The Neverending Story (German: Die unendliche Geschichte) is a German fantasy novel by Michael Ende that was first published in 1979. The standard English translation, by Ralph Manheim, was first published in 1983. The novel was later adapted into several films.
The book centers on a boy, Bastian Balthazar Bux, neglected by his father after the death of Bastian's mother. In escape from some bullies, Bastian bursts into the antique book store of Carl Conrad Coreander, where he finds his interest held by a book called The Neverending Story. Unable to resist, he steals the book and hides in his school's attic, where he begins to read.
The story Bastian reads is set in the magical land of Fantastica, ruled by the benevolent and mysterious Childlike Empress. A great delegation has come to the Empress to seek her help against a formless entity called "The Nothing". The delegates are shocked when the Empress's physician, a centaur named Chiron, informs them that the Empress is dying, and has summoned a boy warrior named Atreyu, to find a cure. To Atreyu, the Empress gives AURYN: a powerful medallion that protects him from all harm. At the advice of the giant tortoise Morla the Ancient One, Atreyu sets off in search of an invisible oracle, Uyulala, who may know the Empress's cure. In reaching her, he is aided by a luckdragon named Falkor, whom he rescues from the monster 'Ygramul the Many'. By Uyulala, he is told that the only thing to save the Empress is a new name given to her by a human child, beyond Fantastica's borders. As Falkor and Atreyu search for the borders of Fantastica, in a confrontation with wind giants Atreyu is flung from Falkor's back, loses AURYN in the sea, and lands, injured, in ruins of Spook City, a home to various monsters and wicked creatures. There, Atreyu finds the werewolf Gmork, chained and near death, who tells him that all the residents of the city have leapt voluntarily into the Nothing, to become lies and delusions in the human world, thanks to the irresistible pull of the destructive phenomenon. The werewolf reveals as well that he is a servant of the Nothing who wishes to prevent the Empress's chosen hero from saving her; when the princess of the city discovered Gmork's treachery against the Empress, she imprisoned him and left him to starve to death. When Atreyu announces that he is the hero Gmork has sought, the werewolf laughs and succumbs to death. However, upon being approached, Gmork's body instinctively seizes Atreyu's leg in his jaws. Meanwhile, Falkor retrieves AURYN from the sea and arrives in time to save Atreyu from the rapid approach of the Nothing.
Falkor and Atreyu go to the Childlike Empress, who assures them that they have brought her rescuer to her; Bastian suspects that the Empress means him, but cannot bring himself to believe it. When Bastian refuses to speak the new name, to prompt him into fulfilling his role as savior, the Empress herself locates the Old Man of Wandering Mountain, who possesses a book also entitled The Neverending Story, which the Empress demands he read aloud. As he begins, Bastian is amazed to find the book he is reading is repeating itself, beginning once again whenever the Empress reaches the Old Man—only this time, the story includes Bastian's meeting with Coreander, his theft of the book, and all his actions in the attic. Realizing that the story will repeat itself forever without his intervention, Bastian names the Empress 'Moon Child', and appears with her in Fantastica, where he restores its existence through his own imagination. The Empress has also given him AURYN, on which he finds the inscription "DO WHAT YOU WISH" on its back.
For each wish, Bastian loses a memory of his life as a human, and some of his ability to leave Fantastica. Unaware of this at first, Bastian goes through Fantastica, having adventures and telling stories, while losing his memories. In spite of the warnings of Atreyu and Bastian's other friends, Bastian uses AURYN to create monsters and dangers for himself to conquer, which causes some negative side effects for the rest of Fantastica. After encountering the wicked sorceress Xayide, with the mysterious absence of the Childlike Empress Bastian decides to take over Fantastica for himself, but is stopped by Atreyu, whom Bastian grievously wounds in battle. Ultimately, a repentant Bastian is reduced to two memories: those of his mother and father, and of his own name. After more adventures, Bastian must give up the memory of his parents to discover that his strongest wish is to be capable of love and give love to others (namely his own father). After much searching, and on the verge of losing his final memory, Bastian is unable to find the Water of Life with which to leave Fantastica with his memories. Here, he is found by Atreyu. In remorse, Bastian lays down AURYN at his friend's feet, and Atreyu and Falkor enter AURYN with him, where the Water of Life demands to know Bastian's name, and if Bastian has finished all the stories he began in his journey, which he has not. Only after Atreyu gives Bastian's name and promises to complete all the stories for him does the Water of Life allow Bastian to return to the human world, along with some of the mystical waters. He returns to his father, where he tells the full tale of his adventures, and thus reconciles with him. Thereafter Bastian confesses to Coreander stealing his book and losing it, but Coreander denies ever owning such a book. Coreander reveals he has also been to Fantastica, and that the book has likely moved into the hands of someone else. This, the book concludes, "is another story and shall be told another time".