The Tale of the Little Prince
I jumped up, I was like I had been struck by lightning. I rubbed my eyes and looked around carefully. What do you think I saw? An astonishingly small son of a man was staring at me earnestly. I painted this picture of him afterwards. It was the best I could do of him. But I must say it’s certainly not half as good as the real thing. Naturally, it’s not my fault. When I was six years old I had to give up my photographic career because of the elders, and I never learned to draw anything but boa constrictors from the outside and from the inside.
It took me a long time to find out where he came from. The little prince who asked me so many questions never heard mine. Fortunately, I knew the answers to the questions he had been made to ask. It helped to move around in this ridiculous world.
For example, when he first saw my airplane, he asked, “What is that object?” (Unfortunately, I can’t draw you my airplane, so it’s too complicated for me).
“It’s not an object, it’s my airplane. It flies in the sky.”
I was proud to tell him that I could fly. And then he said, “What? You mean you fell out of the sky?” he exclaimed.
“Yes,” I said humbly.
“Oh, what fun.” And then the little prince burst out laughing. I was quite annoyed by this. I don’t like to be mocked for my misfortune.
“Then you come from the sky,” he said. “And from which planet?”
I knew I was onto something and I immediately interrogated him.
“So you come from another planet?”
But he did not answer my question. He nodded politely. At the same time he was examining my airplane with his gaze.
“You can’t have traveled very far in this…”
His eyes wandered. After a long time, he took out the picture of the sheep I had drawn from his pocket and began to examine his new treasure. You can imagine how much my curiosity was piqued by the fact that he didn’t give me a definite answer about this ‘another planet’. Naturally, I tried to find out more.
“Where do you come from, my little friend? Where is this ‘where I live’ you speak of? Where will you take the sheep I drew?”
The planet he came from was no bigger than a house. But that didn’t really surprise me. I knew that apart from the big planets like Earth, Jupiter, Mars and Venus, there are hundreds of unnamed planets, some of them so small that they are hard to spot even with a telescope. When astronomers discover one of them, they give it a number instead of a name. For example, they call it ‘Asteroid 325’.
I believe that the planet the little prince came from is Asteroid B-612, and I have good reasons to think so. This asteroid has only been seen once, by a Turkish astronomer in 1909. He announced his discovery at an International Astronomical Congress. But no one believed him because of his strange clothes. That’s how the great ones are.
I am making these explanations about Asteroid-B-612 only for grown-ups. They like shapes. If you tell them about a friend you have just met, they will never ask the most important questions. They will never ask you if your friend has a good voice, what games he prefers, or if he collects butterflies. “How old are they? How many siblings does he/she have? How much does his/her father earn? ” and so on. Only when they know these things do they think they are getting to know him/her.
If you say to them, “I saw a house made of pink bricks, with geraniums by the windows and pigeons on the roof,” they cannot imagine a house like that. You have to tell them, “I saw a house worth a hundred thousand dollars.” Then they will say, “Oh, what a beautiful house!”
Just like that. So you have to tell them, “The little prince was very beautiful, he was laughing and he wanted a sheep. This is proof that he exists”, they will shrug their shoulders and treat you like a child. But if you say, “The planet he came from is Asteroid B-612”, they will believe you and start asking questions. That’s the way they are. It is not right to take advantage of their weakness. Children should always be understanding towards adults.
But those of us who truly understand life do not need forms. I could start my story in a fairy tale-like way. I could say, “Once upon a time there was a little prince who lived on a planet not much bigger than his own and he needed a friend.” All of us who truly understand life would find that more realistic…
It seems that on the little prince’s planet, as on every planet, there were useful and harmful plants. The beneficial seeds were produced by the beneficial plants and the harmful seeds were produced by the harmful plants. But the seeds are invisible. They sleep deep in the ground. Then one day one of them decides to wake up. At first, it stretches timidly. Then it emerges as a sympathetic sprout facing the sun. In this state it is completely harmless. If it is a radish sprout or a rose bush, it is allowed to grow in any form it wishes. If it is a wild plant, it must be uprooted immediately. On the little prince’s planet, there were seeds that were harmful in this way. These were baobab seeds. They were all over the little planet. If you don’t uproot a baobab sprout in time, you can never get rid of it again. It covers the whole planet. Its roots go deep into the soil. If your planet is quite small and there are many baobabs, then the planet can explode.
