Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Little Prince

“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 Plot:

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.

The Movies:

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.         


Anonymous said...

I bet you saw a hat. And the story of the fox had nothing to do with responsibility in relationships. The story of the fox shows us that once we create a bond with someone, once we tame them, they become special to us . . . Unique. There can be a million other men in the world but only one is your father, to everyone else he's just a man. He may be special to someone else as well, but regardless, your bond with him is one of a kind. The part i think you thought was about responsibility, may have been the fox talking about showing up at the same time. Responsibility was not his point. The point he was making was if you want a friend or a relationship of any sort, you can't leave it to chance. It takes effort and care. You can't show up when you want because it leaves no opportunity for desire or anticipation. How is someone supposed to connect with another if there is no definite time in the day that they know they can bump into each other? Most of us set these times naturally. Usually it's finding out your crush's work schedule. Or making friends at recess; coming home from work to your new puppy the same time every night; the bond that a mother and her unborn child make while she's pregnant, which would make sense as to why that is the strongest bond in existence, you are literally taming each other for 9 months straight every second of the day and then years more after that. Or it could be how you show up to church every sunday. So you can get closer to god and he can get closer to you? I'm sorry for the rant and the terrible grammar. I'm sick in bed and trying to write this on my tablet. I am very passionate about this book. It was introduced to me by the best teacher i ever had, discussed in her most life-changing class, my senior year of high school,and I don't know if I would be the same person otherwise. So I can't sit here and let you tell people not to read it without speaking up. No ill will. Just a whole lot of passion. Read it again please. Maybe this time you'll see a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant. And if you don't . . . Email me - and i will discuss it with you :-)

bookwormans said...

J. T.

First let me say that I really appreciate your passion for this book. It is always nice to see someone stand up for the stories that have touched them so deeply.

I'd like to defend myself a bit by stating that I at no time said that people should not read this book. In fact, I said that "I think that this is one that adults should definitely read...". I try to not come out and say "Everyone must read this book!" because it is not always true. I try to simply give my feelings on it and then allow people to decide whether or not it sounds like something they would like.

And while I appreciate your view on the point of the relationship between the fox and the Little Prince, I stand by my interpretation as well. And I am not the only one. If you google "the little prince responsibility relationships" you can see many other reviews and analysis that include thoughts similar to my own. This is not to say that your interpretation is wrong, just that it is not the only right one.

I think that is one of the great beauties of reading. We each bring a bit of ourselves to the story and we see things in the light of our own experiences and lives. As I said in my review, I know that this book should be read over and over again because it is full of little gems on life and love. I know that the next time I read it I will discover new things and perhaps see some of the old things in a new light.

Again, I thank you for your thoughts. And I congratulate your high school teacher on instilling you with such passion.