Born in Lyons, France, in 1900, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry considered himself a pilot above all else. For twenty years, he flew everything from cartography missions to commercial airlines, and flying occupied a significant place in his philosophical essays and fantasy writings. The theme of aviation was often Saint-Exupéry's launching point for more abstract discussions on issues like the search for wisdom and the meaning of life.

Saint-Exupéry began writing The Little Prince during World War II, after Germany's invasion of France had forced him to give up aviation and flee to New York City. In addition to his torturous thoughts of the war in Europe, having to leave his homeland and no longer being able to fly planes affected Saint-Exupéry deeply. The novel's nostalgia for childhood indicates both Saint-Exupéry's homesick desire to return to France and his hope of returning to a time of peace. This wartime stress undoubtedly contributed to the sense of urgency in Saint-Exupéry's message of love and compassion.

In its glorification of childlike innocence, The Little Prince is also an indictment of the spiritual decay Saint-Exupéry perceived in humanity. In 1943, he wrote, "For centuries, humanity has been descending an immense staircase whose top is hidden in the clouds and whose lowest steps are lost in a dark abyss. We could have ascended the staircase; instead we chose to descend it. Spiritual decay is terrible … There is one problem and only one in the world; to revive in people some sense of spiritual meaning…." By celebrating a worldview unsullied by the drab restrictions of adulthood, the novel attempts to revive a sense of spirituality in the world.

Some of the story of The Little Prince uses events taken from Saint-Exupéry's own life. If the novel's surreal fairy tale feels strangely real and personal, this effect is achieved, at least in part, by the fact that Saint-Exupéry was drawing from his own experiences. In Wind, Sand and Stars, his 1939 account of his aviation adventures, he recollects a crash landing he was forced to make in the Sahara desert. In his wanderings across the desert, Saint-Exupéry had a number of hallucinations, including an encounter with a fennec, a type of desert sand fox that bears a striking resemblance to the fox depicted in The Little Prince.

Saint-Exupéry may have seen himself in his characters of both the narrator and the little prince. Like his narrator, Saint-Exupéry was a pilot, crashed in the Sahara, and experienced there a kind of mystical revelation. The prince, however, represents aspects of Saint-Exupéry as well, and he very definitely embodies Saint-Exupéry's philosophy and aspirations. The prince's relationship with the rose could be a reflection of Saint-Exupéry's relationship with his wife, and the prince is also an explorer and traveler of the skies—it's one of the first things that the prince and the narrator share in common. Seen in this light, The Little Prince can be read as a metaphor of the process of introspection itself, wherein two halves of the same person meet and learn from each other.

Although The Little Prince was undoubtedly influenced by the tenor of World War II, Saint-Exupéry aims for a general, apolitical analysis of human nature. The prevalence of symbols of death and evil in The Little Prince are often interpreted as references to Nazi Germany, but the book's universally applicable fairy-tale symbols and the emblems of World War II make an awkward match. The Little Prince builds on a long tradition of French parables and fantasy literature, most notably expressed in Voltaire's Candide. Like Voltaire, Saint-Exupéry urges his readers to participate actively in the reading process, using their imaginations to assign deeper meaning to deceptively simple prose and poetry. Saint-Exupéry and his novel were certainly affected by the historical events of the time, but The Little Prince aspires to be a universal and timeless allegory about the importance of innocence and love. Indeed, since it was first published, The Little Prince has become one of the most widely translated books in the history of French literature.



Plot Overview

The narrator, an airplane pilot, crashes in the Sahara desert. The crash badly damages his airplane and leaves the narrator with very little food or water. As he is worrying over his predicament, he is approached by the little prince, a very serious little blond boy who asks the narrator to draw him a sheep. The narrator obliges, and the two become friends. The pilot learns that the little prince comes from a small planet that the little prince calls Asteroid 325, but that people on Earth call Asteroid B-612. The little prince took great care of this planet, preventing any bad seeds from growing and making sure it was never overrun by baobab trees. One day, a mysterious rose sprouted on the planet and the little prince fell in love with it. But when he caught the rose in a lie one day, he decided that he could not trust her anymore. He grew lonely and decided to leave. Despite a last-minute reconciliation with the rose, the prince set out to explore other planets and cure his loneliness.

While journeying, the narrator tells us, the little prince passes by neighboring asteroids and encounters for the first time the strange, narrow-minded world of grown-ups. On the first six planets the little prince visits, he meets a king, a vain man, a drunkard, a businessman, a lamplighter, and a geographer, all of whom live alone and are overly consumed by their chosen occupations. Such strange behavior both amuses and perturbs the little prince. He does not understand their need to order people around, to be admired, and to own everything. With the exception of the lamplighter, whose dogged faithfulness he admires, the little prince does not think much of the adults he visits, and he does not learn anything useful. However, he learns from the geographer that flowers do not last forever, and he begins to miss the rose he has left behind.

At the geographer's suggestion, the little prince visits Earth, but he lands in the middle of the desert and cannot find any humans. Instead, he meets a snake who speaks in riddles and hints darkly that its lethal poison can send the little prince back to the heavens if he so wishes. The little prince ignores the offer and continues his explorations, stopping to talk to a three-petaled flower and to climb the tallest mountain he can find, where he confuses the echo of his voice for conversation. Eventually, the little prince finds a rose garden, which surprises and depresses him—his rose had told him that she was the only one of her kind.

The prince befriends a fox, who teaches him that the important things in life are visible only to the heart, that his time away from the rose makes the rose more special to him, and that love makes a person responsible for the beings that one loves. The little prince realizes that, even though there are many roses, his love for his rose makes her unique and that he is therefore responsible for her. Despite this revelation, he still feels very lonely because he is so far away from his rose. The prince ends his story by describing his encounters with two men, a railway switchman and a salesclerk.

It is now the narrator's eighth day in the desert, and at the prince's suggestion, they set off to find a well. The water feeds their hearts as much as their bodies, and the two share a moment of bliss as they agree that too many people do not see what is truly important in life. The little prince's mind, however, is fixed on returning to his rose, and he begins making plans with the snake to head back to his planet. The narrator is able to fix his plane on the day before the one-year anniversary of the prince's arrival on Earth, and he walks sadly with his friend out to the place the prince landed. The snake bites the prince, who falls noiselessly to the sand.

The narrator takes comfort when he cannot find the prince's body the next day and is confident that the prince has returned to his asteroid. The narrator is also comforted by the stars, in which he now hears the tinkling of his friend's laughter. Often, however, he grows sad and wonders if the sheep he drew has eaten the prince's rose. The narrator concludes by showing his readers a drawing of the desert landscape and by asking us to stop for a while under the stars if we are ever in the area and to let the narrator know immediately if the little prince has returned.



Character List

The Little Prince - One of the two protagonists of the story. After leaving his home planet and his beloved rose, the prince journeys around the universe, ending up on Earth. Frequently perplexed by the behavior of grown-ups, the prince symbolizes the hope, love, innocence, and insight of childhood that lie dormant in all of us. Though the prince is sociable and meets a number of characters as he travels, he never stops loving and missing the rose on his home planet.
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The Narrator - A lonely pilot who, while stranded in the desert, befriends the little prince. They spend eight days together in the desert before the little prince returns to his home planet. Although he is discouraged from drawing early in his life because adults cannot understand his drawings, the narrator illustrates his own story and makes several drawings for the little prince. The narrator is a grown-up, but his view of the world is more like a child's than an adult's. After the little prince departs, the narrator feels both refreshed and saddened.
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The Rose - A coquettish flower who has trouble expressing her love for the little prince and consequently drives him away. Simultaneously vain and naïve, she informs the little prince of her love for him too late to persuade him to stay home and not to travel. Throughout the story, she occupies the prince's thoughts and heart.
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The Fox - Although the fox asks the little prince to tame him, the fox is in some ways the more knowledgeable of the two characters, and he helps steer the prince toward what is important in life. In the secret the fox tells the little prince before they say their good-byes, the fox sums up three important lessons: only the heart can see correctly; the prince's time away from his planet has made him appreciate his rose more; and love entails responsibility.
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The Snake - The first character the prince meets on Earth, who ultimately sends the prince back to the heavens by biting him. A constant enigma, the snake speaks in riddles and evokes the snake of the Bible, which incites Adam and Eve's eviction from Eden by luring them into eating the forbidden fruit.
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The Baobabs - Baobabs, harmless trees on Earth, pose a great threat to smaller planets like the prince's if left unchecked. They can squeeze whole planets to pieces with their roots. Although baobabs have no malicious opinions or intentions, they represent the grave danger that can befall people who are too lazy or indifferent to keep a wary eye on the world around them.

The King - On the first planet the little prince visits, he encounters a king who claims to rule the entire universe. While not unkindly, the king's power is empty. He is only able to command people to do what they already would do.

The Vain Man - The sole resident of the second planet the little prince visits. The vain man is lonely and craves admiration from all who pass by. However, only by being alone is he assured of being the richest and best-looking man on his planet.

The Drunk ard - The third person the little prince encounters after leaving home is a drunkard, who spends his days and nights lost in a stupor. The drunkard is a sad figure, but he is also foolish because he drinks to forget that he is ashamed of drinking.

