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24th May
2009
written by Tony
The King

The King

Steph has been encouraging me to read this book for quite a while now, so when we ran across a beautiful copy that also included Saint Exupéry’s other works it seemed like a good chance for me to finally get up to speed on this classic. Since this is one of the best-selling books of all time, there is a good likelihood that I was among the few who hadn’t read it, and will spare you the ringing endorsement this book does not need. It is excellent, and though it’s ostensibly a children’s book, there is certainly a much deeper philosophical core that can be enjoyed and contemplated by people of all ages. This is a short book, and I think this review would best serve it by being short. “Language is the source of misunderstandings” says the fox to the Little Prince, and I think he is correct. Superficially this is about a man who meets a young boy in the middle of the Sahara who turns out to be a prince from asteroid B-612, deep in space. The Little Prince will not answer questions and will not give up on any question he has asked of another person. We are told of the Prince’s journey to Earth and his subsequent stay on the planet, culminating with his departure. The story is peppered with Saint Exupéry’s illustrations that, while not excellent from a technical standpoint, are perfect and would not work if they were any different. Read on the surface this is a charming little story that is sure to hold the attention of most any child. When read with the perspective of some years past childhood, this story takes on a much deeper cast, and becomes something so profoundly introspective into the nature of humanity and what it means to be an “adult” that the simple power of its ideas is stunning. Adults don’t understand anything they can’t put a number to, and certainly don’t believe anything they don’t see as serious. Children see the world in different terms, as evidenced by the Little Prince’s first request: draw me a sheep. After several aborted tries, the airman draws a crate and says the sheep is inside, and the Prince declares it perfect, just the sheep he wanted. The interpretation is left to the beholder, as it should be. The Little Prince encounters a fox, and for me this encounter with the fox is perhaps the most profound moment in the book. Rather than apply my own words to it, I’ll leave it to you to interpret. First, from the fox:
…But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And I shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat..." The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time. "Please-- tame me!" he said. "I want to, very much," the little prince replied. "But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand." "One only understands the things that one tames," said the fox. "Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me..."
Perfect, right? Read this book if you haven’t, if you have, read it again. Later…
"Goodbye," he said. "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." "What is essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember. "It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."
5 out of 5

8 Comments

  1. 05/24/2009

    What a fantastic review! I really enjoyed this one too…Don’t feel bad, I just read it for the first time last year :p Thought it was great though…Have you read anything else by him yet? I’m curious what his other stories are like.

  2. 05/24/2009

    Thanks! Since the Little Prince was included in an anthology with Airman’s Odyssey I decided to go ahead and read that as well. It’s really quite interesting, though not quite as immediately poignant as The Little Prince, the writing is still very good and Exupéry offers some nice insight gained through his many travels around the world as a pilot for the Aéropostale. It’s definitely worth the read, though not quite as magical as The Little Prince.

  3. 05/25/2009

    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed this as it’s a childhood favourite of mine. The ending still makes me cry.

    I also love and would recommend Saint-Expury’s Letter to a Hostage. It’s his optimistic and humane open letter to his dear friend Leon Worth, a Jewish intellectual in hiding in France to whom he also dedicated The little Prince. I’ve never read a better or more moving account of friendship.

  4. taryn
    05/25/2009

    Hi Tony,
    What publisher/edition is this? If it is indeed a beautiful copy (i’m assuming if Steph had written the entry, it would have read “pretty!!”, right?), i might need to find myself a copy for my own shelf…

  5. 05/26/2009

    I was told of this story many times but I confess I haven’t read the book myself! Your review would be a big push. Children often look at things in a more simple manner, maybe that’s what we called “innocence.” So untainted by worldliness and stereotype, black is black, and white is white.

  6. 05/27/2009

    Beautiful review! I have never read this, but from the excerpts you posted it sounds like both a simple yet complex read. Since my kids haven’t read this either, I am thinking that I should go out and get a copy.

  7. 11/04/2009

    Do read Wind, Sand, & Stars, too! so beautifully written.

  8. […] The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry […]

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