“People have forgotten this truth," the fox said. "But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.”
First published in 1943, Antoine de Saint-Exupery's slim novella The Little Prince remains extremely popular throughout the world. It is the most read and most translated piece of French literature and continues to sell over a million copies each year. This tale speaks of love, loss, loneliness, and friendship and continues to enchant readers 70 years later.
The narrator of the story is a pilot whose plane has crashed into the Sahara desert, far from civilization. He must fix his plane before he runs out of supplies and succumbs to the desert heat. He encounters a young boy who seems to appear from nowhere and whom he refers to as "the little prince". They strike up a conversation and soon discover that the look at the world in remarkably similar ways. Over the course of eight days, the little prince recounts his life story to the narrator as he works on his plane.
The prince is from a small asteroid called B-612, where his life consisted of cleaning out tiny volcanoes and pulling up undesirable weeds. There was also a small rose that had mysteriously appeared on the asteroid. He cared for it, nurtured it, and protected it from the cold. But even as he was falling in love with his rose, he felt that she was taking advantage of him and he resolved to travel to other planets to escape her. As he went from planet to planet, he met several foolish and narrow-minded adults who lived on them. He then made it to Earth where he encountered various other people/creatures who revealed the state of human life on the planet. As he recounts his story, his worry and desire for his rose continues to grow, and he must decide whether or not to make the ultimate sacrifice to see her again.
My Review (Caution - Spoilers):
This is another one of those books that was on my radar, but that I knew absolutely nothing about until I actually read it. And I'm not going to lie, this is a tough book to review because it is almost impossible to pin down. It is whimsical and illogical, and yet it makes many profound statements about life.
On it's surface, this novella is one that seems to be meant for children. It has a sense of magic and a way of story telling that just doesn't seem to make sense (in a pleasant way). It can be difficult to wrap our adult minds around the almost ethereal tone that the story takes. And both the narrator and the little prince are characters that children can bot relate to and admire. It is no wonder that parents all over the world choose to read this book with their family and try to recapture the sense of wonder and enchantment that we all once had.
But at a deeper level, there are a lot of themes and ideas that go above children's heads. Many of the events and characters in the story are based on de Saint-Exupery's own experiences. He also explores many other themes throughout the story, most prominently the idea of relationships. The fox that the little prince meets explains to him that "taming" something, or having a relationship with someone, creates a responsibility that you cannot escape. That is why, no matter how frustrated he was with the rose, the little prince feels that he must go back and take care of her. Their relationship created a mutual need.
Again, this is a book that is hard to recommend because it is so hard to pin down. I think that this is one that adults should definitely read, and use their judgement on how the children in their life would like it. It is certainly one that deserves being read over and over again as there are so many little gems in it. Be prepared to have your heart touched, and to never look at the stars the same way again.
This story has been adapted in a variety of forms, but only two have been film adaptations. One is the 1974 musical version starring Richard Kiley, Steven Warner, Joss Ackland, and Gene Wilder. It was not very successful when it first came out, but it has gained a bit of a cult following.
There is also a 3D adaptation set to come out next year starring James Franco, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, and Jeff Brides.