So yesterday, we leave the library in Winterthur square as usual on a Saturday and, as usual the girls race each other to climb on the head of the amazingly surreal beast bench in the church square but there is a large man sitting in the way. He graciously moves to one side as the girls clamber up and when I thank him he tells me with a lovely big smile that the bench is actually modelled on the Never-ending Story. And despite this being a big favourite film of mine when I was originally entranced by it in 1984 at the tender age of 11, I never made the connection.
I didn't even realise that The NeverEnding Story (Die unendliche Geschichte) is a German made film. Indeed, it was made in 1984 as a German epic fantasy film (at the time of its release, the most expensive film produced outside the USA or the USSR) and directed and co-written by Wolfgang Petersen (his first English-language film) It is based on the novel of the same name written by Michael Ende, a German writer of fantasy and fiction.
It's a great story for little people, featuring Bastian Bux, a quiet boy who loves to read and is accosted by bullies on his way to school. He hides in a bookstore, interrupting the grumpy bookseller, Mr. Koreander. Bastian asks about the book Mr. Koreander is reading but he warns him it is 'not safe.' Nevertheless, Bastian 'borrows' the book, leaving a note promising to return it, and races towards school and when he realises he is late for a maths test. hides in the school's attic and begins reading The Neverending Story.
The book describes the fantasy world of Fantasia which is being threatened by a force called 'The Nothing,' a void of darkness that consumes everything. The Childlike Empress, who rules over Fantasia from the Ivory Tower, has fallen ill due to the Nothing, and she has summoned Atreyu, a young warrior from the Plains People to discover the means to end the Nothing. To protect and guide him. Atreyu is given AURYN, a medallion which represents eternity in an infinite snake design (the original prop is now owned by Steven Spielberg) and is helped by the Luck Dragon Falkar (who also sorts out Bastian's bullies at the end)
And every week for the last year since we moved to Switzerland, the girls have been clambouring onto the head of Falkar, appropriately, as Atreyu does in the film, which thrusts out into the world, full of magical potential. And the big snake with a crown which wraps around over Falkar protectively is Auryn, And the rest of the bench is infact a never-ending story. And it took all this time to realise. Thank you Mr Winterthur man for enlightening us!