The Businessman - A caricature of grown-ups who is the fourth person the little prince visits. Too busy even to greet his visitor, the businessman owns all the stars. Yet he cannot remember what they are called and contributes nothing to them. Although the little prince comments on the oddity of the grown-ups he meets, the businessman is the only character the prince actively chastises.

The Lamplighter - The fifth and most complex figure the prince encounters before landing on Earth. At first, the lamplighter appears to be yet another ridiculous character with no real purpose, but his selfless devotion to his orders earns him the little prince's admiration. Of all the adults the little prince encounters before reaching Earth, the lamplighter is the only one the prince thinks he could befriend.

The Geographer - The sixth and final character the little prince encounters before he lands on Earth. Although the geographer is apparently well-read, he refuses to learn about his own planet, saying it is a job for explorers. He recommends that the little prince visit Earth, and his comments on the ephemeral nature of flowers reveal to the prince that his own flower will not last forever.

The Railway Switchman - The railway switchman works at the hub for the enormous trains that rush back and forth carrying dissatisfied adults from one place to the other. He has more perspective on life than the unhappy, thoughtless passengers his trains ferry. He agrees with the prince that the children are the only ones who appreciate and enjoy the beauty of the train rides.

The Salesclerk - The salesclerk sells pills that quench thirst on the grounds that people can save up to fifty-three minutes a day if they don't have to stop to drink. He symbolizes the modern world's misplaced emphasis on saving time and taking shortcuts.

The Roses in the Rose Garden - The sight of the rose garden first leads the prince to believe that his flower is not, in fact, unique. However, with the fox's guidance, the prince realizes that even so many similar flowers cannot stop his own rose from being unique.

The Three-Petaled Flower - The three-petaled flower lives alone in the desert, watching the occasional caravan pass by. She mistakenly informs the prince that there are only a handful of men in the world and that their lack of roots means they are often blown along.

The Little Prince's Echo - The little prince's echo is not really a character, but the little prince mistakes it for one. When he shouts from a mountaintop, he hears his echo and believes that Earth people simply repeat what is said to them.

The Turkish Astronomer - The first human to discover the prince's home, Asteroid B-612. When the Turkish astronomer first presents his discovery, no one believes him on account of his Turkish costume. Years later, he makes the same presentation wearing Western clothes, and his discovery is well received. The scientific community's treatment of the Turkish astronomer reveals that ignorance propels xenophobia (a fear or hatred of foreigners) and racism.



Analysis of Major Characters

The Little Prince - The title character of The Little Prince is a pure and innocent traveler from outer space whom the narrator encounters in the Sahara desert. Before the little prince lands on Earth, Saint-Exupéry contrasts the prince's childlike character with different adult characters by having the prince hop from one neighboring planet to another. On each planet, the prince meets a different type of adult and reveals that character's frivolities and weaknesses. Once on Earth, however, the little prince becomes a student as well as a teacher. From his friend the fox, the little prince learns what love entails, and in turn he passes on those lessons to the narrator.
The little prince has few of the glaring flaws evident in the other characters, and he is immediately shown to be a character of high caliber by his ability to recognize the narrator's Drawing Number One as a picture of a boa constrictor that has eaten a snake. Nevertheless, the prince's fear as he prepares to be sent back to his planet by a snakebite shows that he is susceptible to the same emotions as the rest of us. Most notably, the prince is bound by his love for the rose he has left on his home planet. His constant questioning also indicates that one's search for answers can be more important than the answers themselves.

The Narrator - The narrator of The Little Prince is an adult in years, but he explains that he was rejuvenated six years earlier after he crashed his plane in the desert. He was an imaginative child whose first drawing was a cryptic interpretation of a boa constrictor that had swallowed an elephant. Eventually, he abandoned art for the grown-up profession of pilot, and he lives a lonely life until he encounters the little prince. He serves as the prince's confidant and relays the prince's story to us , but the narrator also undergoes transformations of his own. After listening to the prince's story about the knowledge the prince has learned from the fox, the narrator himself learns the fox's lessons about what makes things important when he searches for water in the desert. The narrator's search for the well indicates that lessons must be learned through personal exploration, and not only from books or others' teachings.
Both the narrator and the prince are protagonists of the story, but they differ in significant ways. Whereas the prince is mystical and supernatural, the pilot is a human being who grows and develops over time. When the narrator first encounters the prince, he cannot grasp the subtle truths that the prince presents to him, whereas the prince is able to comprehend instantly the lessons his explorations teach him. This shortcoming on the narrator's part makes him a character we can relate to as human beings more easily than we can relate to the otherworldly, extraordinarily perceptive little prince.

The Rose - Although the rose appears only in a couple of chapters, she is crucial to the novel as a whole because her melodramatic, proud nature is what causes the prince to leave his planet and begin his explorations. Also, the prince's memory of his rose is what prompts his desire to return. As a character who gains significance because of how much time and effort the prince has invested in caring for her, the rose embodies the fox's statement that love comes from investing in other people. Although the rose is, for the most part, vain and naïve, the prince still loves her deeply because of the time he has spent watering and caring for her.
Much has been written comparing the little prince's relationship with his rose to the relationship between Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his wife, Consuelo, but the rose can also be read as a symbol of universal love. In literature, the rose has long served as a symbol of the beloved, and Saint-Exupéry takes that image in good stride, giving the prince's flower human characteristics, both good and bad. Because of the rose, the prince learns that what is most essential is invisible, that time away from one's beloved causes a person to better appreciate that love, and that love engenders responsibility—all of which are broad morals that obviously extend beyond the author's personal history.

The Fox - While the prince is mourning the ordinariness of his rose after having come across the rose garden, the fox appears quite suddenly and inexplicably. When the fox immediately sets about establishing a friendship between himself and the prince, it seems that instruction is the fox's sole purpose. Yet when he begs the little prince to tame him, the fox appears to be the little prince's pupil as well as his instructor. In his lessons about taming, the fox argues for the importance of ceremonies and rituals, showing that such tools are important even outside the strict world of grown-ups.
In his final encounter with the prince, the fox facilitates the prince's departure by making sure the prince understands why his rose is so important to him. This encounter displays an ideal type of friendship because even though the prince's departure causes the fox great pain, the fox behaves unselfishly, encouraging the prince to act in his own best interest.

The Snake - Even though the snake the little prince encounters in the desert speaks in riddles, he demands less interpretation than the other symbolic figures in the novel. The snake also has less to learn than many of the other characters. The grown-ups on the various planets are too narrow-minded for their own good, and the prince and the narrator edge closer to enlightenment, but the serpent does not require answers or even ask questions. In fact, the snake is so confident he has mastered life's mysteries that he tells the prince he speaks only in riddles because he can solve all riddles. In a story about mysteries, the snake is the only absolute. His poisonous bite and biblical allusion indicate that he represents the unavoidable phenomenon of death.



Themes, Motifs, and Symbols


Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.


The Dangers of Narrow-Mindedness - The Little Prince exposes the ignorance that accompanies an incomplete and narrow-minded perspective. In Chapter IV, for example, when the Turkish astronomer first presents his discovery of Asteroid B-612, he is ignored because he wears traditional Turkish clothing. Years later, he makes the same presentation wearing European clothing and receives resounding acclaim. Because the three-petaled flower described in Chapter XVI has spent its whole life in the desert, it incorrectly reports that Earth contains very few humans and that they are a rootless, drifting people.
Even the protagonists of The Little Prince have their moments of narrow-mindedness. In Chapter XVII, the narrator confesses that his previous description of Earth focused too much on humans. In Chapter XIX, the little prince mistakes the echo of his own voice for that of humans and falsely accuses humans of being too repetitive. Such quick judgments, the story argues, lead to the development of dangerous stereotypes and prejudices. They also prevent the constant questioning and open-mindedness that are important to a well-adjusted and happy life.
For the most part, The Little Prince characterizes narrow-mindedness as a trait of adults. In the very first chapter, the narrator draws a sharp contrast between the respective ways grown-ups and children view the world. He depicts grown-ups as unimaginative, dull, superficial, and stubbornly sure that their limited perspective is the only one possible. He depicts children, on the other hand, as imaginative, open-minded, and aware of and sensitive to the mystery and beauty of the world.
In the story's opening pages, the narrator explains that grown-ups lack the imagination to see his Drawing Number One, which represents a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant, as anything other than a hat. As the story progresses, other examples of the blindness of adults emerge. As the little prince travels from planet to planet, the six adults he encounters proudly reveal their character traits, whose contradictions and shortcomings the little prince then exposes.
The little prince represents the open-mindedness of children. He is a wanderer who restlessly asks questions and is willing to engage the invisible, secret mysteries of the universe. The novel suggests that such inquisitiveness is the key to understanding and to happiness. However, The Little Prince shows that age is not the main factor separating grown-ups from children. The narrator, for example, has aged enough to forget how to draw, but he is still enough of a child to understand and befriend the young, foreign little prince.

Enlightenment through Exploration - As the critic James Higgins points out, each of the novel's main characters hungers both for adventure (exploration of the outside world) and for introspection (exploration within himself). It is through his encounter with the lost prince in the lonely, isolated desert that the friendless narrator achieves a newfound understanding of the world. But in his story of the little prince's travels, Saint-Exupéry shows that spiritual growth must also involve active exploration. The narrator and the prince may be stranded in the desert, but they are both explorers who make a point of traveling the world around them. Through a combination of exploring the world around them and exploring their own feelings, the narrator and the little prince come to understand more clearly their own natures and their places in the world.

