Antoine de Saint-Exupery – The Little Prince
The Little Prince (French: ”Le Petit Prince”), first published in 1943, is a novella and the most famous work of the French aristocrat writer, poet and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944, Mort pour la France).
The novella is both the most read and translated book in the French language, and was voted the best book of the 20th century in France, maintaining sales of over one million copies per year worldwide. Translated into more than 250 languages and dialects, and selling more than 200 million copies worldwide, it has become one of the best-selling books ever published.
Saint-Exupéry, a laureate of France’s highest literary awards and a reserve military pilot at the start of the Second World War, both wrote and illustrated the manuscript while exiled in the United States after the fall of France. He had traveled there on a personal mission to convince its government to quickly enter the war against Nazi Germany. In the midst of personal upheavals and failing health he produced almost half of the writings he would be remembered for, including a tender tale of loneliness, friendship, love and loss, in the form of a young prince fallen to Earth.
An earlier memoir by the author recounted his aviation experiences in the Sahara desert. He is thought to have drawn on those same experiences for use as plot elements in The Little Prince. Saint-Exupéry’s novella has been adapted to various media over the decades, including audio recordings, stage, screen, ballet andoperatic works.
The reader is introduced to the narrator who, as a young boy, drew a boa constrictor eating an elephant. However, he is discouraged from drawing when all adults who look at his picture see a hat, instead. The narrator attempts to explain what his first picture depicts by drawing another one clearly showing the elephant, disturbing the adults as a result. As such, he decides to become a pilot, which eventually leads to a crash in the Sahara desert.
In the desert, the narrator meets the little prince, who asks him to draw a sheep. Not knowing how to draw a sheep, the narrator shows him the picture of the elephant in the snake. To the narrator’s surprise, the prince recognizes the drawing for what it is. After a few failed attempts at drawing a sheep, the narrator draws a box in his frustration, claims that the box holds a sheep inside. Again to the narrator’s surprise, the prince is delighted with the result.
The little prince’s home asteroid, or “planet”, is introduced. The asteroid is the size of a house, has three volcanoes (two active, and one dormant) and a rose, among various other objects. The narrator believes this asteroid to be called B-612. The Prince spends his days caring for the asteroid, pulling out the baobab trees that are constantly trying to take root there. The Prince falls in love with the rose, who appears not to return his love due to her vain nature. The Prince loses his trust in the rose after she lies to him, and grows lonely.
After he reconciles with his rose, the prince leaves to see what the rest of the universe is like. He visits six other asteroids, each of which is inhabited by a foolish adult. The sixth asteroid is inhabited by a geographer, who asks the prince to describe his home. When the prince mentions the rose, the geographer explains that he does not record roses, calling them “ephemeral”. The prince is shocked and hurt by this revelation. The geographer recommends that he visit the Earth.
On the Earth, the prince meets a snake that claims to have the power to return him to his home planet, though the prince refuses this offer. The prince then meets a desert flower, who tells him that there are only a handful of men on Earth and that they have no roots, letting the wind blow them around and living hard lives. The prince climbs the highest mountain he has ever seen, in hopes of seeing the whole planet and finding people. However, he only sees a desolate landscape. When the prince calls out, his echo answers him, and he mistakes it for the voices of other humans.
Eventually, the prince comes upon a whole row of rosebushes, and becomes downcast because he thought that his rose was unique. He begins to feel that he is not a great prince at all, as his planet contains only three tiny volcanoes and a flower he now thinks of as common. He lies down in the grass and weeps.
As the prince cries, a fennec fox comes across him. The prince tames the fox, who explains to him that his rose really is unique and special, because she is the one whom the prince loves. The fox also explains that, in a way, the prince has tamed the flower, and that this is why the prince now feels responsible for her.
The prince then comes across a railway switchman and a merchant. The switchman tells the Prince how passengers constantly rush from one place to another aboard trains, never satisfied with where they are and not knowing what they are after. Only the children amongst them bother to look out of the windows. The merchant tells the prince about his product, a pill which eliminates thirst and is very popular, saving people fifty-three minutes a week. The prince replies that he would use the time to walk and find fresh water.
Back in the present, the narrator is dying of thirst, but finds a well with the help of the prince. The narrator later finds the prince discussing his return home with the snake. The prince bids an emotional farewell to the narrator and states that if it looks as though he has died, it is because his body is too heavy to take with him to his planet. The prince warns the narrator not to watch him leave, as it will make him sad. The narrator, realizing what will happen, refuses to leave the prince’s side. The prince allows the snake to bite him, and falls without making a sound.
The next morning, the narrator tries to look for the prince, but is unable to find his body. The story ends with a portrait of the landscape where the prince and the narrator met and where the snake took the prince’s life. The narrator makes a plea that anyone encountering a strange child in that area who refuses to answer questions should contact the narrator immediately. [Source]