Why the horse from The Neverending Story is one of our all-time favourites

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  • Have you seen the 1984 classic The Neverending Story? Whether you have or not, there are so many reasons to snuggle up on the sofa and watch tonight. If not for the absolute bop of a theme song (which also featured in season three of Netflix’s Stranger Things) then do it for film’s iconic equine lead. If you’re not familiar with him already, the horse from The Neverending Story is the majestic grey, Artax. He’s tasked with helping warrior Atreyu find a cure for the Childlike Empress, monarch of the magical realm of Fantasia. Together, Areyu and Artax go questing through Fantasia to find a remedy for the Empress, before the entirety of the realm succumbs to the malevolent force threatening to destroy it – The Nothing.


    The horse from The Neverending Story – what you need to know

    Artax belongs to Atreyu, who is initially ridiculed for being just a child before boldly accepting the mission to search across the land for the cure with his beloved horse.

    Artax’s role in The Neverending Story may be relatively small, but suffice to say it is one of the most iconic equine performances in cinematic history. Not long into their mission, Atreyu and Artax decide to enter the Swamp of Sadness. The swamp is a treacherous place with a lingering melancholy that threatens to take hold of those who pass through it and cause them to fatally sink into the bog. While Atreyu’s magical amulet, the Auryn, leaves him untouched by the swamp’s power, Artax is literally stopped in his tracks, paralysed by sadness. As he begins to sink, Atreyu grips the bridle and tries to coax him forward. However, as any equestrian knows, when a horse says no he means it.

    Despite desperate pleas from his human friend, Artax is gradually and helplessly lost to the swamp and Atreyu is left to continue his quest alone. For its sheer emotion and raw depiction of peril, the scene is arguably the most memorable in the film if not the entire fantasy genre. Such is the scene’s impact that it has gained meme status, with many taking to social media to bemoan the lasting psychological effects of the horse from The Neverending Story.

    If you know, you know.

    All is not lost, however. Once The Nothing is driven out and Fantasia is restored, Artax and Atreyu are reunited and we see them galloping across the realm once more. Artax also makes an appearance in the sequel The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter.

    The horses who played Artax

    In the film, Artax is played by two grey mares, who had to undergo months of training to cope with the various immersive sets and practical effects. This included standing on a hydraulic platform that lowered them into the swamp, and being submerged in water up to the chin.

    According to Entertainment Weekly, Noah Hathaway (Atreyu) was gifted one of the mares on wrapping The Neverending Story. Hathaway decided to leave the horse in the capable hands of his riding double, who kept her on a ranch in Germany where filming took place. The mare had 20 happy years with Hathaway’s double before passing away.

    The Neverending Story – what you need to know

    Based on a novel of the same name, The Neverending Story is actually a tale within a tale. The story of Artax, Atreyu and Fantasia is told through the eyes of Bastian Bux, an imaginative boy reeling from the recent loss of his mother and a tense relationship with his father. While fleeing from bullies at the beginning of the film, Bastian hides in a bookshop where he is captivated by a book called The Neverending Story. He takes the book into the school attic to read it, and it’s at this point we delve into Atreyu’s quest with Bastian, from setting out with Artax to meeting the Childlike Empress. Here, Bastian gets more absorbed in the story than he ever thought possible…

    So, what are you waiting for? Go and give it a watch…

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