Relationships Teach Responsibility - The Little Prince teaches that the responsibility demanded by relationships with others leads to a greater understanding and appreciation of one's responsibilities to the world in general. The story of the prince and his rose is a parable (a story that teaches a lesson) about the nature of real love. The prince's love for his rose is the driving force behind the novel. The prince leaves his planet because of the rose; the rose permeates the prince's discussions with the narrator; and eventually, the rose becomes the reason the prince wants to return to his planet. The source of the prince's love is his sense of responsibility toward his beloved rose. When the fox asks to be tamed, he explains to the little prince that investing oneself in another person makes that person, and everything associated with him or her, more special. The Little Prince shows that what one gives to another is even more important than what that other gives back in return.


Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes.


Secrecy - At the heart of The Little Prince is the fox's bold statement that "[a]nything essential is invisible to the eye." All the characters the little prince encounters before coming to Earth eagerly and openly explain to him everything about their lives. But the little prince finds that on Earth, all true meanings are hidden. The first character to greet him on Earth is the snake, who speaks only in riddles. In subsequent chapters, the narrator and the little prince frequently describe events as "mysterious" and "secret." This choice of words is crucial to the book's message. To describe the mysteries of life as puzzles or questions would imply that answering them is possible. The fact that events on Earth are cast as mysteries suggests that they never can be resolved fully. However, this idea is not as pessimistic as it might seem. The novel asserts that, while many questions in life remain mysteries, exploration of the unknown is what counts, even though it does not leads to definite answers.

The Narrator's Drawings - The narrator's illustration of his story emphasizes Saint-Exupéry's belief that words have limits and that many truths defy verbal explanation. The narrator places drawings into the text at certain points to explain his encounter in the desert, and although his illustrations are simple, they are integral to understanding the novel. Saint-Exupéry defies the convention that stories should be only text and enriches his work by including pictures as well as words.
The drawings also allow the narrator to return to his lost childhood perspectives. He notes that he uses his Drawing Number One to test adults he meets. The drawing is actually of a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant, but to most adults it looks like a hat. Whether or not a character recognizes the drawing as a hat indicates how closed-minded he is. The narrator notes several times in his story that drawing is very difficult for him because he abandoned it at age six, after finding that adults were unreceptive to his drawings. Therefore, his decision to illustrate his story also indicates his return to the lost innocence of his youth.

Taming - Saint-Exupéry's tale is filled with characters who either should be or have been tamed. The fox explains that taming means "creating ties" with another person so that two people become more special to one another. Simple contact is not enough: the king, the vain man, the drunkard, the businessman, the geographer, and the lamplighter all meet the prince, but are too stuck in their routines to establish proper ties with the. The fox is the first character to explain that in order to be truly connected to another, certain rites and rituals must be observed, and two people must give part of themselves to each other. In fact, the process of taming is usually depicted as being more labor-intensive for the one doing the taming than for the person being tamed. Despite the work and emotional involvement required, taming has obvious benefits. The fox explains that the meaning of the world around him will be enriched because the little prince has tamed him. In contrast, the businessman cannot even remember what the stars he owns are called.

Serious Matters - The concept of "serious matters" is raised several times in the novel, and each time, it highlights the difference between the priorities of adults and children. To adults, serious matters are those relating to business and life's most basic necessities. For example, the businessman who owns all the stars refers to himself as a "serious person," an obviously ridiculous claim since he has no use for and makes no contribution to his property. Even the narrator expresses an understandably desperate claim that fixing his engine is more serious than listening to the prince's stories. However, the narrator soon admits that the engine troubles in truth pale in comparison to the little prince's tears.
Saint-Exupéry clearly sides with children, represented by the little prince, who believe that serious matters are those of the imagination. For the little prince, the most serious matter of all is whether the sheep the narrator has drawn for him will eat his beloved rose. As the story progresses, the narrator's understands the importance of the little prince's worry. The narrator responds with compassion to the prince's concern about the sheep from the beginning, setting his tools aside and rushing to comfort the prince in Chapter VII, when the little prince cries out that the question of whether his sheep eats his rose is much more important than the narrator's plane. However, in his final comment, the narrator says that the question of the sheep and the flower is so important that it has changed his view of the world, revealing that he has understood the question's importance himself.


Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.


The Stars - As a pilot, the narrator attaches importance to stars because he depends upon them for navigation. After the narrator meets the little prince, he finds the stars hold new meaning for him because he knows that the prince lives among them. The stars in The Little Prince also symbolize the far-off mystery of the heavens, the immensity of the universe, and at the end, the loneliness of the narrator's life. The narrator's final drawing, which accompanies his lament of his loneliness, is of a single star hovering over the desert landscape in which the prince fell. In this one image, the presence of the star both highlights the prince's absence and suggests his lingering presence. The star is also a reminder of the large and densely populated universe beyond Earth that the prince recounted visiting.

The Desert - The novel is set in the Sahara desert, a barren place ready to be shaped by experience. The desert is also a hostile space that contains no water and a deadly serpent. In this capacity, the desert symbolizes the narrator's mind. Made barren by grown-up ideas, the narrator's mind slowly expands under the guidance of the little prince in the same way that the deadly desert slowly transforms itself into a place of learning and, once the well appears, refreshment.

The Trains - The trains that appear in Chapter XXII represent the futile efforts we make to better our lot. The train rides are rushed voyages that never result in happiness because, as the switchman informs the prince, people are never happy where they are. Also, the trains rush at each other from opposite directions, suggesting that the efforts grown-ups make are contradictory and purposeless. Again, it is children who grasp the truth. They see that the journey is more important than the destination and press their faces hungrily against the windows as they ride, taking in the scenery.

Water - By the story's end, the drinking of water emerges as a clear symbol of spiritual fulfillment. The narrator's concerns about running out of water after he first crashes into the desert mirror his complaint that he has grown old. Later, when he and the prince find the mysterious well, the water the narrator drinks reminds him of Christmas festivities. His thoughts of Christmas ceremonies suggest that his spirit, and not his body, is what truly thirsts. The salesclerk sells a thirst-quenching pill, but the little prince reveals that there are no true substitutes for real spiritual food. The pill may quench one's desires, but it has little to offer in the way of real nourishment. The prince declares that he would use the minutes saved by the pill for getting a cool drink of water, the only real spiritual fulfillment for which one can hope.



Chapters I–III


Chapter I

But [a grown-up] would always answer, "That's a hat." Then I wouldn't talk about boa constrictors or jungles or stars. I would put myself on his level and talk about bridge and golf and politics and neckties.


The novel's narrator says that when he was six years old, before he became a pilot, he saw in a book a picture of a boa constrictor devouring a wild animal. In the same book, the narrator read that boa constrictors must hibernate for six months after swallowing their prey in order to digest it. Fascinated by this information, the narrator drew his first drawing, which he calls Drawing Number One. The drawing, a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant, looked like a lumpy blob with two flat lines tapering off to the left and right. But grown-ups were not frightened by the picture, because they thought it was supposed to be a hat.

To explain his drawing to adults, the narrator drew Drawing Number Two, an x-ray view of Drawing Number One that showed the elephant inside the snake. Disturbed by this image, grown-ups advised the narrator to give up drawing and pursue geography, arithmetic, and grammar instead. Realizing that grown-ups would always require things to be explained to them, the narrator decided not to be an artist and became a pilot instead. He admits that the geography he learned did prove to be useful for flying.

The narrator's opinion of adults never improved. Every time he met a grown-up, he would test him by showing him Drawing Number One. The grown-ups would always think it was a picture of a hat. Consequently, the narrator knew he could talk with the grown-ups only about boring, pragmatic topics like politics and neckties.

Chapter II

The narrator feels lonely his whole life until one day, six years before he tells his story, he crashes his plane in the middle of the Sahara desert. As the situation is beginning to look dire, the pilot is shocked to hear an odd little voice asking him to draw a sheep. He turns to see the little prince. The prince looks like a small, blond child, but he stares intently at the pilot without the fear that a child lost in the desert would have. The pilot does not know how to draw a sheep, so instead he sketches Drawing Number One, and he is astounded when the little prince recognizes it as a picture of an elephant inside a boa constrictor. The little prince rejects Drawing Number One, insisting that he needs a drawing of a sheep. After drawing three different sheep that the prince rejects, the pilot finally draws a box and gives it to the little prince. He says that the box contains exactly the type of sheep for which he is looking. This drawing makes the little prince very happy. The prince wonders if the sheep will have enough grass to eat, explaining that the place where he lives is quite small.

Chapter III

The pilot tries to find out where his mysterious new friend comes from, but the little prince prefers asking questions rather than answering them. He questions the pilot about his plane and what it does, and the pilot tells the little prince that it allows him to fly through the air. The little prince takes comfort in the fact that the pilot also came from the sky, asking him what planet he comes from. The pilot is surprised by this question and tries to find out what planet the little prince comes from. But the little prince ignores the pilot's queries and admires the sheep the pilot has drawn for him. The pilot offers to draw a post and a string to tie the sheep to so that it won't get lost, but the little prince laughs. The sheep will not get lost, he says, because he comes from a very small planet.


