Literature / The Little Prince

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Once upon a time there was a little prince who lived on a planet that was scarcely bigger than himself, and who had need of a sheep.

"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."

A worldwide literary classic (it's been translated into 190 languages), The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince in French) is a 1943 children's book written and illustrated by French aviator and count Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It is the fictional account of a French aviator whose plane crashes in the Sahara desert, a thousand miles from civilization. While trying to fix his plane and expecting to die of thirst within days, he is approached by a young boy who requests that he draw him a sheep. The rest of the story is mostly about the boy (thereafter referred to as the little prince) relating to the narrator his life on an asteroid and his travels from planet to planet in search of the meaning of life. While the Prince talks, the narrator continues to work on his plane.

While the book was written for children, the philosophical content appeals to any adult reader, as during the prince's adventures he encounters analogues of many of the traits of modern humanity, and learns about love and friendship from the plants and animals he meets.

Adaptations have mostly been for the stage, but there's also a 1974 movie musical and a 1979 Claymation short. It also inspired an anime, a 2010 CGI cartoon airing on French TV, and a full-length animated movie in 2015.

Not in any way a Spear Counterpart to A Little Princess, or Tony Ross' Little Princess books for that matter.


Le Petit Prince provides examples of:

  • Circular Reasoning: The Prince meets a man with a drinking problem. Why does he drink? To forget. To forget what? His shame. What is he ashamed of? His drinking problem.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Strangely, although the fox is very worldly-wise, it isn't cunning or even particularly self-interested.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: One planet the Prince visits is inhabited by a Tippler caught in a vicious cycle; he claims he drinks to forget that he's ashamed of his drinking habit.
  • Growing Up Sucks: "The grown-ups are certainly very odd..."
  • Have a Gay Old Time: In Katherine Woods' translation: "What a queer planet!"
  • Historical In-Joke: A reference is made to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his Westernization policies at one point.
  • Ludicrous Precision: Before the invention of electricity, Earth is said to have had 462,511 lamplighters.
  • Moonwalk Dance: The 1974 film version featured Bob Fosse as a snake doing a dance that is also considered a precursor to the Moonwalk. It helps that he is sporting an all black jacket, pants, and hat combo with a white shirt, much like MJ's later signature style.
  • Nameless Narrative: None of the characters in the story have names, including the Narrator,note  the rose, the fox and the title character.
  • Numbered Homeworld: Asteroid B-612. The planets the prince visits are all numbered, as well.
  • Planet of Hats:
    • In fact, every planet met is solely inhabited by one person (except for Earth).
    • The Geographer's planet is vast like the Earth, but not much of it is seen to know if he is the only inhabitant. The King's planet may or may not have a rat on it.
  • Playing Pictionary: The narrator explains how he once drew a picture of a snake that had swallowed an elephant, and all the adults told him it was a very nice hat. Makes sense if you look at the picture; the outline bears a distinct resemblance to a fedora.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The book can be also seen as a stealth autobiography. It's based on the time Saint-Exupéry was stuck in the desert for months. See his other novel Wind Sand and Stars.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Played with. The Snake is seen as evil by the narrator, but not by the Little Prince: "You have good poison? You are sure that it will not make me suffer too long?"
  • Small, Secluded World: Most of the places he visits, played for symbolism.
  • Walking the Earth: More like traveling through the stars.
  • The Wise Prince: This is an interesting case of this, since the only person under his command is a flower, and while he knows a lot about life in the sky, he's rather inexperienced outside of his kingdom. He does hit the melancholy, kind, honourable, and well-intentioned markers face first, and his inexperience is minimal compared to the various adults.


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