(update: June 20, 2018)
I reread this for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2018
(the following is my review from March 2016)
This is the third time (fourth now) I’ve read The Little Prince. It is the first-person narrative of pilot Saint-Exupéry after he makes an emergency landing in the Sahara desert many miles from help or civilization. Saint-Exupéry encounters the peculiar and other-worldly little prince. The two spend days together and many hours of conversation while Saint-Exupéry works on his aircraft. The book is a novella, and indeed a very short novella, and I think you could call it magical realism. The illustrations on the cover and inside were done by Saint-Exupéry. This novella is not part of my 100 Greatest Novels Quest.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I first read The Little Prince when I was eleven. My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Banks, whom I will always love, introduced me to a wonderful book called The Hobbit. I loved it, and quickly consumed the sequel The Lord of the Rings. Mrs. Banks then recommended The Little Prince. I trusted her judgement, so I obtained a copy and anticipated another thrilling epic.
I was terribly disappointed. I thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever read.
I was eleven.
Fast forward 30+ years, a friend whose judgement I also trusted, recommended The Little Prince. I was puzzled. My memory of the book didn’t reconcile to my worthy friend’s opinion.
So, I gave it another try. I was stunned by the power, the poetry, the poignant wisdom – thank you Mary Ann!
I won’t try to synopsize the tale, nor venture much into its meaning – except this – The Little Prince is about what we value, and how what we value when we grow up, grow mature, grow wise – is often less worthy than the things we valued when young.
That might sound like Peter Pan – refuse to grow up, but that isn’t the message. I have no problem with J.M. Barrie’s magical fantasy, but refusing to grow up – well – it can’t be done and if you try, you look rather absurd. The Little Prince is not about not growing up or non-conformity. It’s about value.
It’s really no wonder I didn’t appreciate it when I was eleven. This isn’t really a children’s book, though some children will like it. It has talking flowers, and foxes, and snakes, and space travel, and few adults, but it isn’t a children’s book. You can read about Saint-Exupéry and his extraordinary life and it should become obvious that The Little Prince was a very personal tale and certain characters are undoubtedly mapped to persons in the author’s life. For me, it is simply a poetic tale, and I would mar its beauty should I attempt to be any more analytical than that.
He couldn’t say another word. All of a sudden he burst out sobbing. Night had fallen. I dropped my tools. What did I care about my hammer, about my bolt, about thirst and death? There was, on one star, on one planet, on mine, the Earth, a little prince to be consoled! I took him in my arms. I rocked him. I told him, “The flower you love is not in danger…I’ll draw you a muzzle for your sheep…I’ll draw you a fence for your flower…I…” I didn’t know what to say. How clumsy I felt! I didn’t know how to reach him, where to find him…It’s so mysterious, the land of tears.
One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes. ~ The Fox
You risk tears if you let yourself be tamed. ~ Saint-Exupéry