By beginning his story with a discussion of his childhood drawings, the narrator introduces the idea that perception of an item varies from person to person. The narrator intends for people to see his drawing as a boa constrictor eating an elephant, but most adults can't see the hidden elephant and think the drawing represents a hat. Throughout The Little Prince, the narrator's drawings allow Saint-Exupéry to discuss concepts that he would not be able to express adequately in words. Drawings, the novel suggests, are a way of imparting knowledge that is more creative and open to interpretation, and thus more in line with the abstract perspectives of children. Because it must be interpreted, Drawing Number One is an example of a symbol. It is a picture of a hat that actually signifies a boa constrictor that has swallowed an elephant, but the viewer must have the imagination to spot that non-literal meaning.

Chapter II also reinforces these ideas about the power of drawings and the importance of imagination. Saint-Exupéry suggests that, like the narrator and the little prince, the reader will have to use his or her imagination to grasp the real story. The drawings invite the reader to join in the narrator's encounter with the little prince and to deduce the meaning of the drawings along with the story's characters. By putting the drawings in the text, Saint-Exupéry is crediting us with the same powers of imagination as those of the little prince and the narrator. It is up to us, therefore, to make the book come to life. We must see the story in the same way that the little prince can see a sheep living and sleeping in the narrator's drawing of a box.

The way the little prince can immediately see beyond first appearances and perceive the boa constrictor in the narrator's first drawing and a sheep hidden in a box shows how different children are from adults. The adult perspective in chapter I is unimaginative, overly pragmatic, and dull, while the childish perspective is creative, full of wonder, and open to the mysterious beauty of the universe. The novel suggests that both adulthood and childhood are states of mind rather than facts of life. The narrator, for example, is an adult when he tells the story, but he longs for companions with the pure perspective of childhood.

The narrator's loneliness at the beginning of Chapter II shows how important relationships with others are. In the desert, the narrator is stranded from all human contact, but his isolation allows him to indulge in the most fulfilling relationship of his life. Forcibly removed from the corrupting influence of the grown-up world, he is able to embrace the prince and the lessons his new friend has to offer.

The narrator's constant questioning in Chapters II and III, however, shows that we cannot hope to have answers simply handed to us. In Chapter III, the narrator is full of questions, but if the little prince answers them at all, he does so with oblique, indirect responses. The story suggests that questions are much more important than answers. Later, both the prince and the narrator discuss this lesson in greater detail.



Chapters IV–VI


Chapter IV

From his conversation with the little prince, the narrator realizes that the planet the little prince comes from is only the size of a house. The narrator explains that when astronomers discover new planets, they give them numbers instead of names. The narrator is pretty sure that the little prince lives on Asteroid B-612, which was first sighted by a Turkish astronomer in 1909. The astronomer's presentation of his discovery was ridiculed at that year's International Astronomical Congress because he wore traditional Turkish clothes. After a Turkish dictator ordered all his subjects to begin wearing European clothing, the astronomer presented his report again in 1920 and was well received.

The narrator insists that he is telling us these details about the prince's planet only to satisfy his grown-up readers. He says that grown-ups can understand only facts and figures; they never wonder about essential qualities like beauty and love. Grown-ups decide what is beautiful by measuring how old a person is or how much a house costs. To believe in the existence of the little prince, grown-ups need more proof than simply being told that the prince asked the narrator to draw him a sheep. They demand further, quantifiable proof of the little prince's existence.

The narrator also mentions that he wants his book to be read carefully, as it has been very painful for him to recollect these memories of his little departed friend. The narrator worries that he is growing old, and he writes and illustrates his story so he will not forget the little prince. Drawing the pictures in particular reminds the narrator of what it's like to be a child. He acknowledges, however, that he cannot see sheep through the walls of boxes, because like all humans, he has "had to grow old."

Chapter V

Each day, the pilot learns a bit more about the little prince's home. On the third day of the little prince's visit, he finds out that the prince wants the sheep to eat the baobab seedlings that grow on his planet. Baobabs are gigantic trees whose roots could split the prince's tiny planet into pieces. The little prince notes that one must be very careful to take care of one's planet. Since all planets have good plants and bad plants, one must remain vigilant and disciplined, uprooting the bad plants as soon as they start to grow. The prince remembers a lazy man who always procrastinated and ignored three small baobab bushes that eventually grew to overtake the man's planet. At the prince's instruction, the narrator illustrates the overgrown planet as a warning to children. He adds that the baobabs pose an everyday threat that most people deal with without even being aware of it. The narrator states that the lesson to be learned from the story of the baobabs is so important that he has drawn them more carefully than any other drawing in the book.

Chapter VI

On his fourth day with the little prince, the narrator becomes aware of just how small the little prince's planet really is. The little prince is surprised that on Earth, he has to wait for the sun to go down to see a sunset. On his planet, a person can see the end of the day whenever he likes by simply moving a few steps. The prince mentions that one day he saw forty-four sunsets and that sunsets can cheer a person up when he or she is sad. He refuses to tell the narrator, however, whether or not he was sad on the day he saw forty-four sunsets.


In Chapter IV, speaking in a confidential tone, the narrator clarifies the distinctions between the world of grown-ups and the world of the little prince. By referring to adults as "they," the narrator pulls us onto his side, so that we feel we share a perspective with the narrator that others cannot understand. Also, the narrator does not mention the little prince when he discusses the adult obsession with numbers, stereotypes, and other forms of quantitative analysis. To underscore the vast difference between the narrator's conversation with the little prince and the conversations of the grown-up world, the narrator does not discuss both within the same chapter.

The narrator's discussion in Chapter V of the baobab trees can be read as a condemnation of Nazi Germany and of the blind eye the rest of the world turned to the actions of Adolf Hitler. Saint-Exupéry wrote The Little Prince in New York in 1942 as he watched World War II tear his native Europe apart. In the novel, the narrator explains that the world contains both good seeds and bad seeds, and he says it is important to look constantly for the bad seeds and uproot them because the trees will otherwise grow and crush everything around them. Yet the narrator points out that on Earth, baobabs do not pose a problem. It is only on smaller planet's like Asteroid B-612 that the baobabs are dangerous. Therefore, some see the baobabs as symbols of the everyday hurdles and obstacles in life that, if left unchecked, can choke and crush a person. This interpretation explains the narrator's statement that people wrestle with baobabs every day, often without even knowing it.

Saint-Exupéry stresses personal responsibility as the solution to the problem the baobabs pose. In doing so, he continues a classic tradition within French literature that links responsibility to gardening. For example, the final line of the French author Voltaire's well-known novel Candide states, "We must cultivate our own Garden … When man was put in the garden of Eden he was put there so that he should work, which proves that man was not born to rest." The metaphor of gardening recurs throughout The Little Prince.



Chapters VII–IX


Chapter VII

"If some one loves a flower of which just one example exists among all the millions and millions of stars, that's enough to make him happy … But if the sheep eats the flower, then for him it's as if, suddenly, all the stars went out."


On his fifth day in the desert, the little prince wonders if his new sheep will eat both bushes and flowers. The pilot, who is trying to repair his plane, replies that sheep will eat anything, and the little prince asks him what use a flower's thorns are if they don't protect the flower. The pilot, frustrated with his engine and worried by his lack of food and water, yells that he is too busy with "serious matters" to answer the prince's questions. Furious, the little prince accuses the pilot of acting like a grown-up instead of seeing what's really important. The little prince argues that if a truly unique flower exists on a person's planet, nothing is more important than wondering if a sheep will eat that flower. He then bursts into tears. Suddenly realizing that his new friend's happiness is the most serious matter of all, the narrator cradles the little prince in his arms and comforts him by assuring the little prince that his flower will be fine. He offers to draw a muzzle for the sheep.

Chapter VIII

The prince tells the narrator all about his flower. One day, the prince notices a mysterious new plant sprouting on his planet. Worried that it might be a new type of baobab, he watches it cautiously at first. The sprout soon grows into a rose, a beautiful but vain creature who constantly demands that the little prince take care of her. The little prince loves the rose very much and is happy to satisfy her requests. He waters her, covers her with a glass globe at night, and puts up a screen to protect her from the wind. One day, however, the little prince catches the rose on the verge of making a minor lie. The rose says to the prince, "Where I come from," even though she grew from a seed on the little prince's planet and therefore does not "come from" anywhere. The rose's lie makes the prince doubt the sincerity of her love. He grows so unhappy and lonely that he decides to leave his planet. The prince tells the pilot that he would not have left if he had looked at the rose's deeds instead of her words. He realizes that the rose actually loves him, but he knows he is too young and inexperienced to know how to love her.

Chapter IX

On the day of the little prince's departure from his planet, he cleans out all three of his volcanoes, even the dormant one, and he uproots all the baobab shoots he can find. He waters his rose a final time. As he is about to place the glass globe over the rose's head, he feels like crying. He says good-bye to the rose. At first, she refuses to reply, but then she apologizes, assures the little prince that she loves him, and says she no longer needs him to set the globe over her. She says she will be fine without him to take care of her. Urging the little prince to leave, the rose turns away so he will not see her cry.


