The Little Prince is a classic 1943 novella written by French aristocrat, writer, poet, and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It’s one of the most-translated books in the world. It tells a tale of a young prince born on an asteroid, who travels to different asteroids and meets different people. It teaches us lessons about loneliness, childhood, friendship, love and loss.
The prince loved a rose on his home asteroid. The rose was demanding and was desperate to gain the prince’s attention. He nourished and cared for the rose, making her a glass globe to protect her from wind, watering her, and keeping caterpillars away. One day, the prince grew tired of the rose and left his asteroid to explore the universe. Before he leaves, the rose apologized for failing to show that she loved him. The prince wanted to leave her in the glass globe to protect her, but she wanted to protect herself.
The prince visited 6 different planets, meeting a foolish adult on each planet. These adults each represent a critique of an element of society.
- The King: He has no subjects, but believes that everything in the universe is one of his subjects, that he can command and order the universe to do as he says, such as commanding the sun to set at sunset.
- Some people want to have power and control. They want to boss people around and to believe that they can control things. Because they are afraid of losing control. They want to feel strong and powerful, maybe because they feel vulnerable and weak inside.
- The Vain Man: He wants praise and admiration, and to be the most admired person in the world, even though he’s the only person in his world.
- Some people always want praise, admiration, and validation from others. They cannot handle any criticism or negative feedback. They need people to validate them all the time. This may stem from low self-esteem and perhaps low self-worth. They need people to tell them that they are worthy and good or else they feel bad about themselves.
- The Drunkard: He drinks to drown out his shame and disappointment. He drinks to forget that he’s ashamed of drinking.
- Some people want to forget all their problems and numb away all their feelings. They are ashamed or upset about whatever in their lives. So they rely on addictions to numb out their problems: drinking, smoking, gambling, women, drugs, etc.
- The Businessman: He spends all his time trying to count all the starts in the sky so that he can own them all. But what’s the point of owning them?
- This represents greed and materialism. Some people just want more and more. More money, more things. It’s never enough. Even though they have no use for so much of these things, they want more so they can feel safe and secure, so they can feel like they have enough, but it’s never enough.
- The Lamplighter: On his planet, every day lasts 1 minute. He wastes his life away following the orders to extinguish and relight the lamppost every 30 seconds.
- Many people are just plainly obedient to whatever people say. They do not do what they want to do or what they believe is right, but just obey. In our society, we were often taught to be obedient to our teachers, parents, bosses, authorities.
- The Geographer: He draws maps but has never been anywhere or seen any of the things he records.
- Some people only read books or look at a screen but never go outside to experience the world. They don’t have real-life experiences. Just a representation.
Next, the prince goes to Earth and lands in a desert. He meets a snake who says he can return him home if he ever wished. Then, he meets a desert flower who says men in this area have no roots, letting the wind blow them around and living hard lives.
The prince then arrives at a rose garden and is disappointed because he thought his rose said she was unique. But there were millions of other flowers just like his rose. The prince is heartbroken because his planet only has 3 small volcanoes and a flower. Now he knows that these are common. He lied crying on the grass.
A fox came along and wanted to be tamed. He taught the prince how to tame him. When you tame something, it goes from being ordinary like the others, to being unique and special. But the connection and attachment can lead to sadness and longing when away from each other.
The prince learns that his rose was unique and special because she was the object of his time and love. The prince had tamed the rose, so she is the most precious rose, more precious than all the other roses in the garden. The fox tells the prince that important things can only be seen with the heart, not the eyes.
The prince meets 2 adults on Earth.
- The Railway Switchman: He tells the prince that people are constantly rushing from one place to another, never satisfied with where they were and not knowing where they’re going. Only children bother to look out the windows.
- People are often never satisfied with what they have, where they are. They always want things to be different. They don’t appreciate where they are or what they have. They want something else.
- The Merchant: He tells the prince about a pill that replaces the need to drink water for a week, saving people 53 minutes. But why not just drink water?
- Sometimes our society is obsessed with masking symptoms with pills instead of treating the root cause of issues. Finding high-tech solutions for simple problems.
Days later, the prince is saddened by his experiences and desires to go home to see his rose. He worries that his rose has been left to fend for herself.
The prince says that it may look like he has died, but you only need to look at the starts to think of the prince’s laughter, and it will seem like all the stars are laughing. The prince then lets the snake bite him, and falls down.
Quotes from The Little Prince
- “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.”
- “All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”
- “What makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere it hides a well…”
- “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
- “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”
- “I am looking for friends. What does that mean — tame?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”
“To establish ties?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”
- “People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.”
- “Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”
- “You’re beautiful, but you’re empty…One couldn’t die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass, since she’s the one I sheltered behind the screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three butterflies). Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.”
- “Grown-ups love figures… When you tell them you’ve made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies? ” Instead they demand “How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? ” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”
- “I remembered the fox. One runs the risk of crying a bit if one allows oneself to be tamed.”