“It’s a matter of manners,” the little prince said later. After you have taken care of yourself in the morning, it is time to take care of the planet. You must do this with great care. When the little baobab shoots are big enough to be distinguished from rose bushes, you have to uproot them. It is a tedious job, but it is quite easy.”
You once told me that you watched the sun go down forty-four times. And then you said something like this: “You know, one likes to watch the sunset when one is very unhappy.”
“And were you unhappy?” I asked, but I didn’t get an answer.
On the fifth day, I discovered a new secret about the little prince’s life, again with the help of the sheep I had drawn. As if he had been thinking about it for a long time, he suddenly asked me, “Sheep eat the bushes, but do they also eat the flowers? ” he asked me.
” Territories of everything that comes their way. “
” Not even the thorny flowers? “
“Yes, and flowers with thorns.”
“Then thorns…what are thorns for? “
I didn’t know the answer to that. I was busy removing a bolt that was stuck in the engine of the airplane. I was getting more and more frustrated by the breakdown of the airplane. My drinking water was running low and I was afraid that the situation was going to get worse.
“I was saying thorns…what are they for? ” he asked again. The little prince would not stop asking unless he got the answer to the problem he had been asked. I was busy unscrewing the bolt and said the first thing that came to my mind:
“Thorns are useless. Flowers carry them only out of anger.”
“Ah, so that’s how it is!”
There was a short silence and then, in a slightly offended voice, “I don’t believe you. Flowers are delicate creatures. They are pure. They think their thorns are fearful.” I didn’t answer. At that moment I was saying to myself:
“If this bolt refuses to come out, I will hammer it out.”
But the little prince intervened again: “So you really believe that flowers carry those thorns out of anger?”
“No, I don’t believe anything. I was just saying, I have important business at the moment. “
The little prince was astonished.
“Is it a big job? “
Seeing me bent over the ugly thing (my airplane, to be precise) with a hammer in my hand and my fingers black with engine oil, my little friend said: “Now you’re talking just like the grown-ups.”
“For millions of years flowers have had thorns. And for millions of years sheep have been eating flowers. Is it useless to try to understand why flowers grow thorns that are of no use to them? Is the war between flowers and sheep unimportant? Is it not more serious and more important than the schemes of that red-faced gentleman? And if I have a flower that I know grows on no other planet in the universe, and a little sheep destroys it in one bite one morning, without me noticing, is that a trifle? “
His face turned red. He continued his speech: “If a man loves a flower that grows on a single planet among millions of stars, that will be enough to make him happy. Because when he looks at the stars he can say, ‘My flower is out there somewhere. But if this sheep eats the flower, then all the stars will suddenly seem dark to him. And you think it doesn’t matter! ” He could not speak more, so he burst into tears…
It was evening. I had put away the tools. Surely my hammer, my bolt, my thirst and my death could not have seemed less important to me than they did now. Out of millions of stars, on a planet, my planet, there was a little prince I needed to comfort! I took him in my arms and shook him gently. “No reservations about your flower. I will draw a muzzle for your sheep… I will draw a fence for your flower… I… I…” I didn’t know if I could reach him well, if I could comfort him well. This flood of tears was so strange…
He got tired and sat down on the sand. I sat down next to him. After a short silence:
“The stars are beautiful… Because in one of them lives a flower I can’t see right now.”
“Of course,” I said. I watched the dunes in the moonlight in silence.
“Very, very beautiful,” he said later.
It was really beautiful. I have always loved deserts. You sit on a sand dune. You see nothing. You don’t hear anything. You only feel the silent, mysterious glow of the desert.
“The desert is beautiful,” said the little prince, “because it hides a well somewhere.”
When I was a little boy, we lived in a very old house where they told us that there was a treasure hidden somewhere. But this story made our house a house of mystery. My house hid a secret in the depths of its soul.
“Yes,” I said, “one does not know where the beauty of a house comes from, nor of the stars, nor of the desert.”
