Things About The NeverEnding Story You Only Notice As An Adult

Every '80s kid who loved books, when asked, will talk your ear off about The Neverending Story (1984). Centered around a young boy named Bastian, this beloved fantasy film features a host of fantastic creatures, including a luck dragon, a rockbiter, a racing snail, and a narcoleptic bat, to name just a few. 

Some of the most memorable human characters are the childlike empress, who rules benevolently over the world of Fantasia, and the young warrior, Atreyu, who goes on a quest to save Fantasia from an evil force known as The Nothing. 

And, while the movie is considered canon by many, there are some things you notice when viewing it as an adult that went right over your head as a kid. Here are some of the things you can't miss about the movie when you're all grown up.

Falkor can be creepy

Falkor is one of the warmest and most magical creatures in the film. Both Atreyu and Bastian are lucky enough to hitch a ride on his back and soar over majestic and sweeping lands. Plus, Falkor scares the pants off of Bastian's bullies at the end, which is some righteous revenge. But Falkor comes across a little differently to adult viewers, as some of his lines can take on a new meaning. 

Most disconcerting is when he says, in an awkward effort to comfort Atreyu, "I like children!" in between bouts of animated grunting and laughter. Then, after informing Atreyu that he'd been unconscious, Falkor winks at him. After that, he asks Atreyu to "scratch his behind," and he really enjoys it when Atreyu complies. He exclaims, "That's so good!" and makes some very satisfied sounds. It's all so unintentionally creepy and hilarious at the same time. 

Bastian's dad is emotionally cold

Bastian's still very affected by the loss of his mother, naturally, as the loss of a parent can have significant impacts on children. But Bastian's father seems less interested in providing emotional support, and more interested in moving on without processing the loss with his son. 

When a visibly sad Bastian tells his father that he's had yet another dream about his mom, he responds that he understands, but quickly adds that they have to move on, emphasizing that they can't let her passing stop them from getting things done. And just when you think he'll soften up and help Bastian process his pain, Bastian's father lays into his son for doodling in his notebook during math class. 

Certainly Bastian's poor performance in school could be as a result of his grief, as school performance can be impacted by such a loss. But rather than sympathize, his father tells him how disappointed he is that he didn't try out for swim team, and points out that he was too scared to ride horses during a riding lesson. Viewers who are parents are likely to cringe at this unintentionally cold lack-of-comfort.

Bastian's dad drinks a raw egg

When Bastian and his dad are talking in the kitchen, Bastian's dad nonchalantly drops a raw egg into his orange juice, blends it together, and drinks it. As a kid, sure, it looks kind of gross, but as an adult, it's concerning — unpasteurized raw eggs are a known risk for Salmonella poisoning. Couldn't he have grabbed a hard boiled egg instead?

The school attic isn't realistic

On a mission to avoid a math test, Bastian holes up in the school attic with the book, his lunch, and a host of creepy objects like skulls and candles. There, he's able to hide away all day and into the night, undetected by bullies, teachers, and school authorities alike. 

But as an adult, you may notice that this scenario just isn't realistic. For one, many schools monitor these kinds of spaces, and would probably set a security alarm for the building before leaving for the day. Additionally, access to the attic would likely be restricted in some way — at least locked — but Bastian just opens the door and goes right in. And would the school attic really be that spooky-looking, covered in cobwebs and dust? Finally, someone would probably hear him yelling out of the window at the end and be concerned.

The oracles are well-endowed

Atreyu encounters two sets of oracles  — who are pairs of winged, sphinx-like entities — on two separate occasions in the film. The first oracle he faces is the hostile northern oracle, who tries to kill him with bolts of fire shot from its eyes. Conversely, the northern oracle is cool and kind, telling Atreyu how to save Fantasia, even as it crumbles before them. 

These imposing creatures were simultaneously scary and enchanting to '80s kids. But today, it's impossible not to notice that they aren't wearing much in the way of clothing, leaving their bare and ample chests quite visible. It's highly unlikely that you'd see this kind of nudity, even non-human nudity, in a kid's movie today. 

The dumpster is pretty clean

If you've ever been close-up to a heavily used dumpster, you know how gnarly they can get. However, the dumpster that the bullies toss Bastion into is curiously clean, especially considering that it sits on a city street in a high-traffic area. The outside shows some normal wear and tear, but the inside isn't nearly as gross as it should be. 

