Reviewing the Classics #7: The Little Prince
Some classics have been around for centuries, other for a only a couple of years. They might be aimed at adults, others at children. Some took years to gain their status, others just sort of gained cult-status immediatly. The Little Prince belongs to the last of each of these categories. And I absolutely love it.
Now, let’s be real: I’d postponed reading this book because it just seemed to be too good to be true. I mean, come on: a book that’s poetic, philosophic, has a good storyline ànd it’s aimed at children? As if that could really be a thing…
And then I decided to write my masters’ dissertation on the translations of children’s literature. And I read The Little Prince in 6 different languages. Turns out it actually lives up to it’s reputation. In every single one of those!
Most everybody probably already knows how this goes, but here goes nothing anyways!
The narrator, an aviator, crashes in the middle of the desert. After a couple of days there, he meets a little boy. The boy, The Little Prince, comes from Asteroid 325 (or as we humans call it: Asteroid B-612). The Little Prince asks the aviator to draw a sheep. The Little Prince then explains that, while at his asteroid, he fell in love with a Rose. The Prince has been travelling throughout the universe, each time encountering small planets and asteroids that house one person each. Through The Little Prince, the aviator and the reader encounter a snake and a desert fox that teach him some of the most important lessons. Eventually, the Prince manages to get back to his Rose, and the aviator gets back to society.
(If it helps, the movie-adaptation took the basic plot and did something beautiful with it. Check it out if that might help make it more clear)
(Also: that soundtrack!)
If it sounds like that plot was a bit of a jumble, that’s probably because it feels like it as well. The thing with The Little Prince is that it somehow manages to speak more in images than in actually story line. It’s also been called a fable, and in the narration-aspect, that really comes to light.
The Little Prince tells of the way in which so many adults forget what it’s like to be a child:
All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.
It offers lessons on not only what is the purpose of life, but also what exactly is love. That may sound pretentious, but somehow it actually manages to do so in the most quiet way, if that makes any sense?
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.
You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them…In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night…You – only you – will have stars that can laugh.
So this book is basically one of those that you can open basically anywhere and you’ll see a quote that you can post on your wall. Literally. There’s an entire section about the concept of friendship and “taming” your people that I still don’t think I’ve completely understood.
“I am looking for friends. What does that mean — tame?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”
“To establish ties?”
“Just that,” said the fox. “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….”
And once you’ve established that friendship:
“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.”
This is basically where we really come to the core-business of the matter. The Little Prince is philosophy. Now, I’m the kind of person who voluntarily will read books on philosophy. (Yes, really) However, the way Antoine de Saint-Exupéry phrases so much of this book makes it not only philosophic, but also completely understandable.
Too often, philosophy is a game of white, grey men sitting in fancy rooms and reminiscing together. That isn’t the case here. It’s the kind of philosophy, the kind of thought-inducing writing that will make you re-think your entire world just a bit. But at the same time, it’ll also make you feel everything.
I honestly don’t know how to explain it any better, and that, I do think, speaks to the quality of this book more than anything I could probably say about it…
All over: 5/5
This is the kind of book that will have you smiling, nostalgic, melancholic and somehow just happy at the end of it. Most likely without you ever being able to pinpoint exactly why you feel those things. You can rush through it, or take your time as you unravel the story. At the same time, it also allows you to go back at almost any moment and find something new there. Something else you can enjoy, take a message from, discover a hidden meaning. I’ve read it in 6 languages, multiple times, and I’m still not tired of it. THat’s how good this book is.
If you feel like you want to give it a read yourself, you can find it on The Book Depository (affiliate link). If you’ve already read it, be sure to let me know below how you felt!