“I’m so glad you agree with me,” said the little prince.
When he fell asleep, I took him in my arms and started walking again. I was deeply moved, as if I was carrying a very delicate burial, the most delicate thing in the world. I watched her pale forehead in the moonlight, her closed eyes and her curls fluttering in the wind. I said to myself:
“What I see is just a cover. The eyes cannot see the most important thing.”
As I looked at her, her lips parted and she smiled slightly in her sleep. “The reason why I am so moved by this little prince sleeping here is because of his devotion to a flower. Even when he sleeps, his love for this flower illuminates his whole being like a lamp.”
It was even more delicate now. We have to guard the lamps very carefully. A strong wind can blow them out. So I kept walking and at dawn I found the well.
“People,” said the little prince, “are crowding the bullet trains, not knowing what they are looking for. They go round and round in the same place, anxious and in a hurry.” After a moment’s pause, he added: “It’s not worth the trouble.”
The well we found was not one of the wells of the Sahara Desert. Wells in the Sahara Desert are just holes dug in the sand. But the well we found was one of the wells in the towns. But there were no towns around. I thought I was dreaming.
“How strange,” I said to the little prince, “everything is ready. Spool, bucket, rope, all ready.” He laughed. He started to spin the spool. The spool, rusted from not working for so long, began to groan.
“Do you hear that?” said the little prince. “We woke up the well and it started singing…” He didn’t want her to get tired. “Leave it to me,” I said.
“It’s too heavy for you.”
The water in the bucket was still trembling and I could hear the sound of the pulley in my ears and in the trembling water. I could see the shimmering rays of the sun.
“I want to drink this water,” said the little prince, “can you give me some water?”
Now I knew what he was looking for! I put the bucket to his lips, his eyes closed as he drank. This water was as sweet as a piece of holiday candy. It was different from any other food. It was born of a walk under the stars, the song of the reel and the labor of my arms. It was good for the heart. It was like a gift. The beauty of the gift I received as a small child at Christmas came from the glow of the Christmas tree, the music of the celebration, the warmth of smiling faces.
“The people where you live,” said the little prince, “can grow a thousand roses in a garden and still not find what they are looking for.”
“That’s right, they can’t,” I said.
“And they could find what they are looking for in a single rose, or in a handful of water.”
“Yes, you’re right,” I said.
“But the eyes can’t see. One has to look with the heart.”
“I’m going home today,” was all she whispered. Then he added sadly: “My home is far away… It will be very difficult to go there…”
I could feel that something unexpected was going to happen. I was holding her tightly in my arms, like a child, but she was slipping out of my hands into an abyss and I couldn’t stop it… Her gaze was serious and she was disappearing into the distance.
“I have the sheep you gave me. I have the box. And the muzzle…” A bitter smile spread across his face. I waited for a long time, feeling his body temperature rising.
“My little friend, you are scared…” Normally he was scared! But he laughed softly.
“I’m going to be even more scared tonight,” he said.
Once again, I felt an irreparable pain inside me. I didn’t even want to think that I would never hear that laugh again. I couldn’t bear it. His laugh was like a reservoir of water in the desert.
“Little prince, I want to hear your smile again,” I said.
But he said: “Tonight, it is exactly one year since I landed on Earth. Tonight my planet will be right above where I landed on Earth last year.”
“Little prince, please tell me it’s just a bad dream,” I said, “that this snake story will return to your planet…” But the little prince did not answer my question. Instead, he told me: “The eyes cannot see the most important thing.”
“Yes, I know…”
“It’s the same with water. Do you remember the sound of the spool? It was precisely because of the spool and the string that the sip of water you gave me sounded like music. It was so sweet…”
“Yes, I know…”
“You watch the stars at night. Where I live, everything is so small that it’s impossible to show you my planet. But it’s better this way. Because you’ll know that I live on one of them. You will love them all. They’ll all be your friends. And I have a gift for you…”
He laughed once more.
“Ah, little prince! My dear little prince. It’s so good to hear you laugh!”
“It was actually my gift… just like for the water.”