When the pilot stops repairing his engine to listen to the story of the little prince and his rose, he affirms the little prince's statement that love and relationships are the most "serious matters" of all. The literary critic Joy Marie Robinson writes that the rose "is best understood, perhaps, in the old literary tradition of the Roman de la rose [a thirteenth-century French poem], as an allegorical image of the loved one." Robinson argues that the rose is a general symbol of the beloved and that the rose's relationship with the prince offers a general, simple, and direct presentation of the power—and pain—of love.

The nature of the relationship between the rose and the prince is mysterious. They do not directly express their love for each other until their painful farewell. Before that, the flower coquettishly hints at her love, but she never actually states her feelings for the prince until he comes to say good-bye. Nor is it clear at this point in the story why the prince feels such love for the rose, who is a vain, foolish, frail, and naïve creature. However, the prince also shows himself to be a bit foolish. He isn't able to understand the rose's strange behavior, and he makes the irrevocable, stubborn decision to leave, which leaves him in tears.

Many critics and biographers consider the rose to be a representation of Saint-Exupéry's wife, Consuelo. Antoine and Consuelo Saint-Exupéry's marriage was colorful, passionate, and often troubled. In Saint-Exupéry's mind, Consuelo appeared vain and difficult to care for, and the rose's frequent coughing is reminiscent of Consuelo's asthma. Saint-Exupéry was occasionally unfaithful to his wife, and the prince's departure could be seen as an allegory for Saint-Exupéry's infidelity. In fact, The Little Prince, written at a rocky point in the Saint-Exupérys' marriage, could be read as an elaborate, introspective love-letter from Antoine to Consuelo in which he demonstrates his love for her and attempts to explain the unrequited wanderlust and penchant for adultery that so often led him to stray from their marriage vows.



Chapters X–XII


Chapter X

At the beginning of his journey, the little prince finds himself near asteroids 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, and 330, and he decides to visit them one by one. On the first asteroid, he encounters a king sitting on a throne and wearing a magnificent fur cloak. The king, happy finally to have a subject, begins ordering the little prince around. The king claims to reign over every star in the universe, but in reality he always tailors his orders to fit the actions of the person he commands. For example, when the little prince yawns, the king quickly "orders" him to yawn. When the prince asks the king to order a sunset, the king replies that the sun will obey him but that it will have to wait until 7:40 P.M., a time he arrives at after consulting an almanac.

The king insists that his commands be obeyed, but he is a kindly man and so always makes them reasonable. The king asserts that it is because he is so reasonable that he has the right to command. When the prince decides to leave, the king hastily tries to get him to stay, ordering him to become minister of justice. The prince finds the request ridiculous, since there is nobody else on the planet to judge. The king points out that his planet has an old rat, whom the prince can continually condemn to death, pardon, and then condemn again. The prince says he has no interest in condemning anyone to death. As the prince is departing, the king names the prince his ambassador. The prince comments that grown-ups are strange.

Chapter XI

On the second planet the prince visits, he encounters a vain man, who asks the prince to clap his hands and then modestly tips his hat in acknowledgement. The prince enjoys the game at first but begins to tire of its monotony. The vain man asks whether the little prince really admires him, but the prince does not understand the meaning of the word "admire." The vain man explains that he wants the prince to say he is the most intelligent, good-looking, and wealthy man on the planet. The prince points out that such a request is absurd since the vain man is the planet's sole inhabitant. With a shrug of his shoulders, the prince says, "I admire you," but he asks why his admiration means anything to the man. The prince departs, commenting again that grown-ups are very strange.

Chapter XII

The prince visits a third planet, where he meets a drunkard. When the prince asks the drunkard why he drinks, the drunkard claims that he drinks to forget. Feeling pity, the prince inquires what the drunkard wants to forget. The drunkard answers that he is trying to forget that he is ashamed of his drinking. The drunkard then falls into stubborn silence. Confused, the little prince continues his journey, observing that grown-ups are very, very strange.


The chapters in which the narrator describes the prince's journey from planet to planet are an example of a picaresque narrative. Picaresque is a genre of episodic literature in which a protagonist travels from place to place or has one adventure after another. In The Little Prince, each of the adults the prince encounters on the various planets he visits symbolizes a particular characteristic of adults in general.

The king is a political figure, but Saint-Exupéry's satirizes the king's personality rather than the political system the king represents. Saint-Exupéry emphasizes that the king is not a tyrant but simply a ridiculous man who possesses a petty need for power and domination. The king, like the other characters the prince encounters, is very lonely. Yet the king's desire to rule so consumes him that he doesn't treat the prince's visit as an opportunity to lessen his loneliness. Instead, he tries to fit his visitor into his own distorted worldview by commanding the prince to serve as his minister of justice.

Even though the king is a nice man who tailors his commands to suit the little prince's wishes, the prince objects on principle to the idea of being commanded. The prince's reaction to the king emphasizes the importance of free will and taking responsibility for one's actions. The prince refuses to judge others, and he refuses to do anything he has not willed himself. Since the king points out that he always pardons the rat, it would be simple for the prince to please the king by condemning the rat to death. Yet the prince refuses because the idea of condemnation bothers him. The prince reacts in a similar way when the king appoints him as his ambassador. The prince remains silent as he leaves, implicitly rejecting this title. He then continues his travels on his own volition, not as a representative of the king.

The vain man's sense of self-worth parallels the king's authority in its meaninglessness. Like the king's authority, the vain man's superiority depends on being alone. As long as he is the only man on the planet, he is assured of being the most attractive man on the planet. At the same time, the vain man's sense of superiority depends on the praise of visitors. These contradictions underscore Saint-Exupéry's disdain for grown-up life. He argues that adults, with their limited, unimaginative views, don't know what they truly need in their lives. The adults the little prince meets are capable of only pushing companionship away when it presents itself.

Though he is flawed, the drunkard is more sympathetic than the king and the vain man are. Unlike them, the drunkard seems somehow trapped against his will. The fact that he drinks to forget that he is ashamed of his drinking is absurd and irrational, but the fact that "shame" plays such a big part in his actions indicates his awareness of his life's emptiness. However, the drunkard shows himself to be just as much of a grown-up as the king and the conceited man are. The arrival of the prince presents an opportunity for the drunkard to break the cycle, but instead the drunkard retreats into silence, as he is too stubborn and unwilling to address his serious problems.



Chapters XIII–XV


Chapter XIII

The little prince visits a fourth planet, which is occupied by a businessman so immersed in numerical calculations that the man hardly acknowledges the little prince. The little prince, who never lets a question go unanswered, repeatedly asks the businessman what he is doing. The businessman protests that he is a serious person and has no time for the little prince's questions. Exasperated by the little prince's persistence, the businessman eventually explains that he is counting "those little golden things that make lazy people daydream," which the prince eventually identifies as stars. The businessman explains he counts the stars because he owns them.

The little prince thinks that the businessman's logic is as absurd as the drunkard's, but he accepts that the businessman owns the stars because the man was the first person to think of claiming ownership of them. The prince asks what the businessman does with the stars, and the businessman replies that he notes their numbers and places the numbers in a bank. The prince argues that such actions do not deserve to be called serious matters. He owns a rose and three volcanoes, he points out, but he takes care of them. His ownership is therefore useful, he claims, whereas the businessmen's is not. The businessman is left speechless by this remark, and the little prince moves on, observing that grown-ups are truly "extraordinary."

Chapter XIV

The fifth planet the prince visits is extremely small, just big enough for a street lamp and its lamplighter. The prince considers the lamplighter to be as absurd as the others he has met, yet he finds that the lamplighter performs a beautiful—and therefore useful—task. The lamplighter, who is under orders to extinguish his lamp during the day and light it at night, frantically puts the lamp out and then turns it back on. He explains that his orders used to make sense, but his planet now turns so fast that a new day occurs every minute. The prince admires the lamplighter's sense of duty and notes that of all the people he has met, the lamplighter is the only one whom he could befriend. He advises the lamplighter to walk along with the sunset in order to avoid having to extinguish and rekindle the light continually. The lamplighter says what he really wants is sleep. Unfortunately, the planet is too small for two people, and the prince departs, sad to leave the lamplighter and a planet that has 1,440 sunsets every twenty-four hours.

Chapter XV

On the sixth planet he visits, the little prince meets a man who writes books. The man explains that he is a geographer, a scholar who knows the location of all the seas, mountains, cities, and deserts. When the prince asks the geographer about his planet, the geographer says he knows nothing about his own planet because it is not his job to explore it. A geographer collects information from an explorer and then investigates the explorer's character. If the explorer has a good character, the geographer investigates the explorer's discoveries.

The geographer asks about the little prince's planet. The little prince tells him about his three volcanoes and his flower. The geographer says that he doesn't record flowers because they are "ephemeral," which he defines as "threatened by imminent disappearance." The little prince is shocked to learn that his rose is in such danger, and he begins to regret having left her. He asks the geographer where he should go next, and the geographer tells him that Earth has a good reputation. Thinking of his rose, the little prince departs for Earth.


Instead of shaking his head and moving on as he does at the first three planets, the prince takes the time to express his disapproval of the businessman's way of life. The extra time he devotes to chastising the businessman shows that the businessman epitomizes the flaws of the grown-up world more than any other character. The prince astutely likens the businessman to the drunkard. Both are so preoccupied by meaningless pursuits that they have no time for visitors. The businessman is so riveted by the idea of ownership that he cannot, when pressed, even remember that his properties are known as stars. The prince further demonstrates the shallowness of the businessman's enterprise by pointing out that the businessman is of no use to his possessions.

