The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Little Prince Chapter 21 Summary
- Now, saddle up for one of the longer and more important chapters in the book. In this chapter, the prince meets the fox.
- The little prince tells the fox that he is unhappy and asks him to come play with him; but the fox says he cannot because he is not “tamed” (21.8). He explains that “to tame” means “to establish ties” (21.16). Through the process of taming, they will come to need each other, and will become special to one another. The fox requests the little prince to tame him.
- The prince says he would like to, but that he has no time because he has friends to discover and several things to understand.
- To this, the fox says, “One only understands the things that one tames” (21.33). He says that men no longer have time to understand anything; they cannot buy friendship in a shop, so they no longer have friends.
- The fox then gives the prince instructions on how he can be tamed: The fox will sit at a little distance from the prince and look at him out of the corner of his eyes. Every day, he will sit a little closer. The prince must be patient and must not speak, because “words are the source of misunderstandings” (21.35).
- After the fox is tamed, the prince decides he has to keep moving. This makes the fox really unhappy. The prince gets sad, too.
- Although the prince has a hard time understanding it, the fox says that he doesn’t regret getting tamed even though the prince is leaving. Being tamed has helped him look at the world differently. And, the fox says, by going though this taming, the prince gets to see the world differently, too.
- To ensure that the prince understands this, the fox instructs him to once again visit the rose garden.
- So the prince does, and realizes something very important about his own flower: Even though his flower looks just like these other roses, she is unique and special because of the relationship he shares with her, just as he and the fox are important to each other because of the relationship they share.
- He returns to the fox with this knowledge, and the fox tells him a secret in parting: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” (21.34-36). (Shmoop could summarize that, but it’s hard to think of a better way to say it than the fox does.)
- The fox then tells the prince that his special flower is so special because of the effort he’s put into their relationship, and that one becomes forever responsible for the things one tames.
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