Bastian from ‘The Neverending Story’ might have been autistic / an Aspie

As I bank into final approach on my way to turning 40, I have a little over a year now of being autistic/an Aspie under my belt.

As continuously as clocks tend to tick the seconds by, I’m ticking, too.  Ticking off the ways in which I see what I’ve come to figure is evidence of Asperger’s/autism all around me.  “Reframing”, I’ve called it.

“Reframing” is not, for me, a single act, open-and-shut, bah-dah-boom.  Rather, it’s a process.  A process that ebbs and flows like the sounds of ocean waves from the “white noise” generator.  A process that gives me the honor of looking at the world through a clearer, rockin’ kaleidoscopic lens.

But I’ve been down this road before.  That’s old news.

Just when I think I’ve done and thought everything “for the first time since I found out my status”, something new presents itself.  And it is indeed a present–as in, a little gift from the universe.  Call it what you will; it’s pretty neat.

A little while back, I had another one of my “first time since”s, while I was watching the movie “The Neverending Story”.  An amazing movie, that.  Despite its sophomoric special effects, it remains a treasured classic on my ever-expanding movie shelf.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie (which I highly recommend, by the way!), I’ll provide a brief synopsis.

It’s based on a German fantasy novel of the same name.  Despite its sophomoric special effects (it was released around 1984), it told a fantastic story of a young boy, Bastian, who, in a desperate attempt to escape a pack of bullies on the way to school, ducks into an old, stern bookstore run by an equally-old, stern man…

…who is reading an incredibly interesting book.  During their strained-but-persistent conversation, it comes to light that “regular” books are “safe”.  By reading them, we become part of them, sharing in the story through our imaginations.  But no matter what events might unfold or how dire the situation may seem, the reader need not worry, because “it’s only a story”.  Once we stop reading, we revert back to regular people, leading regular lives, once again.

Because, as Bastian astutely points out, “it’s only a story.”

By contrast, the book that the elderly, smile-less man is reading is not “safe”; apparently, it is not “only a story”.

The phone rings just then, and the humorless shopkeeper has no choice but to get up to answer it, leaving the book in place on his desk.

Unable to resist the temptation, Bastian grabs the book, scribbles a note promising to return it, and hauls ass out of the bookstore, for he is now woefully late for class.

Upon arriving at school, he notices that, to his horror, the class is silent, in the middle of taking a dreaded math test.

Time for Plan B: to hole up in the school’s attic and start reading the forbidden book.

The story immediately unfolds from there, as Bastian is mentally dropped smack dab in the middle of a wondrous fantasy world known as, well, Fantasia, where various eclectic characters have come from the corners of the land in search of the Ivory Tower, the home of The Empress, to seek her help in saving their eroding land.

The land is eroding due to a horrid and unseen force known as The Nothing, which devours the world they inhabit, a little each day, destroying it fully, leaving nothing in its wake.  It was encroaching on the characters, driving them to areas where the world had not yet disappeared.  And it was growing stronger.

A lone man-child warrior is selected by the population at large to go save the world.  Simultaneously, and unbeknownst to the warrior Atreyu, The Nothing dispatches a mascot-like agent of its own: a black wolf with terrifying green eyes and, when it talks, a purely menacing voice.

The rest of the movie winds the viewer around the twists and turns, encounters with odd and fascinating characters, and surreal strokes of luck despite unfairly-stacked odds.

I won’t give the rest away, because I don’t want to spoil the cruxes of the story (there are several excellent themes and messages, which I’ll leave for you to discover; you won’t regret it), and this post is not meant to be a movie review, after all.

But in watching that movie not too long ago, for the first time since discovering that I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, I viewed parts of the movie in a new light…

…particularly involving Bastian.  And I got to thinking…

… I had always identified closely with Bastian.

He’s a gentle, soft-spoken kid.

He’s an avid reader, with a rich and vivid imagination.

He doesn’t do so well in math.

He’s perfectly content settling in under a couple of old blankets, far away from his life and the rest of the world, and reading for hours, literature beyond what is typically expected for his age (another reason why milestones and age-based function levels should be done away with).

He has few friends, and gets bullied a lot.

His teacher recognizes his potential, but doesn’t understand him and fails to be a source of inspiration and support.

He’s often accused of having his head in the clouds, off in a dream world that the physical world doesn’t understand or appreciate.

His father, although necessarily absent much of the time, does the best he can with his son, but lacks the time and tools to be of much support, either.

In fact, his father sits down with him at breakfast to have a brief talking-to, regarding the issue of Bastian’s tendency to mentally escape from the world at large, and after having received a recent phone call from Bastian’s teacher about drawing unicorns in his notebook during class, advises him, as lovingly as he’s capable of, to “get your head down out of the clouds and start facing your real problems, OK?”

And I remember thinking, “oh. My. God. That’s me!”

I made the common connections, noticed the resemblance, and identified very strongly–immediately–the first time I saw the movie, when I was about 7.

Many years later (22, to be exact), through my newfound Aspie/autistic kaleidoscope, I realized that Bastian is more than likely autistic/an Aspie, too.