“I don’t understand…
“Stars mean different things to different people. For some they are just flickering lights in the sky. For travelers, they are a guide. For scientists, they are a source of ideas. For my businessman, they are wealth. But for all of us, they are silent. Except you…”
“What does that mean?”
“When you look at the sky at night, you will know that I live in one of the stars and I am laughing there. So it will seem to you as if all the stars are laughing. Only you will have laughing stars in the whole world. ” And after saying this, he laughed again.
“And when your sorrow is gone – for time heals all sorrows – you will be glad you knew me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. Sometimes, just for that, you will go and open the window… Your friends will be surprised to see you laughing while looking at the sky. You will say to them, “Oh, yes, the stars make me laugh.” And they will think you are crazy. You see, what a terrible trick I have played on you…” And he laughed once more.
“Actually, it’s not as if I gave you a lot of stars, but a lot of bells that can laugh.” He laughed again. Then he became serious. “Tonight… you know… don’t come…”
“I won’t leave you.”
“From the outside it will look like I’m suffering. I’ll look like I’m dying. Don’t come to see that. It won’t do any good…”
I said, “I won’t leave you.” He was worried.
“The reason I’m telling you this is partly because of the snake. It must not hurt you… Snakes are treacherous creatures. They can sting you for pleasure.”
I said, “I won’t leave you.”
And then he suddenly relaxed. “Snakes can only poison once, can’t they?” I didn’t see him leave that night. He left quietly. When I ran after him and caught up with him, I saw him walking swiftly and surely. He said to me:
“Ah! You are here…” But his voice was still agitated.
“You shouldn’t have come. You will be sad. You’ll think I’m dead, but I won’t really be dead.” I was silent.
“You have to understand. It’s too far away. I can’t take my body there. It’s too heavy for that.” I didn’t say anything…
“I will remain like an empty shell…There is nothing to be sad about…” I did not respond
He was a bit discouraged. With a last effort, he said, “You know, it will be beautiful. I’ll look at the stars too. All the stars will be wells with rusty spools for me. They will all give me water to drink.” I said nothing.
“It’s going to be so much fun. You will have five hundred million tiny bells; I will have five hundred million water sources…”
And he could not say anything anymore, so his eyes filled with tears. “This is it. Let me go on alone.”
He sat down, he was afraid of that. Then she said, “You know… I have a flower… I am responsible for it. It is so delicate, so innocent… It has only four little thorns to protect itself…”
So I sat down. I couldn’t stand up much longer. “There…” he said, “That’s all…” After a little hesitation, he stood up. I couldn’t move.
There was a yellow light around his ankle, nothing else. He stood still for a moment. He never shouted. He fell slowly, like a tree. Because the ground was sand, there was not the slightest sound as it fell.
But there is one thing that worries me. I forgot to draw the straps for the muzzle I drew for him to tie around his sheep’s mouth. In short, he will never be able to use it. That’s why I’m very curious to know what was found after he arrived on his planet. Who knows if the sheep ate the flower I drew…
Sometimes I say to myself: “He certainly didn’t eat it! The little prince covered the flower with his glass shelter every night and watched the sheep carefully.” When I think like that, I feel happy. And all the stars smile at me. But then: “Everyone can be absent-minded at times. What if one night the little prince forgets to put the glass cover over the flower and the sheep quietly moves out…” Then my little bells burst into tears instead of laughter.
This is really a big secret. For those of you who, like me, love the little prince, it is a very important thing that a sheep in who knows where in the universe may or may not have eaten a flower. Look at the sky. Ask yourself, “Did the sheep eat the flower or not?” See if everything is changing for the better. And the elders can never understand why this is so important.
For me, this is the most beautiful and the saddest view of the world. It is quite similar to the one before this one, but I am drawing it again so that you will remember it. This is the place where the little prince was brought down to Earth and left.
Please look at the picture very carefully and commit it to memory. If you are ever in Africa and you cross the Sahara Desert, when you come to this spot, please stop for a moment. If a little boy comes towards you, smiles at you, has golden curls and does not answer any of your questions, you will guess who he is. Please do me this favor. Don’t keep me in suspense. Write to me immediately to let me know that he has returned…
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