The Little Prince is about a stranded pilot who meets a mysterious prince in the Sahara desert. Mysterious because when asked directly, the prince won’t say where he’s from or what he’s doing on Earth. At first, he only wanted a drawing of a sheep from the artistically-challenged pilot, but as the story unfolds, it is clear that he wanted many things, especially from adults. The foremost of which is imagination. And the other important thing, which is just a variation of the first is to see with the heart.
Told in lyrical language and full of symbols that are also beautifully illustrated, The Little Prince gets better during the second or third reading. I especially liked the fact that I had completely forgotten what had happened to the prince in the story, that years had passed without opening my copy of the book, so by the time that I decided to read it again and I had reached the unexpected ending, I was honestly moved. I don’t have a favorite children’s book yet, but this could be the one.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, who wrote this children’s book as a kind of autobiography, gave the prince interesting companions in the story—-the flower, the fox, and even the unruly baobabs. They all represented something or someone in the life of the French author, but whatever or whoever they signify, we will never know. That is not the intention of the author. What Saint-Exupery wants us to do is to understand that they can stand for anything or anyone connected to our lives too.
We only need to use our imagination.
The heart of the story is that the prince, who thought he was lonely and friendless in his small planet, actually had a useful and meaningful life. He had:
- Two active volcanoes which he cleans to manage their explosions;
- A beautiful flower who greets him first and which he waters and protects from the wind, and
- The pleasure of seeing the sunset as often as he wants by just making small adjustments to his chair.
But knowing and understanding don’t come quickly, even for the wise prince. So when he ventures out into the universe and meets the ridiculous and sorry characters—the king, the conceited man, the tippler (alcoholic), the businessman, the geographer, and the faithful lamplighter, he becomes more motivated in putting more distance from his small planet. All to reach some understanding about his own life and purpose. When he came to earth, he found a friend in the fox and pilot, but the desert, which is like another planet that symbolizes the prince and the pilot’s isolation, presented a more compelling problem.
One of my favorite parts was when the pilot and the prince discovered a well after a long walk and in it, they found the water sweeter because of the effort that they had made in finding and getting the water. There was no bitterness about their thirst and I like that quiet endurance, that tolerance and patience that make them soft even in the face of adversity. It matches the bittersweet ending.
Water may also be good for the heart.