Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Things I've done today:

Made Plum Jam
Watched Large Tree Being Cut Down
Ate Plum Tart with Ice Cream Before Dinner
Had Soup and Chips for Dinner
Napped on the Couch During Thunderstorm
Finished Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Can you tell my family is once again out of town without me?  I miss the little buggers a little, but a quiet house surely is a nice excuse to indulge oneself.  Le Petit Prince was a lovely indulgence and a lovely way to conclude my Paris in July experience.  I know July is not officially over.  However, on Wednesday, I am joining my family out of town and won't be back until August begins, and I think I must begin now to transition my brain toward classes, planning, and fall.  And that means a different kind of reading.  And thus, a different kind of blogging.

But for tonight, I can linger a little longer in Le Petit Prince.  This book is widely beloved, and though I assumed I had experienced the English translation as a child, I found my assumption to be wrong as I read the original French.  Nothing was familiar, but perhaps thanks to the Chateaubriand, the reading went much more quickly and was so enjoyable.  It was still work, and my dictionary remained a close companion, but it was a comparative romp after the sludge-like progress I made on Le Dernier Abencerage.

The tale is narrated by an adult pilot who has crashed in the Saharan Desert.  He is there for 8 days, and during that time, he encounters the little Prince, who shares his story and teaches the narrator (and us) a great deal in the process.  In his travels, the little Prince has encountered (on the 6 planets he visited before coming to Earth) a king who reigns over all but only orders his subjects to do that which they were already going to do,  a vain person who only responds to applause or praise, a drunkard who drinks because he is ashamed that he drinks, a business man who ceaselessly counts the stars, which he claims to own, a lamplighter who must light and extinguish his lamp every minute, and a geographer who never leaves his office but doesn't trust the accounts of the explorers who tell him where things go on the map.  Though these characters touch on the absurd, they expose a great truth about humanity (which also often tickles the edges of the absurd).  And then, the Prince comes to Earth where he is confused by many things (the echo from a mountaintop and the constant coming and going of people at a train station) and inspired by many things (mostly the wisdom of a fox).

The fox teaches us, too:

L'essential est invisible pour les yeux. (The vital is invisible to the eyes - it must be experienced in the heart)
Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoise.  (You become forever responsible for that which you have tamed - you must care for the things that you love and depend on and that love and depend upon you)

There are so many truths here and different ways to apply these lessons in life.  For me, though, the most important element comes in the very beginning when the narrator explains how he used to draw until he learned none of the grown-ups in his life understood what he was drawing.  They made him feel that he could not draw.  This section made me laugh and cringe simultaneously.  The accompanying examples of his open and closed boa are priceless.  But even as I laughed, I was reminded of how important it is to cultivate the child in our grown selves and to allow our children to remain small and confident in their smallness for as long as possible.  I don't want to be one of those silly grandes personnes always typing away self-importantly on my computer.  I would rather be one of the few who understands.  And I want my children to know they can draw - whether un chapeau or un serpent boa qui digerait un elephant - and draw and draw and draw to their heart's content.

And in the meantime, I will watch a tree being cut down and eat dessert first and look forward to playing with mes enfants on Wednesday.


  1. Oh, I loved Le Petit Prince! I always found that story to be so lovely, and now I think I need to pick that up again for a nice walk down memory lane!

  2. Man, I am a serious sucker for Le Petit Prince. Just the TWO SENTENCES you quoted from the fox section make me tear up a little. Love, love, love. So much.

  3. Sounds like a wonderfull way to spend the day - plum jam, plum tart, soup and chip! And not a better way to finish it with - Le Petit Prince is a classic - for young and old alike. I love that you've posted your childrens drawings - we have so much to re-learn from the kids. I enjoyed the simple little lessons chacque chapitre donne. Avez-vous des bonnes vaccances avec le famile.

  4. CaaBC - Really, you should. It must be such a different experience reading it as an adult than it was as a child.

    Emily - Yeah, you're a sucker. But in your defense, it is awfully good.

    Tamara - It really was a wonderful day. Though I always miss my family when we're apart, I crave those quiet hours. Now that I'm here with the crew, I've been loving that as well. Just not reading nearly as much! C'est la vie!

  5. I read this book in French, too, when I was in French IV in high school. It's such a delightful novel, so rich in meaning, and I wonder if I could still read it in French...I just received St. Exupery's Vol De Nuit (Night Flight) which I ordered from amazon.com. Can't wait to open it up, as I've never read that novel of the air mail flights which went to Patagonia in the 1930s.

    Hope Toad is out of gaol in your adventures; wasn't that a marvelous read?! Thanks for visiting me.

  6. Belleza - Thank you for stopping by here! It was almost six years ago that my daughter was that infant lump, so I'm thinking it might be time to let her (and her brother) really see how Toad and the others get on. It is a delight.