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Appreciating A Child’s Wisdom In The Little Prince

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, image courtesy of Wikimedia

There are moments when you come across a compelling read and understand why it’s a classic. Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince” fits the bill. A novella written and published posthumously after France’s liberation; the Vichy Regime banned the read because of the author’s anti-collaborationist views.

Despite the hurdles, The Little Prince is the author’s most famous work. The book sold around 200 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling reads in history. It’s also the second most translated work, second only to the Holy Bible. The Little Prince is also available on Amazon in various formats.

There have been many adaptations of The Little Prince. The 2015 film adaptation is available on Netflix in select countries with an ensemble cast featuring Jeff Bridges, Riley Osborne, and Rachel McAdams.

The Little Prince Summary:

The story starts with a narrator’s observation of how grownups cannot perceive what is essential.

After finishing his first picture, he shows his drawing of an elephant’s silhouette swallowed by a boa constrictor. When asked if the grownups were frightened, they would wonder why anyone would be frightened by a hat.

To remedy the confusion, the author made a second picture, this time depicting the elephant inside the boa constrictor’s stomach. Despite showcasing his drawing to adults, many would advise him to put aside his drawings and focus on other subjects like history, arithmetic, and grammar. Discouraged, the six-year-old narrator stopped drawing and grew up to become a “sensible man.”

Years later, the narrator is now a pilot. One day while flying, his plane crashes in the Sahara desert, far from the nearest civilization. With no passengers or fellow pilots, the narrator was alone and had to make the repairs himself. He knew he had to work quickly with his supplies barely lasting a week.

During sunrise, he was awakened by a little boy with golden hair, a loveable laugh, and a tendency to repeat answers until the person answered them. This little boy was nicknamed “the little prince.”

During their first meeting, the little prince requested that the narrator draw him a sheep. Unsatisfied with the narrator’s first three drawings, the man drew a box with holes where “a little sheep stays inside,” much to the boy’s satisfaction.

The two spend time together throughout the days while the narrator tries to fix his plane engine. The little prince recounts his early life on his home planet—an asteroid named B-612. In his home planet, he describes his tasks, including cleaning tiny volcanoes and weeding out undesirable seeds and sprigs that can harm his planet’s soil. As a result, the prince wants a sheep to eat the unwanted plants on his home planet.

The little prince also talks about his love for a vain, silly rose that grew on the asteroid’s surface some time ago. Despite the rose’s demands and tendency to exaggerate, the little prince tended to the rose’s every need—even making a glass globe that could protect her.

Yet despite his love for the rose, the prince also feels the rose is taking advantage of him. As he prepares to depart his planet and explore the rest of the universe, the rose apologizes for failing to show her love for him. Nevertheless, she wishes him well and turns down the desire to use a glass globe, keeping her resolve to protect herself. The prince laments that he does not know how to love his rose, saying he should have listened to her actions instead of words.

Nevertheless, he visited other planets. Each of which was occupied by a single, narrow-winded adult. Some of them include

  • A king who only gave out orders;
  • An arrogant man who wished to be praised with admiration;
  • A drunkard on a vicious drinking cycle;
  • A businessman who catalogs stars instead of appreciating their beauty for the sole purpose of owning them
  • A lamplighter whose planet only lasts a minute. He blindly follows orders to extinguish and relight the lamp post every thirty seconds; and
  • A geographer who keeps records but never explores.

The geographer recommends that the prince visit Earth because of its good reputation. Since the prince landed on the desert, he believed the Earth to be uninhabited.

During his exploration, the prince met a snake who claimed the power to return the prince to his planet should he wish.

The prince also meets a desert flower who tells him that only a handful of men in the area come around. Since they have no roots, they wander around, allowing the wind to take them where to go.

He bids the flower goodbye and climbs the highest mountain, hoping to see the entire Earth and its people. Unfortunately for him, he only saw an enormous landscape. After calling out for someone, an echo answered, which the prince believed to be the voice of a person who only repeats what another says.

Next, the prince encounters an entire row of rosebushes. He feels saddened, thinking of his rose, which he thought was unique. Feeling he was not a great prince; he lay down on the grass and wept until a fox came.

The fox wishes to be tamed and taught the prince how to tame him. Through being tamed, something ordinary can quickly become special and unique. However, there are drawbacks to this when the two eventually bid farewell.

Thanks to the fox, the prince learns that his rose is unique and special because she is the object of his love and affection. Now that he “tamed” her, she was the most precious rose. At their sad parting, the fox leaves the prince with a secret:

“What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

After continuing his journey, the prince finally meets two people from Earth. One is a railway switchman who tells him how passengers constantly rush from one place to another, never satisfied with where they are and not knowing what they’re after. The second person is a merchant who talks about his product, a pill that reduces a person’s need to drink for a week.

Eight days have passed since the plane crash, and the narrator and prince are slowly dying of thirst. Saddened over his recollections, the prince longs to return home to see his rose.

The prince finds a well, saving them. The narrator finds the prince talking to the snake the prince mentioned in his story. The prince explained his desire to see his rose again, worried he had left her too long to fend for herself. The prince bids farewell to the narrator and explains that if it looks like he died, it’s only because his current body is too heavy to take him to his planet. The prince warns the author not to watch him leave because it will upset him.

Knowing what will happen, the narrator refuses to leave the prince’s side. The prince consoles the narrator by telling him that he only needs to look at the stars to think of the prince’s laughter, and it’ll seem like all the stars are laughing too. The prince walks away from the narrator, allows the snake to bite him, and falls to the sand.

The following day, the narrator cannot find the prince’s body. He manages to repair his plane and leave the desert. The story finishes with the narrator’s illustration of the desert landscape where the narrator and little prince met and where the latter disappeared. The narrator also requests immediate contact if anyone in the area finds a small person with golden hair who refuses to answer questions.

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