyu asks, “Who are you really?”

“I am the servant of the power behind the Nothing, sent to kill the one who could stop the Nothing,” Gmork growls.

“Then I shall die fighting,” Atreyu tells him, and pulling his knife from his belt, he yells, “Come for me Gmork, for I am Arteyu!” In a ferocious embrace, in the mingling of blood drawn by fang and knife, the two opposing energies join and become one, and at the last, as Artreyu pulls his knife from the body of the dead wolf, Bastion severs the hold of that which threatened to overwhelm him. Instead his larger, more flexible ego expands to contain the opposing aspects of himself in equilibrium (Woodman 309). Woodman tells us that the knife, symbol of “phallic energy…can separate the enduring from the ephemeral, making room and conserving energy for what is essential to the core” (203). In calling forth his own name, this young warrior, Bastions spiritual self, re-membered his own power, helped along by the reminders in the painted murals on the walls of the temple. This is reminiscent of the tale of Demeter and Persephone in The Heroine’s Journey when Demeter, fueled by rage at being berated by a mortal woman, remembers who she really is and transforms from old nanny to shining goddess (97).

Elsewhere, while Artreyu confronts the fear that threatens to control Bastion’s life, Falkor flies over the Sea of Possibilities searching for Artreyu. He spies, far below in the depths of the sea, the glint of gold and silver. Diving down into the water, he comes up the Auryn in his mouth. In dream and fairytale, water can be said to connote a level of deep emotion or a spiritual plane. So here, Artreyu’s faithful ally, the luck dragon, reaches into Bastion’s inner depths to retrieve his lost connection to the feminine, his talisman.

Leaving the carnage of the temple, Artreyu faces into the full force of the Nothing as the great storm descends upon the ruined city. Fighting his way through vicious winds, Artreyu is in danger of being consumed by the Nothing when suddenly Falkor swoops down from above and carries Artreyu away from the clutches of the storm. Upward they fly, over the Nothing into…silence and darkness. Fantastica they realize is gone. Artreyu and Falkor fly now only through darkness and astral debris, hoping that with the help of the Auryn, they will find the Ivory Tower, or what is left of it, and the Empress. This is the final leg of Artreyu’s journey. Woodman teaches about this time in the journey when she writes,

The final task of [the] journey is to see that hole, not as an empty void, but as a teeming universe. She learns to trust the darkness of the night until the stars are revealed. Following her own feeling in the silence of her own soul, allowing herself to be guided from inside rather than charging toward her conscious ideals, the feminine gradually-very gradually-becomes aware of the stars radiant in the darkness. She is quiet in the presence of a divine order of which she is a part. (200)

The Auryn does, indeed, begin the glow blue, and the Tower appears floating in the vast, dark void on a crumbling piece of rock. Falkor alights upon the lotus blossom, and Artreyu climbs the dais steps. There sits the Childlike Empress.

She is the image of a young girl, set regally in the center of the blossom. She asks Artreyu, “Why do you look so sad?” Artreyu takes the Auryn from his neck and handing it to her says, “I have failed you, and the Nothing has destroyed Fantastica. I was not able to find a human child.”

“No,” she tells him. “You have not failed. You have brought him with you, the human child. He has suffered with you to come here. He is listening right now to every word we say.”

“Why does he not give you a new name, then?” Artreyu wonders.

“Bastion!” the Empress calls.

In the attic of his school building, Bastion throws down the enchanted book, stunned into disbelief. He begins to deny his connection to The Neverending Story, unable to bring this deep feminine center into consciousness. Woodman states regarding this, “She [the Empress] was asking for the sacrifice of personal ego desires to a higher purpose” (203). Would Bastion be able to make that sacrifice? Bastion picks up the book again. Even while he had stood vacillating, the rock that held the Ivory Tower had begun to crumble.

“Call out my name, Bastion!” the Empress cries, “Please!”

And Bastion understands at last that the Empress will disappear if he does not give her a new name. “Surrender to the unknown” is the demand of feminine consciousness (Woodman 202). “Of course,” Woodman adds, “that looks crazy to a rational mind in which trusting transformative process is throwing oneself over to chaos…Anything could happen” (202). Bastion’s father had told him to keep his feet on the ground. His is the voice of Bastion’s “inner tyrant” (Murdock 159). Murdock remarks upon this very dilemma in The Heroine’s Journey when she says, “Each time we deny our feelings, body, dreams, and intuition we serve this inner tyrant” (159).

“Do what you dream, Bastion. Call my name!” the empress cries again, desperately. Here again, Woodman tells us, “She [the Empress] cajoles a dreamer into throwing away an old persona and the dead skins of patriarchy” (202).

“I will do it. I will do what I dream!” Bastion decides, and standing, he runs to the window. Throwing it open, he calls out his own dead mother’s name; the Empress is named anew, and in the process, Bastion gives birth to the feminine in his heart, the “divine child” (Murdock 161). By naming his feminine self, Bastion lays claim to it, revitalizing his connection to and integrating the creative feeling aspects within himself.

When Bastion turns away from the window, he finds he is alone in the dark void of the universe with the Empress. In her hand she holds a single grain of sand. It is all that is left of Fantastica and the Ivory Tower. It begins to glow with white light. Woodman describes this moment:

It takes a strong ego to hold the darkness, wait, hold the tension, wait, waiting for we know not what. But if we can hold long enough, a tiny light is conceived in the dark unconscious, and if we can wait and hold, in its own time it will be born in its full radiance. (115)

The Empress gives Bastion the grain of sand and tells him to make a wish. In this way, she says, Fantastica will rise again in Bastion, and the more wishes he makes, the more magnificent it will be. Bastion does wish, again and again, creating his life in greater fullness with each wish. Woodman says it is “the Great Goddess who gives form to the formless…each moment is an event, designed to transform into the next” (150 -151). Bastion’s quest is fulfilled.

The images in this film, like all other images in stories, poems, myths, and fairytales, reflect the visages of our own inner aspects and dynamics. The collective faces of these heroes and heroines, villains and monsters, allies and talismans, fuel our imaginations. They encourage us to embark upon our own journeys. To uncover the supportive resilience of one’s positive masculine self, to journey with him through the labyrinthine channels of the unconscious, to surrender finally within the feminine core, that is our challenge, our quest. “Are we willing to be edge dwellers and to walk between the worlds?” (Murdock 179). Our images symbolize the essence of our own never ending stories.


Works Cited


Baring, Anne, and Jules Cashford. The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image.
            New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1993.


Brewi, Janice, and Anne Brennan. Mid-Life Spirituality and Jungian Archetypes. Maine:           
           Nicholas-Hays, 1999.


Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. New Jersey: Princeton University

          Press, 1973.


Estes, Clarrisa Pinkola. Women Who Run with the Wolves. New York: Ballantine

          Books, 1995.


Murdock, Maureen. The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness. Boston:

          Shambhala Publications, 1990.


Storm, Rachel. The Encyclopedia of Eastern Mythology. New York: Lorenz Books,



Woodman, Marion. Leaving My Father’s House: A Journey to Conscious Femininity.

          Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1992.