I have recently read a book called Wartime Writings, 1939-1944 in English by a man called Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I thought the name sounded familiar but didn't think much of it until I read the introduction. To my surprise, he was actually the author of one of my favorite childhood stories, The Little Prince.
The Little Prince is a novella written and illustrated by aviator and write Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and is his most famous work. It is the third most sold book in the world with about 140 million copies sold. I personally had forgotten about this small treasure until a couple of years ago, when I came across a cover of the Japanese song Little Traveler, which was apparently based off The Little Prince.
The story begins with the narrator (who is based on Saint-Exupéry himself) recollecting an event in his childhood, when he drew a boa constrictor that consumed an elephant. When he showed grown-ups the picture, they said it was a hat (I thought it looked like the humps on a camel, personally). He then drew another picture showing the inside of the boa; the grown-ups rebuffed him and told him to focus on other things, like geography. Now a pilot, the narrator is stranded in the Sahara Desert after his plane malfunctioned. He soon encounters a little man, who asks him to draw a sheep. The narrator draws again the boa, who surprisingly recognizes the drawing as a boa digesting an elephant, but rejects it and demands a sheep. The narrator draws several sheep that the small man reject before he draws a box, saying the sheep is inside it. This is apparently what the man, whom the narrator calls the little prince, wanted.
Over the next eight days, the narrator fixes his plane while the little prince talks about his life. He is originally from an asteroid that is no bigger than a house, and has three tiny volcanoes and some plants. He talks about a rose that suddenly grew on his planet, and he had fallen in love with it. The rose was very vain and prideful, and soon enough the little prince felt taken advantage of, though he loved her. He decided to leave his planet to explore the universe, and the rose apologized; still, she urged him on. The prince then visited six other asteroids, all which had a foolish grown-up. He then lands on Earth, and learns many things.
While it is technically a children's book, The Little Prince has a very philosophical view, and lingers and observes many human mannerisms. It is known and accepted that much of the book is based on Saint-Exupéry's own life, including the rose and the little prince himself. I have always experienced a weird sense of nostalgia, even when I first read it.
It is hard to explain without experiencing firsthand what the book is like in its many layers, so I recommend that you read it. If you're reading this in English, I suggest the Katherine Woods translation; while it is the oldest version, I think it captures the essence of the original French perfectly compared to the more recent translations, and it is the version I have in English. If you have read The Little Prince, I recommend Robert F. Young's short stories (I have recently covered one of them in an earlier post). I also think The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and Abarat by Clive Parker feel quite similar to this novella, so read it if you want a longer experience.
Unfortunately, Saint-Exupéry disappeared at the end of July in 1944, during WWII while on duty, and is presumed dead. I decided to write this in his memory. While he is no longer here, his works, especially The Little Prince has taught many moral lessons, and showed us how life should be lived. I hope his memory lingers for centuries to come.
Live freely, readers. -Angela