The prince admires the lamplighter's commitment to his work, and he admires the work itself, which brings beauty into the universe. Nevertheless, the lamplighter displays some grown-up values. He blindly follows orders that are obsolete, and he is unwilling to try the prince's suggestion that he take a break by walking in the direction of the sun.

The lamplighter's actions are suggestive of religious worship. He follows mysterious orders from an invisible, outside power, which he serves with humility. His job of lighting and extinguishing suggests a kind of ritual observance, like the Jewish tradition of lighting Sabbath candles or the role that candles commonly play in Christian worship. In some ways, Saint-Exupéry could be celebrating the power of religious observance and of giving oneself up to a higher power. Certainly, the lamplighter's devotion to his profession is nobler than the businessman's devotion to his possessions.

Nonetheless, the lamplighter is a tragic figure. Among other things, he is a victim of circumstance. His planet is too small for other people, so he is doomed to be without companionship. He is also tired and expresses his great desire to sleep. The lamplighter's main affliction is his inability to gain satisfaction from his work. Like many people who observe religious rites, the lamplighter carries out his lighting rites because he has been told to, but he never gives them the reflection that is necessary for true enlightenment. In the world of The Little Prince, sadness is a part of admirable lives in the same way that the baobabs are an unavoidable danger that is part of the natural world.

Like the lamplighter, the geographer's understanding of duty and profession is flawed. He claims to know everything, but he knows very little because he so rigidly refuses to explore for himself. The geographer has the means to be a man of some genuine importance, but his blind adherence to an arbitrary rule about what geographers are supposed to do makes him as shallow as the other grown-ups.

However, the geographer's lesson about the ephemerality of the rose makes him a key character. The geographer sees the flower's ephemerality as a sign that the rose is unimportant, but for the little prince, it makes the rose even more special. When he realizes how much the rose needs him, the little prince experiences his first moment of regret. His love for the rose hinges on her dependence on him, so the pressures of time and death make the prince value her all the more. Because the rose will one day die, it is all the more important for the prince that he love her while he can.



Chapters XVI–XX


Chapter XVI

The narrator introduces Earth to the little prince, who had never even imagined such a big planet. The narrator describes the almost two billion grown-ups the earth contains: hundreds of kings, thousands of geographers, hundreds of thousands of businessmen, and millions of drunkards and vain men. The narrator also mentions that before the advent of electricity, Earth held 462,511 lamplighters who would perform a kind of global dance each day, unconsciously coordinating their movements as the sun swept across the turning planet. Only the lamplighters at the North and South Poles were not part of this choreography, since they had to work only twice a year.

Chapter XVII

The narrator admits that his description of Earth gives a distorted picture because humanity actually takes up only a very small percentage of the space on Earth and is not nearly as important as most people think it is.

When the prince arrives on Earth, he is surprised to see no one. He meets a snake, who informs him that he is in the African desert, where there are no people. The little prince remarks that it must be lonely in the desert, and the snake enigmatically replies that it can be lonely among men also. Alluding to his poisonous bite, the snake suggests that he could send the prince back to the heavens with one "touch," but then he decides that the prince is too "innocent" for him to do so. The prince asks why the snake always speaks in riddles. "I solve them all," the snake says, and they both fall silent.

Chapter XVIII

Searching the desert for men, the little prince encounters a three-petaled flower. The flower, who has at one point seen a caravan pass by, tells the little prince that there are only a handful of men on Earth and that they have no roots, which lets the wind blow them away and makes life hard for them.

Chapter XIX

The little prince climbs the highest mountain he has ever seen. From the top of the mountain, he hopes he will see the whole planet and find people, but he sees only a desolate, craggy landscape. When the prince calls out, his echo answers him, and he mistakes it for the voices of humans. He thinks Earth is unnecessarily sharp and hard, and he finds it odd that the people of Earth only repeat what he says to them.

Chapter XX

The prince eventually finds a road that leads him to a huge rose garden. He is stunned to find so many flowers that look just like his rose, who had told him she was unique. He begins to feel that he is not a great prince at all, as his planet contains only three tiny volcanoes and a flower he now thinks of as common. He lies down in the grass and cries.


Like the baobabs, the snake the little prince meets in Chapter XVII represents a force that is harmful. He evokes the snake of the Bible, who causes Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden by convincing them to eat the forbidden fruit. The snake in The Little Prince serves a similar function. He speaks coyly of his powerful poison and then tantalizes the prince with the idea of sending him home. Although he cannot strike a creature as innocent as the prince, the snake suggests that the prince is too weak and frail for this world and alluringly phrases an offer for a quick trip back to the prince's planet. Interestingly, the snake seems to need to be invited to kill.

In Chapters XVI and XVII, the narrator switches viewpoints several times. He initially presents a very matter-of-fact way of looking at the world, focusing on the exact number of kings, geographers, businessmen, drunkards, and vain men the world contains. His tone quickly becomes colorful and impassioned as he describes the global "ballet" of the lamplighters. Then, as chapter XVII begins, the narrator adopts a confessional tone and admits that his portrait of the earth has not been entirely truthful, because he has focused on men, who are not actually such a significant part of the planet. The narrator's deceit suggests that both the pragmatic viewpoint of adults and the imaginative viewpoint of children have limits. At the same time, his deceit shows his fluency with different ways of looking at the world, a sign that his mind has been opened.

Chapters XVIII and XIX further explore how one's perspectives can be limited. From a stationary viewpoint, no character can accurately assess the world. The three-petaled flower has seen only a few men pass by in the desert, so the flower thinks men are rootless and scarce in number. The prince hears his own echo, so he thinks that men simply repeat what is said to them. Even a figure as enlightened and likeable as the little prince cannot help but have his beliefs shaped by his limited perspective of the world around him.

A change in perspective means learning new things, and the prince's discovery of the rose garden illustrates how painful some lessons can be. The prince's discovery that his rose is quite ordinary makes him feel plain and ordinary. In a way, the prince has lived a life like the vain man's. Alone on his planet, he was convinced that his was the only flower with any value.



Chapters XXI–XXIII


Chapter XXI

…One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes…. It's the time that you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important…. You become responsible for what you've tamed. You're responsible for your rose…"


As the little prince cries in the grass, a fox appears. The prince asks the fox to play with him because he is so unhappy. The fox replies that first the prince needs to tame him. The prince does not understand the word tame, and the fox explains that it means "to establish ties." The fox says that at the moment, he and the prince mean nothing to each other. However, if the little prince tames the fox, they will need each other, and each will become unique and special to the other. The little prince says he thinks he has been tamed by a rose, and he lets slip that he is from another planet. At first, this fact excites the fox, but he loses interest when it turns out that the little prince's planet has no chickens.

The fox explains that his life never changes. He hunts chickens, and people hunt him. He says that if the prince tames him, he will have footsteps to look forward to rather than run from. The prince's golden hair will make the fox's view of the grain fields come alive because the golden wheat will remind him of his friend.

The little prince is apprehensive at first. He says he does not have much time and that he is looking for friends. The fox says that if the prince wants a friend, he will have to tame the fox. The prince asks how such a thing is done, and the fox coquettishly takes him through the ritual. He explains that rites and rituals are important because they allow certain moments to stand out from all the others.

The prince tames the fox, but when the time comes for the prince to go, the fox says he will weep. When the prince explains that it's the fox's fault for insisting they become friends, the fox says that he knows and that it has all been worthwhile because he can now appreciate the wheat fields. The fox tells the little prince to visit the rose garden again so he can see why his rose is so special. The fox says he will reveal a secret when the little prince returns to say good-bye.

At the garden, the little prince realizes that, even though his rose is not a unique type of flower, she is unique to him because he has cared for her and loved her. He tells the roses that his rose is like the fox. He has tamed her and cared for her, and now in his eyes she is the only rose. The prince then returns to say good-bye to the fox. The fox tells him a threefold secret: that only the heart can see clearly because the eyes miss what is important; that the time the prince has spent on his rose is what makes his rose so important; and that a person is forever responsible for what he has tamed.

Chapter XXII

The little prince continues his journey and meets a railway switchman (a worker who changes trains from one track to another). As the trains roar by, the switchman explains that the trains shuttle people from one location to another. The prince asks the switchman if people are moving because they are unhappy, and the switchman explains that people are always unhappy with wherever they are. The prince asks if the people are chasing something, and the switchman replies that the people aren't chasing anything at all. He adds that only the children press their faces against the train windows and watch the landscape as it rushes by. The prince remarks that "[o]nly the children know what they're looking for," and he says that children can make a rag doll so important that when it's taken from them, they cry. The children, the switchman replies, are the lucky ones.

Chapter XXIII

The little prince then meets a salesclerk who is selling pills invented to quench thirst. The merchant explains that taking the pills means a person never has to drink anything, which can save as many as fifty-three minutes a day. The prince replies that if he had an extra fifty-three minutes, he would spend them by walking very slowly toward a cold fountain.


