Why in Database: The book (original) version of a quite well-known film – The NeverEnding Story. In one, longer scene, the figure of the old turtle, Morla, appears here, that scene is also in movie. Later there is also one scene in which the protagonist sees a bas-relief depicting, among others, a turtle.
But from the top he overlooked the whole mountain, and then he saw that it consisted of great slabs of tortoise shell, with moss growing in the crevices between them.
He had found Tortoise Shell Mountain.
But the discovery gave him no pleasure. Now that his faithful little horse was gone, it left him almost indifferent. Still, he would have to find out who this Morla the Aged One was, and where she actually lived.
While he was mulling it over, he felt a slight tremor shaking the mountain. Then he heard a hideous wheezing and lip-smacking, and a voice that seemed to issue from the innermost bowels of the earth: ‘Sakes alive, old woman, somebody’s crawling around on us.’
In hurrying to the end of the ridge, where the sounds had come from, Atreyu had slipped on a bed of moss. Since there was nothing for him to hold on to, he slid faster and faster and finally fell off the mountain. Luckily he landed on a tree, which caught him in its branches.
Looking back at the mountain, he saw an enormous cave. Water was splashing and gushing inside, and something was moving. Slowly the something came out. It looked like a boulder as big as a house. When it came into full sight, Atreyu saw that it was a head attached to a long wrinkled neck, the head of a turtle. Its eyes were black and as big as ponds. The mouth was dripping with muck and water weeds. This whole Tortoise Shell Mountain — it suddenly dawned on Atreyu — was one enormous beast, a giant swamp turtle; Morla the Aged One.
The wheezing, gurgling voice spoke again: ‘What are you doing here, son?’
Atreyu reached for the amulet on his chest and held it in such a way that the great eyes couldn’t help seeing it.
‘Do you recognize this, Morla?’
She took a while to answer: ‘Sakes alive! AURYN. We haven’t seen that in a long time, have we, old woman? The emblem of the Childlike Empress – not in a long time.’
‘The Childlike Empress is sick,’ said Atreyu. ‘Did you know that?’
‘It’s all the same to us. Isn’t it, old woman?’ Morla replied. She seemed to be talking to herself, perhaps because she had had no one else to talk to for heaven knows how long.
‘If we don’t save her, she’ll die,’ Atreyu cried out. ‘The Nothing is spreading everywhere.
I’ve seen it myself.’ Morla stared at him out of her great empty eyes. ‘We don’t mind, do we, old woman?’ ‘
‘But then we shall all die!’ Atreyu screamed. ‘Every last one of us!’ ‘Sakes alive!’ said Morla. ‘But what do we care? Nothing matters to us anymore. It’s all the same to us.’
‘But you’ll be destroyed too, Morla!’ cried Atreyu angrily. ‘Or do you expect, because you’re so old, to outlive Fantastica?’
‘Sakes alive!’ Morla gurgled. ‘We’re old, son, much too old. Lived long enough. Seen too much. When you know as much as we do, nothing matters. Things just repeat. Day and night, summer and winter. The world is empty and aimless. Everything circles around. Whatever starts up must pass away, whatever is born must die. It all cancels out, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. Everything’s empty. Nothing is real. Nothing matters.’
Atreyu didn’t know what to answer. The Aged One’s dark, empty, pond-sized eyes paralyzed his thoughts. After a while, he heard her speak again:
‘You’re young, son. If you were as old as we are, you’d know there’s nothing but sadness.
Why shouldn’t we die, you and I, the Childlike Empress, the whole lot of us? Anyway, it’s all flim-flam, meaningless games. Nothing matters. Leave us in peace, son. Go away.’
Atreyu tensed his will to fight off the paralysis that flowed from her eyes.
Tf you know so much,’ he said, ‘you must know what the Childlike Empress’s illness is and whether there’s a cure for it.’
‘We do, we do! Don’t we, old woman?’ Morla wheezed. ‘But it’s all the same to us whether she’s saved or not. So why should we tell you?’
‘If it’s really all the same to you,’ Atreyu argued, ‘you might just as well tell me.’
‘We could, we could! Couldn’t we, old woman?’ Morla grunted. ‘But we don’t feel like it.’
‘Then it’s not all the same to you. Then you yourself don’t believe what you’re saying.’
After a long silence he heard a deep gurgling and belching. That must have been some kind of laughter, if Morla the Aged One was still capable of laughing. In any case, she said: ‘You’re a sly one, son. Really sly. We haven’t had so much fun in a long time. Have we, old woman? Sakes alive, it’s true. We might just as well tell you. Makes no difference. Should we tell him, old woman?’
A long silence followed. Atreyu waited anxiously for Morla’s answer, taking care not to interrupt the slow, cheerless flow of her thoughts. At last she spoke: .
‘Your life is short, son. Ours is long. Much too long. But we both live in time. You a short time. We a long time. The Childlike Empress has always been there. But she’s not old.
She has always been young. She still is. Her life isn’t measured by time, but by names.
She needs a. new name. She keeps needing new names. Do you know her name, son?’
‘No,’ Atreyu admitted. ‘I never heard it.’
‘You couldn’t have,’ said Morla. ‘Not even we can remember it. Yet she has had many names. But they’re all forgotten. Over and done with. But without a name she can’t live. All the Childlike Empress needs is a new name, then she’ll get well. But it makes no difference whether she gets well or not.’
She closed her pond-sized eyes and began slowly to pull in her head.
‘Wait!’ cried Atreyu. ‘Where can she get a name? Who can give her one? Where can I find the name?’
‘None of us,’ Morla gurgled. ‘No inhabitant of Fantastica can give her a new name. So it’s hopeless. Sakes alive! It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.’
‘Who then?’ cried Atreyu in despair. ‘Who can give her the name that will save her and save us all?’
‘Don’t make so much noise!’ said Morla. ‘Leave us in peace and go away. Even we don’t know who can give her a name.’
‘If you don’t know,’ Atreyu screamed even louder, ‘who does?’
She opened her eyes a last time.
‘If you weren’t wearing the Gem,’ she wheezed, ‘we’d eat you up, just to have peace and quiet. Sakes alive!’
‘Who?’ Atreyu insisted. ‘Tell me who knows, and I’ll leave you in peace forever.’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ she replied. ‘But maybe Uyulala in the Southern Oracle knows. She may know. It’s all the same to us.’
‘How can I get there?’
‘You can’t get there at all, son. Not in ten thousand days’ journey. Your life is too short.
You’d die first. It’s too far. In the south. Much too far. So it’s all hopeless. We told you so in the first place, didn’t we, old woman? Sakes alive, son. Give it up. And most important, leave us in peace.’
With that she closed her empty-gazing eyes and pulled her head back into the cave for good. Atreyu knew he would learn no more from her.
Toward evening Yor came up from the mine. Bastian saw him step out of the pit cage. In a frame on his back he was carrying different-sized sheets of paper-thin isinglass. Bastian followed him in silence as he went far out into the plain and carefully bedded his new finds in the soft snow at the end of a row. One of the pictures represented a man whose chest was a birdcage with two pigeons in it, another a woman of stone riding on a large turtle. One very small picture showed a butterfly with letters on its wings. And many more, but none meant anything to Bastian.