WHEN: 1:13 pm EST, November 23rd, 2013
WHERE: The living room of my apartment in Portland
FORMAT: Blu-Ray on a Vizio 32″ LED HDTV
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Spent the morning shopping, which was exhausting. Rewarding myself with some hot cocoa.
With only a few weeks left to this experiment, I realized that there are some things that I still have managed to overlook discussing in The NeverEnding Story. This week, as I was lamenting that there couldn’t possibly be anything else to see, I realized I hadn’t even talked about the AURYN.
Even fantasy worlds have bling.
This honking piece of jewelry is straight from the Childlike Empress and carries some major juju. The AURYN is a symbol of the Empress and has two incarnations; one in Michael Ende’s book and one in the film.
The AURYN is rife with symbolism, mostly having to do with the Empress and lunar cycles. So let’s bust open good old Hans Biedermann’s Dictionary of Symbolism to gain a greater understanding of this thing.
Seriously, why haven’t you bought this yet?
The AURYN is an uroboros, which is a fancy way of describing a snake that’s biting its own tail, only with the AURYN there are two snakes, each swallowing the other’s tail. There are several layers to this symbolism. First, the snake represents rejuvenation and rebirth since the reptile routinely sloughs off its skin because nature is awesome. Next, there is an element of duality to this uroboros that is further highlighted by the two metals. The snakes appear to be made of gold and silver. Gold is often associated with the sun and silver with the moon, two major celestial bodies that are opposites, but share the same sky and move in predictable cycles. Lastly, the snakes are in an endless knot, representing an unending cycle that cannot be untied.
Sorry, Alexander, you might need a blow torch for this one.
There’s a ton of symbolism wrapped up in the AURYN, but what’s the point, right? The point is that the AURYN is a big old clue about the nature of the Empress and Fantasia. The AURYN tells a story of unending rebirth. The snakes, the uroboros, the endless knot, and the celestial symbolism are all stacked on top of one another as a huge neon sign with arrows that Fantasia and the Childlike Empress are not going to die.
The AURYN is more clearly regarded as a big fucking deal in Ende’s book. In The Neverending Story, the AURYN is also referred to as the Gem and is treated more like an entity. The AURYN’s power is mostly proof that Atreyu is working for the Empress, which gets him out of trouble more than once. All the creatures in Fantastica (as it’s called in the novel) respect the Empress because she does not judge any creature on whether they are “good” or “bad” but accepts all her subjects as they are. So, when Atreyu encounters the less savory beings in Fantastica, having the AURYN is a “get out of death free” card.
He should have also checked for a sub-clause about giant boogers.
The AURYN is also a smaller simpler design without the snakes entwined in an endless knot. There are still two snakes, but one is white and the other is black, which hints at the jewelry’s darker side. When Bastian wears the Gem, any wish he has comes true, but he loses memories of the ordinary world as payment. As a result, Bastian gains great fame and power, but becomes a total dick. At the end of the book, Bastian encounters a giant, living version of the AURYN and must prove himself worthy to pass through its gates in order to return home. Again, rebirth remains an important theme in the book.
In the film, the AURYN is useful when it’s convenient. When Atreyu is presented with the AURYN, everyone gasps and Atreyu looks humbled and a little frightened to be entrusted with the emblem.
Serious shit is going down.
Cairon tells him that the AURYN will “guide and protect” the boy on his quest. The “protect” part of that statement is true if you stretch your brain a bit. If the AURYN is as powerful as it is rumored to be, then we have to surmise that each time Atreyu escaped any danger, the power of the AURYN was responsible. The AURYN is why Atreyu did not sink into the Swamps of Sadness while Artax did; the AURYN must have “called” to Falkor to save Atreyu from G’mork; the AURYN saved Atreyu from the deadly Sphinx Gate; the AURYN protected Atreyu from the Nothing when everything else was destroyed. But this is all conjecture since there are no visual clues, like close-ups of the AURYN glowing, to indicate its power has been invoked.
The AURYN only works when everybody is dead.
The AURYN is also a pretty crappy GPS. Atreyu wanders for weeks before thinking of visiting Morla in the Swamps of Sadness. Surely if the AURYN was concerned with Atreyu hurrying to find a cure, it would have helped steer our hero in the right direction from the start. Then again, you could argue that it was like a homing beacon for Falkor to find Atreyu so that he could get to the Southern Oracle. But I would argue back that the AURYN, as a link to the Empress, already knows all about where it needs to go, so suck it.
Since the AURYN is supposed to keep Atreyu safe and on course, his encounter with G’mork becomes even more significant. Atreyu loses the AURYN when he and Falkor encounter the Nothing and get separated. When Atreyu confronts G’mork, he does not have the AURYN anymore. He is lost and alone. Atreyu learns the truth about Fantasia and faces G’mork as a warrior, stripped of any supernatural aid from the AURYN.
You never needed that necklace, Atreyu, you had the strength all along.
The downside to the AURYN is that there’s no way to tell when it’s helping or just being a bit of costume jewelry. Only when Atreyu directly appeals to the AURYN to help find the Ivory Tower do we get any hint that the thing is actually useful. The AURYN is supposed to be a big deal, but it just doesn’t come across in the film. It’s a better conveyor of symbolism than it is a magical totem. The book makes a bigger deal of the AURYN, but The NeverEnding Story treats it more like a convenient plot device. The point is, I still want one for my very own because if Warner Bros. isn’t going to give me any special features, then I at least want some sweet jewelry to satisfy my nerd gland.