Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”– Albus Dumbledore
Why do I start with a quote from Harry Potter, you ask.
We, readers, have amassed a great deal of wisdom from a book that talks about a boy, chosen to exterminate evil and trying to make sense of the tainted world around him. Similarly, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince is a minefield of symbolism and allegory, a tale that ultimately whisks you away to imaginary lands through a character cherished by all.
Originally written in French and hailed as one of the greatest books in Children’s Literature, The Little Prince is the perfect blend of fantasy, childhood innocence, and moral and life lessons, and serves as an allegory for adulthood. The story is said to be relevant to both children and adults, and after reading the book, I understood why. The Little Prince enveloped me with hope and comfort, filling me with a sense of dread toward the end and asking me to not surrender to the most rational (and hence, adult-like) explanation. I wanted to dream on and not acknowledge the gaping hole it left behind.
Exupéry’s life had been one big adventure, and this book was fueled by his personal experiences. A pilot by profession and a dreamer at heart, his life was as tragic as the story itself. As someone who touched so many hearts, his abrupt and unforeseen disappearance surely raised a lot of questions.
The story begins with a pilot, who had been condemned as a child for his unrealistic artwork, crash-landing on a desert from a failed engine and stumbling upon a child. This confused, persistent and optimistic child with a strange request later voices a tale that will be relevant for generations to come. The little prince that the pilot meets, is the sole inhabitant of Asteroid B-612, coexisting with baobab trees, three volcanoes, and a special rose. As the story progresses, our enthralled pilot learns more about how the prince managed to reach Earth and his experiences so far. The little prince then takes over the narrative, catapulting us into an interstellar journey, describing his encounter with new asteroids and his unsuccessful and frustrating conversations with the ‘adults’ that inhabit them.
The first man, ‘A King’ (of an asteroid with no inhabitants other than a rat), possesses a mindless desire to order around and rule despite there being no subjects, thus naming our narrator as his subordinate.
The prince then meets ‘The Conceited,’ a proud and egoistic fellow who wants to be worshiped as he considers himself to be superior, handsome, and intellectual beyond compare, thus confirming that adults are selfish and utterly presumptuous.
The third adult our narrator encounters is ‘The Businessman,’ who considers himself as the owner of all the stars and spends his days counting and recounting them.
‘The Street Lamp Lighter’ in a different asteroid lights a lamp every sunset and turns it off during sunrise. This basic errand turns out to be progressively troublesome as time speeds by, and subsequently, the storyteller realizes that grown-up life is dreary and unrewarding.
Finally, the prince meets ‘The Geographer,’ who excels in making maps based on the information collected by explorers from all around the asteroid. His lack of enthusiasm to observe and learn is unacceptable to the prince.
Each element in the prince’s story has a distinct meaning, a lesson to be learned. The rose represents the misrepresentation and superiority of beauty even when the person is evil-minded and naughty. Through baobab trees, we understand the need to take care of one’s planet to avoid chaos and extinction. The fox teaches us that ‘taming’ is not equivalent to owning, but a form of affection. Similarly, the adults make him rethink whether growing up is truly worth the effort or not southafrica-ed.com.
“Where are the people?” resumed the little prince at last. “It’s a little lonely in the desert…” “It is lonely when you’re among people, too,” said the snake.
Adults need to define everything with numbers, needing reasons and countless justifications to conclude. The Little Prince connects fluidly and intricately with the child in us, a phase we crave to go back to. It reminds us of the innocence we have consciously subdued and hidden behind the façade of adulthood. This life we lead is a self-made bubble. The Little Prince confronts us with a brutally honest and innocent set of questions, revealing that adulthood is all about irrationality, self-centered actions, half-baked relationships, and a life clouded by one’s own perspective.
A Prince living in a distant asteroid, who is fond of sunsets, talks about volcanoes and baobabs with an intensity that has been lost on us. His optimism, strange laugh, persistent questions, lack of urgency in answering questions or explaining himself, is mesmerizing and placid to the adult heart.
“The proof that the little prince existed is that he was charming, that he laughed, and that he was looking for a sheep. If anybody wants a sheep that is a proof that he exists.”
The Little Prince took me back to the times when adulthood felt hard, how pondering about ‘matters of consequence’ consumed my psyche and that the drawing of an elephant inside a boa constrictor felt absurd. The intense curiosity, ability to dream and believe in the most bizarre of things, is lost on us. We would prefer not to be ‘tamed’ because we can’t hazard a few tears or care for somebody unequivocally for the dread of dismissal. So, the next time you want to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and a book, pick up The Little Prince and make sure you empty some space in your heart for this little wanderer.[ratings]