I finally got a chance to read this book this past week, and I have to say, it's an fascinating novel. I can most certainly tell major differences between the book and the movie version(s). I can surely recommend this book.
There are basically two journeys: Bastian's reading Atreyu's journey by reading a book and Bastian's own journey inside the said book. There are a lot of themes in this book that can be grasped by adults, so this book is not just for children (it meant to bring out the child in us).
I'd like to share my observations from this book (and it'll contain spoilers):
It was interesting to see that Atreyu's journey was really about bring Bastian into the story. It sort of a sense of dissociation - escaping into the story (or meeting of two selves) - and then Bastian became completely involved in the story and saved the Fantastica by giving the Childless Empress a name, which starts a new cycle of life in Fantastica. When Bastian became involved in the story, he was wearing the AURYN (medallion) that would grant him many wishes but down the road, it became clear that more wishes he wanted, the more memories he loses. And, he would lose his "self." Atreyu and Falkor are the ones who see the problem with the continuous wishing. The more Bastian wishful thinking, the less real he becomes. And, Atreyu had led a rebellion to go against Bastian and take the medallion away from him. In the end, Bastian lost all senses of who he was but with Atreyu's help, he was able to "go back home."
It appears that Bastian and Atreyu are different aspects of each other (since they saw each other in the Magic Mirror). Atreyu never stray from his goal and knew the dangers while Bastian was continuing to wishful think, wanting to be an "Emperor," and his wishes led to his downfall. Bastian's actions were surely STS and in the world where his wishes were become so true and real to him.
That reminds me of what the Cs said:
Q: (L) How can you be so sure it will fail?
A: Because we see it. We are able to see all, not just what we want to see. Their failing is that they see only what they want to see. In other words, it's the highest manifestation possible of that which you would refer to as wishful thinking. And, wishful thinking represented on the fourth level of density becomes reality for that level. You know how you wishfully think? Well, it isn't quite reality for you because you are on the third level, but if you are on the fourth level and you were to perform the same function, it would indeed be your awareness of reality. Therefore they cannot see what we can see since we serve others as opposed to self, and since we are on sixth level, we can see all that is at all points as is, not as we would want it to be.
There are bits of excerpts from the books that were of interest, at least to me.
Atreyu's conversation with Gmork the Werewolf:
"All of us?" asked Atreyu in horror.
"No," said Gmork, "There are many kinds of delusion. According to what you are here, ugly or beautiful, stupid or clever, you will become ugly or beautiful, stupid or clever lies."
"What about me?" Atreyu asked. "What will I be?"
"I won't tell you that. You'll see. Or rather, you won't see, because you won't be yourself anymore."
Atreyu stared at the werewolf with wide-open eyes.
Gmork went on:
"That's why humans hate Fantastica and everything comes from here. They want to destroy it. And they don't realize that by trying to destroy it they multiply the lies that keep flooding the human world. For these lies are nothing other than creatures of Fantastica who have ceased to be themselves and survive only as living corpses, poisoning the souls of men with their fetid smell. But humans don't know it. Isn't that a good joke?"
"And there's no one left in the human world," Atreyu asked in a whisper, "who doesn't hate and fear us?"
"I know of none," said Gmork. "And it's not surprising, because you yourselves, once you're there, can't help working to make humans believe that Fantastica doesn't exist."
"Doesn't exist?" the bewildered Atreyu repeated.
"That's right, sonny," said Gmork. "In fact, that's the heart of the matter. Don't you see? If humans believe Fantastica doesn't exist, they won't get idea of visiting your country. And as long as they don't know you creatures of Fantastica as you really are, the Manipulators do what they like with them."
"What can they do?"
"Whatever they please. When it comes to controlling human beings there is no better instrument than lies. Because, you see, humans live by beliefs. And beliefs can be manipulated. The power to manipulate beliefs is the only thing that counts. That's why I sided with the powerful and served them - because I wanted to share their power."
"I want no part in it!" Atreyu cried out.
"Take it easy, you little fool," the werewolf growled. "When your turn comes to jump into the Nothing, you too will be a nameless servant of power, with no will of your own. Who knows what use they will make of you? Maybe you'll help them persuade people to buy things they don't need, or hate things they know nothing about, or hold beliefs that make them easy to handle, or doubt the truths that might save them. Yes, you little Fantastican, big things will be done in the human world with your help, wars started, empires founded..."
For a time Gmork peered at the boy out of half-closed eyes. Then he added: "The human world is full of weak-minded people, who think they're as clever as can be and are convinced that it's terribly important to persuade even the children that Fantastica doesn't exist. Maybe they will be able to make good use of you."
Atreyu stood there with bowed head.
Now he knew why humans had stopped coming to Fantastican and why none would come to give the Childlike Empress new names. The more of Fantastica that was destroyed, the more lies flooded the human world, and the more unlikely it became that a child of man should come to Fantastica. It was a vicious circle from which there was no escape. Now Atreyu knew it.
The above as bolded made me think, on some level, of the same energy being expressed through either one of two ways: creativity or non-creativity.