For one, when Bastian climbs out, he's not covered in rotting food, discarded tissues, or other standard garbage fare. Instead, he appears to have dried grass or hay in his hair and on his clothes, and that's about it. Additionally, once he's out of the bin and back on his feet, he's able to brush himself off and go about his day without smelling like, well, a dumpster. As a kid you might not notice this, but it's clearly a bit preposterous when viewing as an adult.

The bookstore owner might not be trusted today

In an effort to evade his trio of bullies, Bastian ducks into what turns out to be a bookstore and closes the door behind him. His bullies run by without noticing where he's gone, so Bastian is safe from them, at least temporarily. However, the bookstore turns out to be empty, save for the proprietor, a cranky old man that Bastian doesn't know. 

As a kid, this seemed fine — certainly better than the alternative. But parents viewing the movie might find themselves cringing at the idea of their child being alone with a strange man — even though the first things he says to Bastian are to get out, and that he doesn't like kids.

The sad scenes are even more depressing

The death of Atreyu's horse Artax is arguably one of the most emotionally shattering moments in the movie for kids and adults alike (just read these comments), but it isn't the only depressing event in The Neverending Story. Rather, there are several scenes that stand out as equally despair-inducing, especially for adults who can understand the deeper context — which likely went over the heads of the younger viewers. 

For one, consider Morla, the ancient one. Morla is so old and tired of life that they don't even care whether or not they care — that's a severely jaded perspective, and it doesn't bode well for how life will get as you age. 

Then there's the monologue that the rockbiter delivers after The Nothing snatches his friends out of Fantasia and into oblivion. By the time he says, "They look like good, strong hands," for the last time, you know there's nothing in the world that will pull the gentle giant out of his pit of despair; you might be in one of your own at that point. 

Finally, The Nothing is literally wiping all of Fantasia into simple non-existence, sucking all of its fantastic creatures and beautiful places into the void. It can be read as a metaphor for the death and decline of imagination and creativity in kids who no longer love books, which is the saddest notion of all.

Moonchild is a strange name to pick for someone

The film's climax occurs when Bastian finally realizes that it's he who has to give the empress a new name in order to save Fantasia. In a dramatic moment, he leaps up from his seat on the floor of the attic, runs to the window, and mustering his best barbaric yawp, he shouts: "Moon child!!!!" 

As a kid, that might seem like a fitting name for an empress. But as an adult it's an odd choice for a name, and you certainly won't find it on any popular baby name lists. Nonetheless, according to the novel, that was Bastian's mother's name, so it's understandable why he chose it.

Also, unless you read the book as a kid, or had credible intel from someone who did, it was pretty tough to decipher what Bastian says when he yells out the window. Some viewers thought that was on purpose to force them to use their imagination (the whole point of the movie), while some fans even went so far as to turn the subtitles on to figure it out, but to their chagrin, they found that the subtitles at the time were left blank.

The magic mirror gate finally makes sense

One thing that confused many young fans of The Neverending Story back in the day was the magic mirror gate, which seemed infinitely easier than any of the other challenges Atreyu faces. Why would it be so hard for him to look in a mirror and see his true self? And how is that more difficult than dodging deadly bolts of fire being shot at you by a giant sphinx, or clinging to a tree for dear life as the wind blows you sideways? 

However, some adult fans have pointed out that the gate is infinitely more frightening. Kids aren't saddled with the self-doubt that many adults carry, so to face yourself when you're a child is likely a lot easier. But imagine truly facing yourself, with all of your inadequacies and secrets, coupled with the full knowledge of everything terrible you've ever done — yikes.

It shows how you can come back from anything

After Bastian finally bestows a name on the childlike empress, he meets her face-to-face for the first time. She hands him a single grain of sand, and tells him that it's all that's left of Fantasia. However, she also informs him that he can rebuild Fantasia by making wishes. And indeed he does rebuild it, restoring it to its pre-Nothing splendor. 

Some fans have observed that there's a valuable lesson to learn here: Bastian has to rebuild everything from a grain of sand alone, which is quite a monumental task. After all, starting from scratch isn't easy, especially when everything seems to be lost. 

As a kid you might be more resilient, as you have likely made fewer mistakes in your short life and can bounce back relatively easily. But as an adult — taking into consideration all of your failures, break-ups, delayed ambitions, and missed opportunities — bouncing back is arguably harder. But if Bastian can rebuild an entire world from a speck with the power of his mind alone, maybe you can recover from life's disappointments a little easier next time.