The episode with the fox requires a note on Saint-Exupéry's use of the verb “tame.” In English, this word connotes domestication and subservience. But the French have two verbs that mean "to tame." One, "domestiquer," does, in fact, mean to make a wild animal subservient and submissive. The Little Prince, however, uses the verb "apprivoiser," which implies a more reciprocal and loving connection. The distinction between these two words is important, since the original French word does not have the connotations of mastery and domination that unfortunately accompany the English translation.

The fox's disclosure of his secret neatly sums up a moral that runs through the novel: that which is secret is also what is most important. Beginning with the narrator's insistence that the hidden image in Drawing Number One is the most important one, the significance of secrecy is hinted at throughout The Little Prince, but the fox's words make it explicit. In 1939, Saint-Exupéry wrote, "Don't you understand that somewhere along the way we have gone astray? … we lack something essential, which we find it difficult to describe. We feel less human; somewhere we have lost our mysterious prerogatives." This "something essential," and these "mysterious prerogatives" are the invisible secrets that the fox urges the prince to value.

The fox's lessons must be learned rather than taught, and when the fox reveals his secret, he really only confirms what the prince has already learned for himself in his explorations. The little prince's journey allows him to explore himself as well as the world around him, but the fox shows that even the hardiest of explorers need validation. The fox is a mentor figure who points out the important things the prince has learned and helps him clear his thoughts. When the fox explains what it means to be tamed, the prince realizes that he has already been tamed by his rose, even though he didn't know that the process had a name. The fox urges the prince to revisit the rose garden, but the prince learns the second part of the fox's secret—that the time he has devoted to his rose is what makes her unique—on his own.

After stressing in Chapter XXI that devoting time to one another is what creates the special bonds between different beings, The Little Prince offers two examples of time poorly spent, where technology speeds people along at the expense of things that have genuine value. The trains race by at lightning speed, but only the children are able to appreciate what is worthwhile about the trip. The switchman points out that all their moving does not make the grown-ups any happier. The salesclerk with his water pills also emphasizes time-saving, telling the prince that his pills can save people up to fifty-three minutes a day. The little prince's retort that these extra minutes would best be put to use walking slowly toward a cool fountain undermines the purpose of the salesman's thirst-quenching product.



Chapters XXIV–XXV


When I was a little boy I lived in an old house, and there was a legend that a treasure that a treasure was buried in it somewhere. … But it cast a spell over the whole house.


Chapter XXIV

By the time the little prince finishes the story of his travels, the pilot has been stranded in the desert for eight days and has run out of water. He is too worried that he will die of thirst to want to hear any more about the prince or the fox. The prince replies that it is still good to have a friend, even if one is about to die of thirst. The prince says he is also thirsty and proposes that they search for a well. Despite the absurdity of such an endeavor, the narrator agrees.

As they walk, the prince and the pilot talk about beauty. The prince explains that the desert is beautiful because somewhere it conceals a well. Remembering a boyhood home that was made special for him by rumors of buried treasure, the narrator is stunned to realize that the source of beauty is always something secret and invisible. The prince is happy that the narrator agrees with the fox's lessons and drops off to sleep. The narrator continues to walk with the sleeping prince in his arms, stirred by the fragile beauty of the little prince who loves his rose so deeply. At daybreak, he finds the well for which they have been searching.

Chapter XXV

The narrator and the prince hoist the water from the well, which looks like a village well, unlike anything one would expect to find in a desert. As they drink, the narrator is struck by the sweetness of the water, which revives the heart like a good feast and which is made special by its setting in the same way that a Christmas present is made special by the celebration that surrounds it. He and the prince agree that men on Earth lose sight of those things for which they are looking. People on Earth raise five thousand roses when they could find what they really want in a single rose or drop of water. But people look with their eyes instead of their hearts, the prince remarks.

The prince reminds the narrator of his promise to draw a muzzle for the prince's sheep. When the narrator takes out his drawings, the little prince good-naturedly laughs at their primitiveness but says that children will understand them. As the narrator gives the prince the drawing of the muzzle, he realizes that the prince has secret plans and guesses that they are related to the fact that the next day marks the anniversary of the prince's arrival on Earth. The prince refuses to admit that he has plans, but the narrator can tell from the prince's blushing that he has guessed correctly. Suddenly, the narrator feels very sad. He remembers the fox's lesson that tears are the pain you risk by being tamed.


In Chapters XXIV and XXV, the narrator learns through experience the lessons that the prince learned while with the fox. The search for the well in the desert makes it clear to the narrator that people must discover the true meaning of things for themselves in order for those things to have value. The narrator finds the well while he is on his own, holding the sleeping little prince in his arms. Once the narrator has learned this lesson about how the process of discovery makes the results worthwhile, he takes it to heart and is able to apply it to the emotions and intuitions of his past, as he does when he reminisces over the mysterious house of his childhood. Even though the story shows us all of the prince's discoveries and encounters, Saint-Exupéry is trying to inform us that we will not truly understand unless we search for meaning ourselves. Even the narrator, who is a firsthand witness to the prince's story, needs to learn the fox's lessons for himself through experience instead of simply being told them.

Before they search for the well, the prince tells the narrator about meeting a salesclerk who sold thirst-quenching pills. One might think that such pills are exactly what the narrator and prince need to survive in the desert, but they never once find themselves wishing for them. When the narrator drinks from the well, he receives more than simple physical nourishment. The water also revives his heart, and he finds it more like a Christmas present than anything else. He says that what makes the water taste so delightful is all the hard work that went into finding it, emphasizing that relationships, objects, and experiences are rewarding only when you invest time and effort in them.

Besides demonstrating important moral lessons, the relationship between the pilot and the little prince is also very human. The prince gently mocks the narrator's drawings, and the narrator is struck by a deep concern for the prince's safety. Their relationship grounds the story, and though their conversation introduces weighty topics like spirituality and morality, the friendship between the narrator and the little prince keeps the conversation casual.





Chapter XXVI

The following day, the pilot returns from fixing his plane to see the little prince sitting on the wall of a ruin beside the well. The prince is discussing plans for that evening with someone who cannot be seen, and the topic of poison is mentioned. The prince asks his unseen companion to leave so the prince can get off the wall, and when the narrator looks down, he sees a snake. It is the same snake who greeted the prince when he first arrived on Earth. The narrator draws his gun, but the snake escapes, and the narrator is left to take care of the prince, who is pale and frightened. The prince congratulates the pilot on having fixed his plane, and when the narrator asks the prince how he knows about his plane, the prince says only that he will be going on a much longer, more difficult journey.

The prince says he will be even more afraid that night and tries to console the narrator by pointing to the stars and saying they will all have a special, unique meaning for the narrator now that he knows someone who lives among them. Then the prince becomes serious again and asks the pilot not to accompany him that night. The prince cautions that it will look as if he is dying. Also, he does not trust the snake to stop at just one bite and is worried that the snake would bite the pilot as well.

That night the little prince sneaks off by himself, but the narrator catches up and refuses to abandon him. The prince assures the narrator that he will be fine, that his dead body will just be an empty shell too heavy for the prince to take to the heavens with him. The narrator is not convinced, and even the prince grows less certain of his reasoning and finally breaks down in tears. Growing more frightened, the little prince explains that his rose needs him, and then falls silent. The snake strikes at the prince's ankle, and he falls so gently that he does not make a sound.

Chapter XXVII

Look up at the sky. Ask yourself, "Has the sheep eaten the flower or not?" And you'll see how everything changes.

And no grown-up will ever understand how such a thing could be so important!


Six years later, the narrator reflects on the fate of his friend. He knows the prince made it back to his planet because the morning after the snake bit the prince, he could not find the prince's body. The narrator's friends are glad to have him back again, and when he looks at the stars, he hears the sounds of many tiny bells.

The narrator worries, however, since he forgot to draw a strap on the sheep's muzzle, which means it may eat the rose. He sometimes reassures himself that the prince would never let such a thing happen, but then he thinks that accidents can happen, and the sound of bells turns into the sound of tears. He admits that his emotions are a puzzle, as they certainly are for all of us who also loved the little prince. All the same, when he looks up at the sky, the question of whether the sheep has eaten the rose or not has changed the way he sees everything. He remarks, rather incredulously, that a grown-up will never understand this concern.

In a short epilogue, the narrator shows the same illustration of the desert landscape he showed in his final chapter, only he leaves out the prince. He calls his final picture the saddest and loveliest landscape in the world. He asks us to keep an eye out for this landscape if we are ever in the Sahara and to linger under the stars for a while if we do see it. The narrator asks us to lessen his sadness by sending immediate word if we happen to meet the little prince.


For us, as for the narrator, the story of the little prince ends in mystery. We are left on our own to figure out whether the prince has managed to save his rose. At times, the narrator is sure that the prince's life on his planet is a happy one. Other times, the narrator hears only the sound of tears. The only thing that is certain is that one of the prince's first questions, about whether the sheep will eat his rose, has emerged in the end as the most important question of all.

The narrator does not downplay the deep pain he felt because of his friendship with the little prince. Although the narrator mentions that he has other friends, the departure of this one has taken as much from him as it has given him. The story has no qualms about the fact that losing a loved one is painful, and its ending offers no consolation that the narrator's wounds will heal. On one level, these final chapters are an allegory about dealing with the death of a loved one.

