“It took me quite a long time to understand where he came from. The little prince, who asked me so many questions, never seemed to hear the ones I asked him.”
–The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Usually, it is quite surprising when a children’s book captures a range of topics and themes that every individual will endure in their lifetime. It is even more surprising when it is a children’s book that was published over seventy-four years ago in the midst of the Second World War. Of course, the children’s book of which I am referring to is the novella known as The Little Prince.
The novella The Little Prince was written and illustrated by Frenchman Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, hitting book shelves in April of 1943. Since the novella’s publication, it has sold over 80 million copies and has been translated into 253 languages and dialects. The Little Prince’s success can be traced back to the way in which the novella catches more than the attention of just children but adults as well. Exupéry himself even claimed that The Little Prince was a book for children written for adults.
As a second year college student reading a children’s book, I have to say it was a breath of fresh air to check out a book from the library that on the outside appeared to be very simple compared to the books I checkout for research. But, alas, I was surprised by what I read in between the lines of the 84 page book. Reading between the lines, I saw a philosophical narrative disguised as a fairy tale. I saw the underlying themes of loss, loneliness, love, friendship, childhood, adulthood, relationships as well as what it means to be human.
And, I enjoyed every second of it.
From the outset, the story of The Little Prince is told from the perspective of an unnamed pilot (most likely Exupéry who was a pilot that crash landed more than his fair share) who crash lands in the Sahara Desert. On the first night he spends in the desert, he is awoken by a little boy who wishes for the pilot to draw him a sheep. Soon enough, the pilot identifies the little boy as the Little Prince, our novella’s title character. Eventually, it is revealed that the Little Prince is not from Earth and actually comes from another planet, but even so, the pilot is assured that the Little Prince comes from Asteroid B-612. Furthermore, as the pilot spends more time with the Little Prince he learns more about the child’s past and how the Little Prince came to arrive on Earth. Additionally, as the pilot spends more time with the Little Prince, he comes to terms with what it means to see the universe through the eyes of a child versus the eyes of an adult.
In truth, I felt that reading The Little Prince now is perhaps more relevant than it could have been then at any other time in my life because as I continue to grow older, I continue to lose sight of a child’s perspective and therefore become a “very strange grown up”…at least that is what the Little Prince would say.