Saturday, July 13, 2013

the little prince

It's been a long time since I last read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry but our old copy was close at hand this afternoon so I read it again. A little blond boy leaves his home on Asteroid B-612 and lands in the middle of the Sahara desert, where he meets a stranded pilot desperate to fix his plane. Over the course of eight days, the prince reawakens the aviator's appreciation of the simple treasures in life, while the prince learns that grown-ups aren't always "odd." Saint Exupery's pilot remembers his parents discouraging him from taking up art when he himself was six:

“I showed the grown ups my masterpiece, and I asked them if my drawing scared them. They answered why be scared of a hat? My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant.”

The Little Prince proceeds to tell of his travels from planet to planet until he arrived on Earth and of what he has learned along the way.  The most important thing he reveals is a secret that was taught him by a fox that he tamed:

                         And he went back to meet the fox.
                         "Goodbye" he said.

                         "Goodbye," said the fox.
                         "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:
                         It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
                         what is essential is invisible to the eye."

                         "What is essential is invisible to the eye,"
                         the little prince repeated,
                         so that he would be sure to remember.

                         "It is the time you have wasted for your rose
                         that makes your rose so important.

                         "It is the time I have wasted for my rose--
                         "said the little prince
                         so he would be sure to remember.

                         "Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox.
                         "But you must not forget it.
                         You become responsible, forever,
                         for what you have tamed.
                         You are responsible for your rose. . ."

                         "I am responsible for my rose,"
                         the little prince repeated,
                        so that he would be sure to remember.
“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”

note: When I looked for a copy of this book to link to I discovered that a new version of it published by Harcourt and translated into 'simpler' English by Richard Howard should be avoided. Katherine Woods translated the original that most of us remember.


  1. Oh my, I'm not sure I've ever read this one though it is well-known. Just checked our library and found most copies by Howard but luckily one by Woods. Thanks for the review and tip - it's now on my to-read list!

    1. I think you'd really enjoy it, Marja-Leena. The Little Prince has often been mistaken for a children's book because it features a child but it's really something far better suited to adult sensibilities.

  2. Le reynard est très sage! (The fox is very wise.) I wish more of us could live with such wisdom. Just watch out for the boabab trees of life!

    I remember reading the story in English several times, and trying it in French. It does resonate on both the child and adult levels, but in different ways. Is it a favourite of Crow?

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting
    Life in the Urban Forest (poetry)

    1. and be sure to keep your volcanoes clean, even the extinct ones.. because you never know :)

      I'm glad you like it too but I've always thought it to be an adult story. Kids usually like less pensive tales. Yes, Crow is certainly an admirer too.

  3. Very thought provoking. Thank you.

  4. I read Le Petit Prince when it was first published in 1943. I was 14, and I was growing up, as a French Canuck, in Montréal. In those days, WW2 was being fought in Europe. And my 25 year-old brother was overseas with his regiment. Every night, I would kneel down with my mother, and we would beg God, with tears, to keep him alive. We had no way of knowing where he was and what he was doing. Now and again, we would receive a short blue airmail note from England where he would write that he loved us. I missed him dreadfully. In my loneliness and my worry, Le Petit Prince became my joy, my comfort, my daily companion. I am now 83. And I have read the book every 3 years since 1943. Everytime, I read it, it takes a new meaning, and reveals a new depth. As I got older, the one sentence which affected me the most is: "You become responsible forever for what you have tamed." Although I have lived and moved in many places, I never said goodbye to the people I have met and loved. Now, sadly, many of those dear friends have said goodbye to me and have gone to another dimension of the universe. I have given the book ( in French and English) to hundreds of people, not only to my friends, but also to the difficult people that I would have wanted to love, hoping that, reading it, they might get the essence of life as I know it.

    Thank you for mentioning this book, Susan. All St-Exupéry's wriings are a life learning experience. Specially "Terre des hommes" (Wind, Sand and Stars). Like you Susan, I much prefer Katherine Woods' version of The Little Prince to other translations. Since the death of St-Ex, two books have also been written featuring The Little Prince returning. To be avoided at all cost. Such a betrayal!

    Here, let me add that your own illustrations have the appealing charm, the poetic enchantment, the fairy tale qualities of The Little Prince's scenes. They're always a delight to the eyes and to the heart. Merci de tout coeur!

    1. Ah, Dear Claude,
      Your beautiful story about how and when you first made the acquaintance of Le Petit Prince made me well up with tears. Considering I'm not a weepy woman that says a lot. I hope your well loved brother made it home safe and sound all those many years ago. Hopefully too, he also developed the same affection for the writings of M. St. Exupéry as you have done. It was a great loss to the world that he died so young but he most certainly lived up to the philosophy expressed in The Little Prince. Even though the book is replete with marvelous observations I agree that the scenes with the fox are the heart of the book. Another real favorite of mine is:

      'What must I do, to tame you?' asked the little prince.

      'You must be very patient,' replied the fox. 'First you will sit down at a little distance from me-like that-in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day...”

      What has touched me the most about your letter is when you said that besides giving copies of the book to friends you've also given them 'to the difficult people that I would have wanted to love, hoping that, reading it, they might get the essence of life as I know it'. I know that feeling of hoping against hope to win the trust of those who just can't seem to take that small step towards mutual understanding. It was always worth the effort and always will be because sometimes it works. I've long felt that we aren't always necessarily who we think we are at any given moment. Who knows what disasters have been avoided because we are able to open ourselves to allow better spirits (dare I say angels?) to work through us? I'll always believe one day we'll meet again those we've known and loved and that we'll be greeted with love by those other friends we never quite got around to meeting. It's a big Universe.

      Thank you for your recommendation of Terre des Hommes. I will certainly buy a copy next time I make a book order now that you've told me how much you enjoyed it. Naturally, I'll look for an original translation of that one as well but I doubt there's the same problem as there has been with the far more famous Little Prince.

      I'm very grateful too for your kind words about my pictures; they don't always happen so easily, but knowing someone as lovely as you recognizes the small magic I hope to bring about makes the effort worthwhile.

      Merci aussi de tout coeur

  5. It has been years since I read The Little Prince...I haven't thought of it in years.
    the Ol'Buzzard

    1. I'm glad to have been the one to remind you.

  6. The Little Prince. He seems akin to the young boy that was fooled by coyote one night while trying to get close to a whipperwill so he could hear its song better. Ended up with a lot of scratches from the brambles. mosquito bites and a twisted ankle.
    Been a while since I have been over this way, maybe my recent trip into Canada, (British Columbia), recently, brought you to mind. Hope all is good with you.

    Much Peace sent your way

    1. I hope you enjoyed your travels to BC. The west is gorgeous at any time of the year but summers there are spectacular. I'm glad to know you thought of me then.

  7. What's this "Happy Birthday" comment above mine? Your birthday? Well, may happiness abound!

    I have never read this book. So glad that I caught this excerpt because I have hired the boy next door (high schooler, first summer job) to design the corner portion of our yard, and do all the landscaping. There were two really old raggy roses there that I had him remove (I wound up saving one) - but I was not ready to let go of three others that I planted there. This gives me hope that I can transplant them to a better spot and all will be well.

    1. Crow's BD (or so he imagines). May happiness always abound even without them.

      I think you would really enjoy the wisdom and wistfulness of The Little Prince. It's cool you have given someone their first job, and a very creative one at that. I hope your roses do well in their new location. You do know not to replant them in soil that another rose has inhabited, don't you?

      I'm so glad you came by.

  8. When I first read The Little Prince, I was so deeply touched, I thought my heart would break...

    1. It continues to have that effect on us sensitive souls..