I went into this book knowing two things about it: it was originally written in French, and it was about a little prince. That’s about it. Yes, I know, but I tend to avoid reading much about a book before I read it, so I can perceive the story as I read the words without knowing too much.
And I can say honestly, whatever I was expecting from the book, I did not get it.
Synopsis: A man crashes his plane into the Saharan desert, where he meets a strange little prince, who came across the stars on a long journey. The little prince tells his story, in this poignant allegorical tale.
I loved this story, even though it was quite more adult and sad than I had expected. It is does warrant some kind of knowledge about Antoine de Saint-Exupery, or you will be wondering what the story means. In the beginning, it reminded me of the weirdness of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Pilgrim’s Progress. But as the story continues, it turns into something darker, something much more real. There are so many complex philosophical ideas examined in such simple ways. Do we obsess over the love of something which can never love us in return, like a rose? Do we live in our own little world, where we assume everyone loves us? This book is a strange experience to read, not the light fairytale I was expecting, but it is still worth reading.
It’s interesting to learn some of the history behind this book. Antoine himself crashed into the Sahara during WWII, and for days wandered, hallucinating. It is from this experience that he later was inspired to write this novella. It is even sadder to think that, just one year following the publication of this story, Antoine took another flight. His plane vanished and he was never heard from again. Apparently, in 1998 his identity bracelet was found. We will never know how he died, but he was only forty-four years old.
I was reading up on some of the symbolism of this story, and I sure didn’t guess some of the ideas people have interpreted. For example, the prince is really Jesus (free of sin), though I don’t think you can be sure of that just by reading the book. However, it is clear that the prince is supposed to present a clear foil to the evil in the world. He does not know how to fear the bite of a snake, or the danger of a fox. He does not need to drink or eat to survive, and seems purely good.
The book takes a strange view of adulthood, as if adults truly do not see the goodness and creativity in the world around them. It reminds me of a quote from C.S. Lewis: “…some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” This book, in many senses, is a fairy tale for adults who have seen more of the world then children, but still wish to find that innocent beauty in nature and humanity.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and my only regret is that I do not know French, and thus I could only read the English translation. There is something missing, I think, when you translate something.
A part of me wonders why I never picked up this book and read it before. I’ve known about it for years, and yet I was expecting it to be a bit more like The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (maybe because the title is similar). But I’m glad I took the time to read it, and I would highly recommend it to any reader. Besides, it’s under 100 pages with illustrations, so a person has no excuse not to read it.
Have you read this book? Or heard of it? Does it look interesting to you? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,