A New Perspective on an Old Favorite:
I have recently re-read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery and found myself seeing the story in a new light. I quite enjoyed reading The Little Prince when I was much younger, second grade or so, and decided to reread to kill some time. Not only that, but I was pleasantly surprised when my unconventional choice actually entertained me and made me view the story in a new light (this review does contain spoilers for the story).
The book is told from the perspective of an unnamed aircraft pilot. He begins the story by stating that grownups cannot perceive important things. To test whether a grownup was enlightened on the ways of children, he would show them a picture of a snake that had eaten an elephant. As the grownups always replied that the picture was of a hat, the narrator knew to speak to them about “reasonable” things. He meets a little prince after crashing into the Sahara Desert, and the prince recounts his life to the narrator.
The Little Prince had lived on a small planet, spending his days pulling up baobab trees before they became far too large to handle. A Rose had grown on the planet, and the Little Prince had come to love her. However, the Rose was vain and selfish, prompting the Little Prince to leave his planet.
Image Credit: TBI Vision
The Little Prince travels to a series of asteroids, each inhabited by a grownup reduced to a solitary function. The first is a king who requires obedience, but has no subjects. The second is a vain man that wants flattery. The third is a drunkard that drinks to forget his shame of drinking. The fourth is a businessman who claims he owns the stars as he knows how many there are. The fifth is a lamplighter that follows orders that dictated he light the lamp at dusk, and put it out at dawn, despite the planet spins so fast, an entire day is a minute. The sixth was a geographer that knew nothing of his own planet as he relied on the knowledge of explorers. The geographer states the Little Prince must be an explorer as he has traveled from so far, and asks him to describe his planet. Upon the Little Prince telling him about his flower, the geographer responds that flowers are not recorded because they are ephemeral; geographies are only considered with matters of consequence.
The Little Prince finally makes his way to Earth, where he meets a snake that claims he can return him home, a flower that tells him people lack roots, a Rose garden that makes him despair at discovering his Rose was not unique as she claimed, and a fox that tells him if the Little Prince tamed him, they will be unique and joys for each other.
The Little Prince and the narrator find a well after having run out of water, and the Little Prince tells the narrator he plans on returning home. He tells the narrator that the stars will be special for him as the narrator will now be aware he lives somewhere among them. The Little Prince allows the poisonous snake to bite him, and presumably dies.
When I was younger, the story did not have much meaning to me: it was a funny little story about a Little Prince from another planet. However, now that I have reread it, the book has so much more meaning. The grownups in the story are portrayed as narrow-minded, while children are shown to have wisdom as a result of being open-minded and willing to explore the world around them. This was a subtlety I failed to notice when reading it many years ago. It made me rethink my own life and wonder when I had lost that wisdom, that open-mindedness, and willingness to explore the world around me. This realization made me consider my life choices and plans for the future: Was I really living my life the right way and planning for the right future?
The Rose was an interesting component of the story. I found her to be demanding and vain when I read the book many years ago, but it had not occurred to me that the Little Prince loved her despite these traits. Upon my rereading of the book, I realized that the little prince was so crushed at finding the garden of Roses because he thought he had loved his Rose. After all, she was unique. But, as the fox told him, his Rose was unique because of the connection he had with her. The Little Prince’s Rose was unique because of the time and effort he had invested in caring for her.
The Little Prince dying at the end also took on a new meaning for me. I got the impression that the narrator watching the Little Prince dying was him watching his childhood die. The Little Prince telling him the stars would take on a new meaning was the narrator believing that his childhood experiences would take on a new meaning for him as he progressed in life. Him mourning the Little Prince and asking for information regarding him after he had died was the narrator mourning the loss of his childhood, and telling others to value and learn from their own childhoods.