Reviewer: Ange from Tall, Short & Tiny
My copy of The Little Prince was bought for £1.99 in 2009, just days before we left London to return to New Zealand, and was immediately sealed in a box, ready to be shipped home. There it stayed, for almost four months, until being unpacked when we moved into our new house. Once it was unpacked, I read it over a few hours while putting things in their new places, and when I’d finished, I sat with a smile on my face.
It is a beautiful story, magical, poignant, sad, poetic; I only wish I could read it in its original French, as I imagine that would simply enhance its beauty.
The Little Prince is essentially a children’s story, but it has massive appeal for adults too. It is quite complex in its themes and metaphors which I think many (perhaps most?) children would not get, but its simplicity and imagery would be enough to capture and hold young imaginations. The story begins with the narrator lamenting the fact that adults often lack imagination, which children would identify with,
“All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.”
“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”
and the little prince himself comments that,
“Grown-ups are very strange/really very odd/certainly absolutely extraordinary”.
The basic story is of the narrator, a pilot who crashes his plane in the desert, meeting a young boy (the little prince) from a distant planet. Over eight days, the narrator attempts to repair his plane, while the little prince tells stories about his home planet, and the places he has been. He tells of his tiny home planet, with its three little volcanoes (which he cleans) and a variety of plants. He tells of his love for a beautiful rose that suddenly appeared growing; he tended the rose until he began to feel that she was taking advantage of him, and although she apologises for her vanity, he decides to travel and explore the universe.
He tells of the interesting characters he has met along the way (including a king with no subjects, and a man who believes himself to be the most admirable person on a planet inhabited by no other), and that he first believed Earth to be uninhabited due to landing in the desert. When he discovers a whole row of rosebushes, he is sad, because he’d believed his rose was unique. He meets a fox who explains that his rose really is special, because she is the object of the prince’s love. The fox is wise, and asks the prince to tame him; he is given many of the story’s most profound, memorable lines:
“I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings.”
“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….”
“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.”
When the narrator has fixed his plane, it is time for the little prince to return home. Their farewell is quite emotional but sweet and beautiful:
“When you look up at the sky at night, since I shall be living on one of them and laughing on one of them, for you it will be as if all the stars were laughing. You and only you will have stars that can laugh!”
And as he said it he laughed.
“And when you are comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be happy to have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me…”
The story is supposedly based on aspects and experiences of de Saint-Exupéry’s own life; the rose is said to represent his wife, whom he loved but was unfaithful to. It is a story rich with beauty and imagination, and I never grow tired of flicking through its pages.
I look forward to the time when I can read this with my sons, and I hope they will enjoy it as much as I do. The Little Prince deserves 5/5 stars – there is nothing I can fault with it, and I loved it.