In spite of all this sadness, however, the story staunchly insists that relationships are worth the trouble. The fox and the narrator may both lose the little prince, but their world is enhanced nevertheless—wheat fields and night skies come alive. To emphasize this positive aspect of lost relationships, the narrator describes his desolate final drawing of the barren landscape where the prince fell as both the saddest and the loveliest place in the world. The Little Prince, though it deals with serious and even upsetting issues, emphasizes the idea that good can be derived from sad events. The little prince learns that his rose must die, but this knowledge fires his love for her. The relationship between the narrator and the prince reaches new levels of intensity only after the prince makes it clear that he will depart.



Important Quotations Explained

1. But he would always answer, "That's a hat." Then I wouldn't about boa constrictors or jungles or stars. I would put myself on his level and talk about bridge and golf and politics and neckties. And my grown-up was glad to know such a reasonable person. [Explanation]

2. If some one loves a flower of which just one example exists among all the millions and millions of stars, that's enough to make him happy when he looks at the stars. He tells himself, "My flower's up there somewhere…" But if the sheep eats the flower, then for him it's as if, suddenly, all the stars went out. And that isn't important? [Explanation]

3. "Goodbye," said the fox. "Here is my secret. It's quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes…. It's the time that you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important…. People have forgotten this truth," the fox said, "But you mustn't forget it. You become responsible for what you've tamed. You're responsible for your rose…" [Explanation]

4. I was surprised by suddenly understanding that mysterious radiance of the sands. When I was a little boy I lived in an old house, and there was a legend that a treasure that a treasure was buried in it somewhere. Of course, no one was ever able to find the treasure, perhaps no one even searched. But it cast a spell over the whole house. [Explanation]

5. Look up at the sky. Ask yourself, "Has the sheep eaten the flower or not?" And you'll see how everything changes…
And no grown-up will ever understand how such a thing could be so important! [Explanation]



Key Facts

Full title - The Little Prince (in French, Le Petit Prince)

Author - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Type of work - Children's story, novella

Genre - Fable, allegory

Language - French

Time and place written - The summer and fall of 1942, while Saint-Exupéry was living in Long Island, New York

Date of first publication - First published in English translation in 1943. The first French edition did not appear until 1946.

Publisher - Reynal & Hitchcock, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. (U.S. edition, both French and English); Gallimard (French edition)

Narrator - A pilot who crashes in the Sahara desert, where he meets the little prince. The narrator tells his story of the encounter six years after it happened.

Point of View - The narrator gives a first-person account, although he spends large portions of the story recounting the little prince's own story of his travels.

Tone - When describing his surreal, poignant encounter with the little prince, the narrator's tone is bittersweet. When describing the adult world, the narrator's tone is matter-of-fact and often regretful.

Tense - Past

Settings (Time) - "Six years ago," although the current date is never specified

Settings (Place) - The Sahara desert and outer space

Protagonists - The little prince, the pilot

Major conflict - The childlike perspectives of the prince and, to some extent, those of the narrator are in conflict with the stifling beliefs of the adult world.

Rising action - After he believes he has been spurned by his rose, the prince travels to neighboring planets and eventually lands on Earth. He wanders through the desert in search of humans, and he is eventually found by the fox.

Climax - The fox teaches the little prince his secret, and the little prince realizes the value of his rose.

Falling action - The prince meets the narrator, to whom he passes along the fox's instructions. He is then sent back to the heavens by the snake's bite.

Themes - The dangers of narrow-mindedness, enlightenment through exploration, relationships teach responsibility

- Motifs
Secrecy, the narrator's drawings, taming, serious matters

- Symbols
The stars, the desert, the trains, water

- Foreshadowing
When the snake greets the prince, he alludes to his ability to send the prince back to the heavens, which he does at the end of the novel.



Study Questions

1. Saint-Exupéry wrote The Little Prince in New York as World War II raged in Europe, and after his homeland had been captured by the Nazis. Are there any symbols that are particularly evocative of war and exile? [Answer]

2. What differentiates adults from children in The Little Prince? Is the distinction simply one of age, or is it based on something else? [Answer]

3. When the narrator and the prince search for a well, the narrator appears finally to understand the lessons that the prince has related to him. What does this say about the morals of the novel? [Answer]

Suggested Essay Topics

4. Why does the little prince want to return home? Why isn't his friendship with the pilot enough to make him stay? Can the way he returns to the heavens be interpreted as a suicide?

5. Discuss the themes of time and death in The Little Prince. How does the prince learn to appreciate the time he has with his loved ones better, and how does it affect his relationships with them?

6. Why do some people see Drawing Number One as a simple hat, while others think it represents an elephant inside a boa constrictor? What is the meaning of these different perspectives?

7. Discuss the rose's behavior. Why doesn't the rose tell the little prince that she loves him? Why does he continue to love her?

8. Why is the fox so eager to be tamed by the little prince? If he already knows how to tame himself, why does he need someone else to do it for him?

9. Symbols and metaphors are present throughout The Little Prince. Why do you think Saint-Exupéry choose to tell this story in such figurative language?




1. What is Drawing Number One supposed to depict?

(A) An elephant inside a boa constrictor
(B) A hat
(C) The baobabs
(D) The fox

2. Where does the narrator's plane crash?

(A) In the Amazon rainforest
(B) In the Gobi desert
(C) In the Sahara desert
(D) On an unnamed island

3. What is the first thing the little prince asks of the pilot?

(A) To help him find the snake
(B) To draw him a sheep
(C) To listen to the story of the fox
(D) To draw a picture of the baobabs

4. What is the Earth name for the little prince's home planet?

(A) Mars
(B) Asteroid B-612
(C) Asteroid MU-330
(D) Asteroid D-814

5. Why does the narrator make note of the name and astronomical history of the little prince's home planet?

(A) Because he feels such details are vital to our understanding of the little prince
(B) As a sign of respect for modern science
(C) Because the little prince asked him to
(D) As a concession to grown-ups, who view the world in a quantitative way

6. What drawing does the narrator say he worked especially hard on?

(A) The little prince
(B) The baobabs
(C) The fox
(D) The Saharan landscape

7. Whom does the little prince love?

(A) Baobabs
(B) A geographer
(C) A rose
(D) A lamplighter

8. Why does the little prince leave his planet?

(A) He begins to doubt the rose's sincerity
(B) He wants to visit Earth
(C) The rose yells at him
(D) A sheep eats his rose

9. Why is the rose certain she can defend herself?

(A) She has four thorns
(B) No large animals exist on the prince's planet
(C) Large animals eat princes, not roses
(D) The prince draws her a guard dog

10. Whom does the prince meet on the first planet he visits?

(A) A geographer
(B) A businessman
(C) A king
(D) A conceited man

11. Whom does the prince meet on the second planet?

(A) A businessman
(B) A vain man
(C) A drunkard
(D) A lamplighter

12. Whom does the prince meet on the third planet?

(A) A king
(B) A drunkard
(C) A geographer
(D) A businessman

13. Whom does the prince meet on the fourth planet?

(A) A businessman
(B) A lamplighter
(C) The narrator
(D) A geographer

14. Whom does the prince meet on the fifth planet?

(A) A geographer
(B) A three-petaled flower
(C) A businessman
(D) A lamplighter

15. Whom does the prince meet on the sixth planet?

(A) A geographer
(B) His rose
(C) A lamplighter
(D) A drunkard

16. Who is the first being the prince meets on Earth?

(A) The pilot
(B) The snake
(C) The fox
(D) A hunter

17. Why does the discovery of the rose garden make the little prince sad?

(A) He discovers he is allergic to roses
(B) He realizes he fell in love too quickly
(C) He sees how ugly roses really are
(D) He learns that his rose is not the only rose in the universe

18. How does the fox define to "tame?"

(A) "To soften the spirit"
(B) "To establish ties"
(C) "To learn to love"
(D) "To master another being"

19. According to the fox, what makes the prince's rose so important?

(A) Her four thorns can serve as weapons
(B) The time the prince has spent caring for her
(C) The coquettish way she expresses her love
(D) Her unmatchable beauty

20. After talking with the little prince, what does the pilot realize makes the desert beautiful?

(A) It hides a well somewhere
(B) There are no grown-ups around to dirty it
(C) The grains of sand glitter like the stars in the sky
(D) Death is always beautiful

21. Why does the pilot worry about the little prince's departure?

(A) The little prince is the only person who can find water
(B) Without the little prince, he will be unable to fix his own plane
(C) The prince's plans involve a deadly snakebite
(D) The prince is vital to the Earth's safety

22. What sort of pills does the salesclerk the little prince meets sell?

(A) Pills that send people back to where they came from
(B) Thirst-quenching pills
(C) Pills that cause hallucinations
(D) Rose-garden pills

23. What does the narrator say is most important to him in the story's final chapter?

(A) Whether the prince's flower still has thorns
(B) Whether the little prince is alive
(C) Who actually owns all the stars in the universe
(D) Whether the sheep has eaten the prince's rose

24. On his planet, what does the little prince place over the rose at night?

(A) A screen
(B) A glass jar
(C) A warm hat
(D) A warm blanket

25. What is the narrator's occupation?

(A) Geographer
(B) Railway switchman
(C) Pilot
(D) Salesman