|“||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 overarching antagonist and primary threat 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 an entity in the form of a frightening dark cloud that nearly engulfs the magical world of Fantasia, prompting the primary Fantasian protagonist Atreyu to search for a human child whose imagination could dispel it.
The Nothing is described as representing "human apathy, cynicism, and the denial of childish dreams". That is to say the complete opposite of humanity's imagination, hopes and wishes: the very essence of Fantasia (Fantasica in the original German version), which was created from everything ever made up by human minds since the beginning of times. The Nothing is linked to the disease plaguing the Childlike Empress, the ageless ruler of Fantasia. As humanity is losing sight of their dreams, the Childlike Empress' health declines and the Nothing appears to spread over Fantasia and starts destroying it, little by little.
It is a destructive force of absolute oblivion that erases everything and everyone it touches from existence and leaves no trace whatsoever. All Fantasians in its presence are compelled to jump into it and meet their doom. Every Fantasian that it erases gets turned into lies and deceits that manifest in the normal world. Should it not be stopped in time, it would destroy all of Fantasia and leave everlasting damages on humanity's imagination.
In the novel, the Nothing is an inconceivable, formless, featureless negation of existence impossible to describe, surrounded by an otherworldly mist; that engulfs everything around. When Atreyu attempts to look at it from a distance, he cannot 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 is depicted as a tremendous and chaotic storm, covering the sky with dark clouds, winds, earthquakes and lightning; or a destructive presence that tears everything and leaves a dark void on its wake.
The Nothing is influenced by the mysterious Manipulators: incarnations of the worst aspects of imagination, who seek to unleash all the lies born from the Nothing's victims on humanity to drive them mad and take over.
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.
- The Nothing has a very similar personality to the Rhino, a minor antagonist of the 1996 Disney film James and the Giant Peach.