By: Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Subject Matter: Fairy tales
Yes, The Little Prince is a children’s book.
No, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it.
The back of this book purports that this short tale of a crashed pilot and a young, otherworldly prince is “wise,” “enchanting,” “widely read,” “universally cherished,” and a “worldwide classic.”
I don’t know about all that, but it’s definitely a beautiful story.
More heartbreaking than I ever thought a children’s story could be, but beautiful.
We’ve all read those awful, violent fairy tales in which the evil stepsisters cut off their toes and heels to fit into the glass slipper, or the innocent little girl gets gobbled up by the wolf, or a locked door opens up to a secret room filled will the corpses of ex-wives.
The Little Prince is yet another terribly sad children’s story.
But it’s not like those fairy tales. It’s a longer story, with chapters and characterization and an eventful plot. It’s not violent, at least not in that way. It’s not bloody or gory or terrifying.
It’s heartbreaking, and pitiful, and tragic, and touching. I don’t know if it “has changed forever the world for its readers,” but I do know that it offers a poignant look at the human condition, at love, at relationships, at loneliness, at what is “invisible to the eyes” but true in our hearts.
And not in a cheesy way. Not in a way that panders to children, or teaches them a lesson about loving their parents, or ignores the evil in the world. Written in the midst of WWII, this book from France is about the reality of life and love and beauty and pain.
Here’s an example of the beauty of the language in this translated story. In this passage, the little prince is speaking to a garden full of roses.
“You’re lovely, but you’re empty,” he went on. “One couldn’t die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass. Since she’s the one I sheltered behind a screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three for butterflies). Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.”
The little prince’s rose isn’t perfect. She has flaws. She’s prideful and vain and obnoxious. But she’s his, and for that she’s beautiful.
This story is part Roald Dahl fantasy, part pitiful emotion. It’s a quick read, but it’s a good one. And it says a lot about the human condition and what it means to treasure someone in your heart.
I definitely recommend it.
If you enjoyed The Little Prince, check out these suggestions:
(for children’s fantasy)
The BFG by Roald Dahl
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
(for children’s classics)
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
(for heartbreaking children’s lit)
Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
(for other works by Saint-Exupery)
Night Flight by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs
The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner
The Stranger by Albert Camus
Woza Albert! by Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema, and Barney Simon
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig