Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
About the Book
The seemingly autobiographical tale of Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) has remained one of my most cherished books since the first time studying it in high school French class. This little French story of a stranded aviator that meets the other-worldly prince and passes his time in conversation with him, reminds us to appreciate the imaginative ability young children possess, and that we adults might enjoy if we let ourselves stay young at heart. This is evidenced by the author’s introductory narrative of his childhood drawing of a snake that has eaten an elephant, which appears more like a hat to the adult eye. It is further evidenced by the drawing of a box with holes in it, which the Little Prince insists contains a sleeping lamb.
The book also teaches us, through the perspective of childhood innocence, to question adult practices and motives and in doing so, we may find them absurd. The adults the Little Prince meets during his planetary travels always leave him wondering at how odd they are. Each character he meets typifies a type of adult trait. There is the king who insists on making inane rulings because he must rule. There is the tippler who must drink to forget his shame of drinking. And there is the lantern lighter who is incapable of changing his orders to light, put out, and relight the lamp, despite that the planet’s days have shortened so considerably that there is no time in between his actions.
How often in our teen years are we sure the adults around us have forgotten what it was like to be young? Or do we wonder at their strange reasoning? Most assuredly that’s why I identified so strongly with the author of Le Petit Prince while studying the story as a teen. It was this uncommon ability of the adult author to capture what it was like to be so young, that has made this book so memorable. As I grow older, in an effort never to forget that childhood innocence, and to remind myself to always question and evaluate the world around me, I return to this book again and again. I even have a sweatshirt with the cover of the book on it!
Paris is jam packed with historical monuments, and overflowing with literary homages, both to past and present authors. My favorite, however, is the too small bust of an author who disappeared, but not before leaving our world with a piece of literature we all would do well to remember more often. I happened upon this small memorial quite by accident. If you ever happen to be strolling by a small park by Les Invalides on your way to visit Napoleon’s tomb and the war memorial, take a moment to step inside the garden. Pause by the bust of Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Saint-Exupery, an author and French aviator, disappeared during a World War II flight mission. His plane went down and was never seen again. (That is until 60 years later, when his plane wreckage was eventually found. However, that was after my discovery of his memorial bust.) I enjoyed the idea that this author had disappeared among the stars in much the same way as his famous character The Little Prince, rather than descending to earth as a mere mortal. However, I was overjoyed to find that there is a physical spot on our planet where we may pay our respects to the author.
So, please, next time a child shows you a picture of a hat, for goodness sake, tell them you see the elephant inside the snake! And next time you’re in Paris, stop by the bust of Antoine de Saint-Exupery.