Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

little-prince-and-rose

For someone who claims to have such good memory, I’m having a difficult time

remembering which children’s book was my favorite.  However, about four years ago, I was enrolled in a beginner’s French class which required reading Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince).  I remember thinking to myself that reading a children’s book was a great way to begin reading actual French literature.  I convinced myself that it could not be difficult, as many children’s books have very simple story lines. 

I was delightfully surprised that Le Petit Prince had a combination of humor, nostalgia, and suspense.  The suspense was not solely attributed to reading in a different language.  While I have to admit that the vocabulary was more advanced than my beginner’s French, I’ve gone back and read this novella in English and I still find it quite suspenseful.  The narrator begins by explaining that in his childhood he loved to draw, but adults advised him to set that aside and take up more important subjects like geography.  As a child, he attributed the adults’ inability to understand his drawings due to their lack of imagination.  “That is why, at the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent career as a painter… Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”  Reading this line as an adult made me so thankful to have parents and adults in my life that never discouraged me from any particular professions.

The narrator explains he decided to become a pilot and that as a result of an airplane accident, he finds himself stranded in the Sahara, where he meets a tiny prince from another planet.  The little prince explains that he has been traveling through other planets, and he asks the pilot to draw him a picture.  The two begin to bond as the little prince expresses his worry over a rose – the only flower from his planet.

The little prince goes on to explain that, while on Earth, he met a fox who offered his friendship, but he declined as he wanted to remain loyal to his beloved rose.  After some convincing, the boy decided to form a friendship with the fox, but nostalgia for his flower drove him to decide to leave.  After all, the rose had convinced him that it was unique and that it deserved special attention.  Before the prince left, the fox directed him to a field of roses, where the prince discovered that his rose was not the only rose in the universe, but that it was special to him because he loved it and cared for it.  The fox then told the prince, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  To me, this was the most influential part of the book.  With this statement, the fox reminds us (and the little prince), that love can turn what others seem as ordinary people (or objects) into our reasons for living, even if it we can’t explain it.

Over the period of a week, the little prince tells stories of characters he met in his travels, and the reoccurring theme is that most of them were obsessed with power, wealth, appearances, etc.  These stories serve as cautionary tales for its readers and they provide humor as the little prince tries to follow the logic fed to him by the adults.

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