Title: The Little Prince
Author and Illustrator: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Translator: Katherine Woods
The story begins with the tale of a whimsical child excited to share his drawings of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. The adults in his life don’t understand his drawing, seeing only a hat, and encourage the boy to attend to more practical pursuits. Disheartened by the grown-ups constant lack of understanding, the whimsical boy eventually heeds their advice and turns his focus onto becoming a pilot. Though the story begins firmly grounded in reality, it takes a plane crash and the thought-provoking questions of an alien child to redirect the pilot’s concerns from “matters of consequence” to poetic truths of the human spirit coveted by the simplicity of childhood and forgotten during the desolate desert of adulthood.
The Little Prince slowly shares his story with the lost pilot. His journey away from his home planet (asteroid B-612) bounces him along a number of other planets in which adults are all preoccupied with power, pride, greed, and work. Descriptions of The Little Prince’s home are precisely detailed (he owns three volcanoes, one of which is dead) and charming illustrations aid in constructing a highly creative new world. The Little Prince doesn’t understand the concerns of grown ups and regrets leaving his vain little rose on his home planet.
The metaphors throughout the story serve to open the young reader’s eyes to a new perspective (or in the case of adult readers, re-open their eyes to a forgotten old perspective). In essence, The Little Prince aims to remind us that relationships provide purpose and adults are too concerned with the wrong “matters of consequence.” The Little Prince doesn’t push us to reprioritize but his existence urges us to ease ourselves into doing so. His relationship with the beautiful rose mirrors the crushing weight that relationships can hold over us – even so it is these relationships that provide meaning.
Though considered a children’s book, it’s truly a story that speaks to the forgotten child that resides within each and every adult. Young children ages 9+ will enjoy the fantastic elements of the story but this is a book that certainly grows with the reader.
The edition evaluated herein contains an abundance of black and white pictures intended to be the line drawings of the pilot protagonist. These drawings add to the whimsical nature of the story. Their simplicity mirrors the loneliness and the isolation both the pilot and The Little Prince feel. They’re outsiders in thought and it sets them apart from the other people they come across during their journey through life.
This timeless story is filled with some really beautiful passages. I’m surprised it’s taken me so long to get around to reading this wonderful fantasy “fairy tale” classic.
“Nothing is perfect,” sighed the fox.
But he came back to his idea.
“My life’s very monotonous,” he said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me.
All chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike.
And in consequence, I am a little bored.
But if you tame me, it’ll be as if the sun came to shine on my life.
I shall know the sound of a step that’ll be different from all the others.
Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground.
Yours will call me, like music out of my burrow.
And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder?
I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me.
The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad.
But you have hair that is the color of gold.
Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me!
The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you.
And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat…”