I know that “armchair diagnosis” is a taboo-esque no-no, according to the etiquette espoused by some members of the Asperger’s/autistic community, but I say, phooey; let us have our fun.  Because at times like these, it really is fun, and I don’t think it’s harmful in any way.  That’s just my opinion, but I’m going to roll with it. 😉

Bastian Neverending Story Silent Wave

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29 Comments

  1. Definitely one of my favorite movies! I still escape in books📚 alas, they are all safe🙁 I only differ in that I loved math.😮 It was like solving a puzzle for me. Of course by the time my girls were old enough to ask for help I’d forgotten it all😕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe of course it’s one of your favorite movies! 😂😉😘❤️. Because we’re probably like universe-twins or something (truth!) 😁💞🌷. Books do still rule; they win if book-push ever came to movie-shove 💪🏼😉👍🏼💚💙

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love that movie! I never saw till I was grown-if my mom deemed something “stupid”, I was not allowed to enjoy watching it- but the moment I did, my heart felt a kinship with Bastian for many of the same reasons you listed. I had not thought about him being on the spectrum before, but you make some interesting points! We’ll have to get out our copy and re-examine it in a new light.
    ( my husband and children love it, too. go figure! 😉 )

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sometimes “armchair diagnosis” are worthy to think about. In my years in the field I placed more faith in my own experience then in the so called “scholars”. Perhaps that may offend some scholars but their experience was in the lab or in controlled experiments and mine was in the field. You have a great grasp of the topic you are sharing with us. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! 🤗. Truth – I totally agree with you about armchair diagnosis. I engage in plenty of it myself, although I’m cautious because I’m not a historian (yet lol) 😉. I have a really high respect for those in the field; y’all witness real life, while controlled experiments are exactly that–controlled; life is anything but 😉😊💞💝

      Liked by 1 person

  4. claiming famous people is something we are prone to do. i mean we are ALWAYS looking for people like us, because we didnt have people like us (or know who was who) growing up among all the nts.

    ive always suspected john mayer for ages, someone (who played spot-the-aspie with me) tipped me off, hes still a prime suspect. but this video of john lennon:

    the pictures and video (more than any other ive watched) remind me of every aspie ive ever seen. if one of the beatles is an aspie, its either john or paul. but probably john. john or ringo. im 99% certain george (who is actually my favorite) was nt, but john is suspect. ringo (who i love as well) is just weird, i think. but he can come to our aspie parties either way. and he can bring todd rungren.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I never saw the film, but I read the book. (My constant refrain in primary school – other kid: “Did you see…?” me: “no, but I’ve read the book”.)
    It was many many years ago though, long before I’d heard of such a thing as Aspies. I’ve been thinking I must read it again, because I have an idea for a fantasy novel, and I need to check if it’s too similar to that book. I haven’t got it, though, my mother has it. It was awesome, I remember that. There’s another book by Michael Ende called “Momo”, which is also awesome.
    I’m not fond of the armchair diagnosis game, but I think with fictional characters you can indulge. I know I’ve done it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “No, but I’ve read the book” – ✅💯 yes! Excellent motto 👏🏼👏🏼

      Thank you so much for the book recommendation! Michael Ende has an incredible pen! If it’s anywhere near the quality of The Neverending Story, it’s going to be a real treat 👍🏼

      😊💓

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It will be, I promise you. I re-read that one recently, and it still is fantastic. You can look it up on Wikipedia if you want to know what it’s all about. Of course, I had the privilege to read the books in the original German, but I’m sure they’ll be just as good in English.

        Like

  6. Oh its something I’ve done for fun many times. I had an epiphany not long ago that Mary Shelley must have known someone autistic, either personally or through her scientific father. She was only able to write about what she knew directly, based on her struggles to produce a story for Byron et all. She knew of scientific advancements and knew the problems they could bring (and are bringing) through her own education. The creature has so many traits of ASD it cannot be coincidence, it makes me wonder if he’s the first literary Aspie. He is innocent of the world, highly intelligent, loves to learn, doesnt understand people or society’s rules, doesnt fit it, feels estranged from even his maker (who refuses to give him a name, the ultimate rejection), doesnt belong in the world, reacts with understandable anger when rejected, ridiculed and faced with needless prejudice. Yes, its fair to say I identify a bit with the poor creature, as I do with so many other Aspie-like characters. But the characterisation is so much akin that Shelley MUST have known someone on the spectrum even if it didnt have a name yet.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I got this book maybe five or six years ago for Christmas, I never read it but after reading your (super great) post I feel I’m going to need to read it very soon. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Such an important film.

    Your comments on re-framing are very astute, for any
    evolving being, the more we learn & understand, then
    naturally we will constantly be re-analyzing old memories
    & re-contextualizing that information. Just like listening
    to a song as a teenager, then later in life understanding
    that the simple lyrics are actually deep & complex. It is truly
    one of the greatest gifts to think & analyze not just do & act.

    Liked by 1 person

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