‘“There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book.” Philip Pullman
First published in 1943, this book tells a bittersweet tale with plenty of insights into the meaning of life, our need for connection and some truly delightful illustrations. The author is also very keen to encourage children not to grow up too quickly, to remain true to the innocence, curiosity and wonder of childhood. Idyllic in its vision, it is a breath of fresh air in a world dominated by grown-ups who seem so intent on learning facts and figures and alienated from our need of true connection and companionship. This tiny book also offers a sharp analysis of the ways we live our lives. The book reminds us that while we rush and dash in our pursuit of wealth and influence over others we are losing our capacity to love, dream and connect with each other. To me it is a call, to take care of with boundless love what I have been entrusted with. ‘For what you have tamed, you become responsible forever. You are responsible for your rose…’
The narrator – a pilot flying solo, is forced to land his plane in the Sahara Desert because he has engine trouble. There, he meets a visitor from another planet – the little prince. In the span of a few days they become fast friends. The little prince recounts stories about the places he’s been to and the people he has met, which the narrator puts down in writing six years after his sojourn in the Sahara Desert.
Here are some of my favourite excerpts from this very small book; a small book with a big heart:
“Grown-ups love figures. When you talk to them about a new friend, they never ask questions about essential matters. They never say to you: ‘What does his voice sound like? What games does he prefer? […] They ask you: ‘How old is he? How many brothers does he have? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father earn?’”
“I did not really know what to say to him [the narrator to the little prince]. I felt very awkward. I did not know how to reach him, how to catch up with him… The land of tears is so mysterious.”
A part of the conversation between the little prince and a businessman he met on one of the small planets:
[the businessman:] ‘Five hundred and one million, six hundred and twenty-two thousand, seven hundred and thirty-one [stars].’
‘And what do you do with them?’
‘What do I do with them?’
‘Nothing. I own them.’
‘You own the stars?’
‘But I have already seen a king who…’
‘Kings own nothing. They reign over. It is quite different.’
‘And what use is it to you to own stars?’
‘It makes me rich.’
‘And what is the point of being rich?’
‘It enables me to buy other stars […]
‘And what do you do with them?’
‘I manage them, I count them and recount them,’ said the businessman. ‘I am a man concerned with matters of consequence!’
The little prince was still not satisfied.
‘If I owned a silk scarf, I could put it around my neck and take it away with me. If I owned a flower I could pick it and take it away with me. But you cannot pick stars!’
‘No, but I can put them in the bank.’
‘Whatever does that mean?’
‘It means that I write down the number of my stars on a piece of paper. And then I put it in a drawer and lock it with a key.’
‘Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy ready-made things in the shops. But since there are no shops where you can buy friends, men no longer have any friends.’
‘It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.’
‘The men where you live,’ said the little prince, ‘grow five thousand roses in the same garden… and they do not find what they are looking for…’ […] ‘And yet, what they are looking for could be found in a single rose or in a little water.’
The illustrations are taken from the book and were originally drawn by the author himself.
Thank you for reading.