Charmingly wise: That’s The Little Prince for you in two words.
On the surface, the plot of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry sounds a little bizarre: our narrator, who is a pilot flying solo, is forced to land his plane in the Sahara Desert because he has engine trouble. There, he meets a visitor from another planet. Cue Twilight Zone theme music? Well, no, not really. Our alien visitor is not some dangerous being out to wipe out humanity—it’s the little prince of the title. Gradually, he and the narrator become fast friends. The little prince is on a quest and recounts stories about the places he’s been to and the people he’s met, which the narrator records as this book.
Brimming with delightful drawings, The Little Prince also offers sharp insights into the human condition. First published in 1943, it remains wildly popular even today. It sells over a million copies a year, and was voted best French book of the 20th century (source). It is, in fact, one of the best-selling books of all time (source).
Still not impressed? Well, here’s irrefutable evidence that this book has made a deep impact on its readers: Type in “little prince tattoo” and run a Google image search. The last time we checked, we came up with over 39 million results. Now, that’s impressive!
Why are we here? Do we matter? What is the meaning of life?
These questions are often parodied and inspire a fair amount of eye-rolling, but to be completely honest, we’ve all asked them at some point, right? The Little Prince takes on the daunting task of trying to answer them – and does an excellent job.
Sure, this is a cute little book that features an asteroid as big as a house and a talking fox and a flight of migrating birds that are used as a means of transportation, but it also offers a sharp critique of the ways we live our lives. The book reminds us that while we hurry and scramble in greed and ambition, we are losing our capacities for love and imagination and friendship.
Of course, we’re all running the race and there’s no easy way to check out of it, but it helps to be reminded ever so often of the truly important things. The Little Prince succeeds in doing this in a most un-corny way, which we think is admirable.
So gather ’round, little princes and little princesses. Group hug.