The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (French)
I have no idea how I missed this book, but in deference to Saint-Exupery I really should read it. It is his most famous work by a long shot, world-famous, and I kind of dismissed his ” Wind, Sand and Stars” as being thoughtlessly sexist.
The story is lovely and incredible – fantastical and it’s illustrated with delightfully simple little pictures. I’m just using a freebie pdf file found on the net but they’ve done a good job. The book has been in the public domain for some time.
The protagonist is a precocious 6-year old who enjoys
drawing. He is telling us how his plane crashed in the Sahara 6 years prior and he met a very small man. The man wants the boy to draw him a sheep – and so begins the story of The Little Prince (which is who that little man is).
It’s possible the narrator is telling this from some time in the future – when he is grown. “But I, alas, do not know how
to see sheep through the walls of boxes. Perhaps I am a little like the grown-ups. I have had to grow old.”
Apparently the Little Prince’s planet has a problem with baobab trees – very large strange looking trees.
It’s told in 1st person but the author sometimes addresses his reader but at other times addresses the Prince. (See chapters 5 and 6.)
And most of the time the narrator tells the little prince’s stories – about the flower and the solitary king and the tippler. About the businessman besieged with stars and the Sisyphus-like lamplighter and a geographer without an explorer. There are other places to visit – the earth with
mountains and flowers and a fox. The fox is tamed but it’s not the prince’s rose. It would seem the prince’s own little flower is best.
And the prince talks to a railroad switchman and a thirst-quenching pill merchant and finally the story is back to the 1st person who has crashed his plane in the desert and is very, very thirsty.
“What makes the desert beautiful,” said the little prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well…” (ch. 24)
“One runs the risk of weeping a little, if one lets himself be tamed. . . ” ( ch 25)
And although there are two more chapters – I’ll leave it at that.
There’s been a certain amount of study regarding the meaning and symbolism and so on of this book but to me that all kind of dampens the effect. I know what it’s about through archetypes and my heart.
I rarely feel that way about a book but this is NOT a children’s book and Saint Exupery put the drawings in for a reason – the reader should try to let himself understand this as a child.