And, Bastian's journey after his visit to the City of the Old Emperors:
The town was not very large, and Bastian had soon come to the edge of it. There he saw hundreds of ships of every size and shape. The town was a seaport, but of a most unusual kind, for all these ships were hanging from gigantic fishing poles and hovered, swaying gently, over a chasm full of swirling white mist. These ships, made of wickerwork like everything else, had neither sails nor masts nor oars nor rudders.
Bastian leaned over the railing and looked down into the Sea of Mist. He was able to gauge the length of the stakes supporting the town by the shadows they cast on the white surface below.
"At night," he heard a voice beside him say, "the mists rise to the level of the town. Then we can put out to sea. In the daytime the sun reduces the mist and level falls. That's what you wanted to know, isn't it, stranger?"
Three men were leaning against the railing beside Bastian. They seemed gentle and friendly. They got to talking and in the course of his conversation with them Bastian learned that the town was called Yskal or Basketville. Its inhabitants were known as Yskalnari. The word meant roughly "the partners." The three were mist sailors. Not wishing to give his name for fear of being recognized, Bastian introduced himself as "Someone." The three sailors told him the Yskalnari had no names for individuals and didn't find it necessary. They were all Yskalnari and that was enough for them.
Since it was lunchtime, they invited Bastian to join them, and he gratefully accepted. They went to a nearby inn, and during the meal Bastian learned all about Basketville and its inhabitants.
The Sea of Mist, which they called the Skaidan, was an enormous ocean of white vapor, which divided the two parts of Fantastica from each other. No one had ever found out how deep the Skaidan was or where all this mist came from. It was quite possible to breathe below the surface of the mist, and to walk some distance on the bottom of the sea near the coast, where the mist was relatively shallow, but only if one was tied to a rope and could be pulled back. For the mist had one strange property: it fuddled one's sense of direction. Any number of fools and daredevils had died in the attempt to cross the Skaidan alone and on foot. Only a few had been rescued. The only way to reach the other side was in the ships of the Yskalnari.
The wickerwork, from which the houses, implements, clothing, and ships of Yskal were made, was woven from a variety of rushes that grew under the surface of the sea not far from the shore. These rushes - as can easily be gathered from foregoing - could be cut only at the risk of one's life. Though unusually pliable and even limp in ordinary air, they stood upright in the sea, because they were lighter than the mist. That was what made the wickerwork ships mistworthy. And if any of the Yskalmari chanced to fall into the mist, his regular clothing served the purpose of a life jacket.
But the strangest thing about the Yskalnari, so it struck Bastian, was the word "I" seemed unknown to them. In any case, they never used it, but in speaking of what they thought or did always said "we."
When he gathered from the conversation that the three sailors would be putting out to sea that night, he asked if he could ship with them as a cabin boy. They informed him that a voyage on the Skaidan was very different from any other ocean voyage, because no one knew how long it would take or exactly where it would end up. When Bastian said that didn't worry him, they agreed to take him on.
At nightfall the mists began to rise and by midnight they had reached the level of Basketville. The ships that had been dangling in midair were now floating on the white surface. The moorings of the one on which Bastian found himself - a flat barge about a hundred feet long - were cast off, and it drifted slowly out into the Sea of Mist.
The moment he laid his eyes on it, Bastian wondered what propelled this sort of ship, since it had neither sails nor oars nor propeller. He soon found out that sails would have been useless, for there was seldom any wind on the Skaidan, and that oars and propellers do not function in mist. These ships were moved by an entirely different sort of power.
In the middle of the deck there was a round, slightly raised platform. Bastian had noticed it from the start and taken it for a sort of captain's bridge. Indeed, it was occupied throughout the voyage by two or more sailors. (The entire crew numbered fourteen.) The men on the platform held one another clasped by the shoulders and looked fixedly forward. At first sight, they seemed to be standing motionless. Actually they were swaying very slowly, in perfect unison - in a sort of dance, which they accompanied by chanting over and over again a simple and strangely beautiful tune.
At first Bastian regarded this song and dance as some sort of ceremony, the meaning of which escaped him. Then, on the third day of voyage, he asked one of his three friends about it. Evidently surprised at Bastian's ignorance, the sailor explained that those men were propelling the ship by thought-power.
More puzzled than ever, Bastian asked if some sort of hidden wheels were set in motion.
"No," one of the sailors replied. "When you want to move your legs, you have only to think about it. You don't need wheels, do you?"
The only difference between a person's body and a ship was that to move a ship at least two Yskalnair had to merge their thought-powers into one. It was this fusion of thought-powers that propelled the ship. If greater speed was desired, more men had to join in. Normally, thinkers worked in shifts of three; the others rested, for easy and pleasant as it looked, thought-propulsion was hard work, demanding intense and unbroken concentration. But there was no other way of sailing the Skaidan.
Bastian became the student of the mist navigators and learned the secret of their cooperation: dance and song without words.
Reading the above really brought me thinking about Odysseus's experience during his stay in Skheria in the Odyssey
, and how the Phaeacians said to have possessed ships that can be steered by thoughts. Skaidan = Skheria? Hmm...
All in all, it's an interesting reading and this novel challenges one's imagination in regards to the fantasy world. When we are drawn to living in fantasies (positive dissociation?), we can always return to reality with new eyes and new energies as simulated by these fantasies, such as fairy tales (with deep meanings to them, unlike the modern "stories"/films that are only achieved nothing more than entertainment and energy-draining).