The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Little Prince
The little prince is a wisp of a boy with curly golden hair and a laugh that sounds like a million little bells. Remember this well! If you see him in your hood, give the narrator a holler. (Shmoop thinks he’ll be easy to spot, especially if he’s wearing his fancy greatcoat and sword – unless, of course, he’s hanging around at one of those Renaissance Fairs.)
So, Who Made This Guy Prince?
Good question. Shmoop has wondered about this, too, and is sorry to say that there is no clear answer in the text. The narrator calls him “the little prince,” and we think this is because the little dude lives on a tiny asteroid and owns everything on it. But perhaps another reason he’s a prince is because he’s got a princely nature – in other words, he’s a prince among men.
What’s His Story?
The little prince’s home is a tiny asteroid named B-612, which is no bigger than a house. On it are three tiny volcanoes, which only come up to his knees. He cleans out these volcanoes regularly to prevent eruptions: the two active volcanoes serve to heat his breakfast, and he uses the extinct volcano as a footstool. There are also baobab seeds that blow up on his planet every now and again and sprout shoots; these have to be dug up and discarded before they grow into large trees that would engulf the planet. All in all, the prince does a good job of looking after his planet, and he led a content existence until (cue suspenseful music)…
…the flower makes an appearance on his planet.
When this strange new flower emerges from her bud, she takes his breath away. Just like another guy called Prince, our little prince tells her that she is the most beautiful girl in the world. But the flower is vain and demanding and already knows she’s gorgeous; she torments the little prince until he decides to leave her and his planet. He loves her, but she is difficult to love. Sob.
So the little prince travels around the universe, meeting odd and disparate characters who highlight for him the shallow and lonely lives that most people live. When he lands up on the Earth in the course of his travels, he encounters a wise fox who teaches him about love and friendship, and then the little prince meets the narrator, to whom he tells his story.
What Makes Him So Special? His Natty Fashion Sense?
There’s much more to the little prince than his fancy gold scarf. We can consider the little prince to be the ideal person – someone who has his priorities right, unlike the foolish adults in this book. Shmoop likes him because he’s a BRICK. (Yes, we are going to make an acrostic now!)
B for Brave
The little prince is quite the intrepid adventurer. He flits from planet to planet, and is unafraid of new places and experiences. And, he hitches a ride with a flight of migrating birds. Now that’s bravery for you!
The narrator is especially struck by the attitude the prince has towards the end of the book, when the snake is about to bite him. The prince tells the narrator:
“I shall look as if I were suffering. I shall look a little as if I were dying. It is like that. Do not come to see that. It is not worth the trouble…” (26.58)
All this sounds pretty scary, and the little prince is afraid. And yet, he bravely goes through with his plan.
What impresses us most about the little prince is that he does not shy away from friendship and human connections. He is not afraid to show his love, and if you struck up a conversation with him about feelings and matters of the heart, he would certainly not say, “TMI!” and vamoose. This, too, strikes us as bravery!
R for Responsible
The little prince does an excellent job of keeping his planet neat and tidy and free of baobabs. He tells the narrator:
“It is a question of discipline. When you’ve finished your own toilet in the morning, then it is time to attend to the toilet of your planet, just so, with the greatest care….It is very tedious work, but very easy.” (5.15)
He’s the kind of guy who’d never let his laundry and his dishes pile up, and we’re certain we’d find no dust bunnies on his planet. Of course, this little novel works on a metaphorical level as well, with the baobabs standing for unpleasant things in one’s nature – and the little prince takes the trouble to weed these out early.
Besides being a stellar housekeeper, the little prince also takes responsibility for the people he loves and cares about, which makes him an all-round five-star guy. He learns from the fox that “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed” (21.61), and he takes this lesson to heart.
I for Imaginative
We at Shmoop like to think we are pretty creative, but the little prince blows us out of the ballpark. When we first come across the guy in the book, he asks the narrator to draw him a sheep. The narrator tries, but the little prince is not satisfied with any of the drawings. Finally, the narrator ends up drawing him a little box and tells him the sheep is inside. The prince loves this, and even says, “Look! He has gone to sleep…” (2.33). Now, that’s some imagination!
The prince even recognizes that the first drawing by the narrator is a boa constrictor that has swallowed an elephant, and not a hat. Very impressive, little rpince!
C for Curious
The little prince certainly asks many questions, and the narrator remarks several times through this book that the little prince “never in his life had let go of a question, once he had asked it” (15. 40). What do we like about this? We think it’s proof that the little prince is interested in the people and the world around him, rather than losing himself in self-absorbed navel gazing.
On his journey, the prince meets a railway switchman on Earth, and their conversation helps us understand the prince’s appreciation of childlike curiosity. The prince asks the railway switchman what the passengers inside trains are pursuing, and the switchman replies:
“They are pursuing nothing at all….They are asleep in there, or if they are not asleep they are yawning. Only the children are flattening their noses against the windowpanes.”
“Only the children know what they are looking for,” said the little prince. (22.16)
K for Kind
The prince is consistently kind to the flower and the narrator and the fox – we are not too impressed by this, though, because it’s easy to be nice to one’s friends. What we admire is the prince’s kindness towards all the weirdos he meets on his journey.
For instance, when the little prince wants to depart from the planet of the king who is obsessed with having his orders obeyed, he says, “If Your Majesty wishes to be promptly obeyed, he should be able to give me a reasonable order. He should be able, for example, to order me to be gone by the end of one minute” (10. 54). And when he meets a conceited man who asks if the little prince admires him, the prince tells him he does. Even though he doesn’t quite understand the king’s obsession with having his orders obeyed and the conceited man’s obsession with being admired, he makes sure that he doesn’t hurt their feelings.
The prince doesn’t have a single mean bone in his little body. Once, when he loses his temper, he calls a man a “mushroom” (7.24). That’s about as unkind as he gets.The Little Prince's Timeline