|“||A hole would be something. Nah, it was Nothing. And it got bigger and bigger.||„|
|~ Rock Biter about the Nothing that is destroying all of Fantasia.|
|“||It's the emptiness that's left. It's like a despair, destroying this world and I have been trying to help it.||„|
|~ Gmork about the Nothing.|
The Nothing is the main antagonist of the 1979 German fantasy novel (or rather, the first half of the novel) Die unendliche Geschichte (The Neverending Story), and its 1984 film adaptation of the same name. It is a frightening void that nearly engulfs the magical world of Fantasia (Fantastica in the English translation of the novel), prompting the Fantasian green-skinned warrior boy Atreyu to search for a human child whose imagination could dispel it.
The Nothing is the result of "human apathy, cynicism, and the denial of childish dreams". That is to say, the distaste for stories and the negation of imagination, hopes, and wishes, that is to say Fantasia's very essence, for this world is made of everything that was ever imagined by human minds, since the Dawn of Times.
It is linked to the disease plaguing the Childlike Empress, the ageless ruler of Fantasia. As humanity is denying its fantasies in pursuit of materialistic goals, the Childlike Empress' health declines and the Nothing appears to destroy Fantasia. It can be seen as a metaphor of adulthood that lost its ways, and the dangers of excessive pragmatism.
The Nothing is a force of absolute oblivion erasing things and people from existence, leaving no trace whatsoever as if they never were there to begin with. All Fantasians in its presence are compelled to jump into it and meet their doom. In turn, its victims get turned into lies and deceits in the real world, furthering humanity's loss of dreams and empowering it to erase more, creating a vicious circle that can be only broken with renewed fantasy.
Should it not be stopped in time, the Nothing would obliterate all of Fantasia and leave everlasting damage on humanity's creativity, leaving them as easy prey for those who profit from apathy and broken minds.
In the novel, the Nothing is an inconceivable, formless, featureless, colourless negation of existence, impossible to describe, surrounded by an otherworldly mist. An abstract oxymoron that cannot and should not exist, for it does not, and yet it is. When Atreyu attempts to look at it from a distance, he is unable to process what stands before his eyes, and the very sight causes him such pain that he is forced to look sideways.
In the movie, the Nothing manifests as a tremendous, chaotic storm, covering the sky with dark clouds, winds and lightning; or a destructive presence wrecking everything to leave a dark void on its wake. However, the filmmakers explained that it is an invisible force, with the storm being a consequence of its presence, like the mist in the book.
The Nothing is influenced by the mysterious Manipulators: incarnations of the worst aspects of imagination, who seek to unleash the lies it spawns on the real world to break humanity's spirit and take control. They are never seen and can be viewed as a metaphor for everyone shunning originality and twisting beliefs for their own gain.
The story begins when the Childlike Empress sends the young warrior Atreyu to find a cure for her illness, so as to dispel the Nothing that is slowly consuming Fantasia.
Atreyu starts his journey with his horse, Artax, while having to escape both the Nothing itself and its main agent, the werewolf by the name of Gmork. This journey is being recorded in the normal world into a book called The Neverending Story, and displayed as a friendless boy named Bastian Balthazar Bux is reading it. Far from being a simple fantasy novel, the book is the link between the normal world and Fantasia, and Bastian is helping sustaining it by sympathizing with the Fantasians' plight and making mental pictures of all that he reads about.
During the course of the story, the Nothing progresses constantly and Atreyu only scarcely escapes it. Helped by the Luck Dragon Falkor (Fuchur in the original German version), Atreyu passes many trials and learns to face his fears to reach the Southern Oracle. Shortly before being swallowed by the Nothing, the Oracle reveals that the Childlike Empress needs to be given a new name from a human boy who lives beyond the boundaries of Fantasia.
Atreyu later meets Gmork and manages to kill him (in the novel, Atreyu finds Gmork chained to a rock and the werewolf starves to death before he can attack. His dead jaws bite Atreyu and hold him in place to be erased by the incoming Nothing, but that prevents him from jumping into the nothing despite its compulsion, until Falkor saves him).
Unfortunately, the Nothing catches up with Atreyu and Falkor, and all that is left of Fantasia is the Ivory Tower, the Childlike Empress' palace. Atreyu meets the Childlike Empress and learns that the human boy who can give her a new name was with him all along, having connected through Fantasia by reading his adventure. A boy who is none other than Bastian himself. Bastian names the Childlike Empress Moon Child (a name related to his own late mother) and dispels the Nothing for good, just before it could erase Atreyu, Falkor and the Childlike Empress.
Bastian is then drawn in Fantasia (which is reduced to a single grain of sand) by the Childlike Empress, who gives him the wish-granting AURYN so that he could wish Fantasia anew. In the movie, a single wish is enough to recreate all of Fantasia, while in the novel, it marks the second half of the story, which would set the basis of the film's sequel.
- In the 1995-1996 animated series, the Nothing was merged with Gmork, making both of them become a single entity: the Nothing appears as a black hole inside which Gmork's eyes shine, which occasionally emerges out of the darkness.