At the first glance, from its packaging, tone, and treatment, The Little Prince may come across as a children’s book, and very often it’s also sold like one. However, this book is certainly also for adults. More than children, adults need to be reminded of the homilies and the simple truths about what counts and what doesn’t count in life. Children in any case are born with this wisdom.
The Big Ideas!
(Or in this case, small, incredibly powerful nuggets of truth.)
- The Little Prince reminds us that the best in life can often be found in the midst of the worst.
- The open-mindedness and insatiable curiosity of children is a cornerstone of well-being.
- Being a grown-up is a state of mind, not a fact of life.
- The protagonist whispers into our ear that it’s extremely important in life to care and be careful.
- As the fox says, “One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.”
The Little Prince – originally in French, Le Petit Prince – is an enchanting little tale about an aviator’s chance meeting with a little boy who happens to be visiting Earth from another planet. The aviator crashes in the Sahara desert and damages his airplane to the point where he cannot fly any longer. Left with little food and water, the aviator ponders his predicament. As he worries, he is approached by a young and serious blond boy; the two become friends.
The boy reveals that he is from a planet where he is true blue royalty – a prince. On his planet, the prince prevents bad seeds from growing and ensures they are never overrun by baobab trees. He is happy on his planet, until the wind sows a seed for him and out springs a lovely, mysterious rose. The prince loses his head and heart to the flower that not unlike all the other beautiful and lovely creatures on Earth and elsewhere is vain and tormenting. Then one day he catches the rose in a lie and determined he could not trust her anymore. Disenchanted with love, he decides to leave his planet to remedy his loneliness and find the real meaning of life.
Since this time, the prince has visited six different planets and recounts his many encounters. The prince met adults for the first time in his life during his adventure. The book dwells upon the innocence and wisdom of childhood that begins to fade into ‘intelligence’ and craftiness as we grow-up. The prince insists that ‘grown-ups’ make the world more complicated than it actually should be. Giant wisdom from a puny little prince! Eventually, the prince makes it to Earth where among other things he stumbles upon a rose garden; this surprises and upsets him – he believed his rose was one-of-a-kind.
The wisest advice is bestowed upon the prince from – believe it or not – a ‘canny’ fox! The fox teaches him the important things in life are visible only to the heart. The fox proposes that time away from the rose has made the prince’s heart grow fonder. And most importantly, love makes a person responsible for object of that love. The little prince realizes even though there are many like roses, his love for his rose makes her unique.
Healed and made wise, the prince decides it is time to make his way home.
One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me…”
“Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”
“Men have forgotten this basic truth. But you must not forget it. For what you have tamed, you become responsible forever. You are responsible for your rose.” The fox is made to say the book’s most famous line: “On ne voit bien qu’avec le Coeur,” “It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly.”
IMEO (In My Eudaimonian Opinion)
If there was ever a book that I found ‘unputdownable,’ that can also be read in one, straight shot – it’s Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. There is something incredibly sweet, sorrowful, and mystical – paradoxically, also real – about The Little Prince and the characters described in it.
If there is a Little Prince or Princess in your life, who might use a little shot of confidence, I suggest you gift him/her this book. The child will value it for life and may want to carry-it-forward with his children – such is the timeliness about the tale. Or else, read it aloud with your child and study the impact. The cocky little prince will support them through every twist and turn of life, thereafter.
In a manner, the book speaks to the child in each one of us. He talks a child’s language, follows their idiom, feels their sorrow and loneliness and ultimately triumphs in their search for poetic justice. There is a clever play on the word “Little” – it helps us enter the children’s world and experience it through their eyes. In the process, we discover happiness in the ordinary, mundane things, that we usually put aside as adults. Indeed, it is easy to get so caught up in the mad rush of a daily existence, that we conveniently forget that there could be more to life than chasing a job, worry over a meeting, an appointment or the next salary raise.
Reading this book also reminded me of William Henry Davies’ thought-provoking lines:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows…”
Take action, humanoid!
Write it out!
- List 5-10 things you value in your life.
- Is there something that you loved doing as a child (painting, jumping over fences, plucking flowers, climbing trees) that you would love to do again?
- What are your most cherished dreams?
- What are you grateful for in your life?
- What was your greatest strength as a child?
The Little Prince
Author: Antoine De Saint-Exupéry
Publication date: 1943