Since the book’s setting is the Sahara Desert, water becomes important in this book through its absence. Water is very rare in the desert, and yet people need water to survive. So, any water one comes across in a desert is super special. It needs to be appreciated and used. It’s something to be grateful for.
To show us how special water in the desert is, the narrator compares it to something very precious: the prince’s laughter. He says, “I could not bear the thought of never hearing that laughter any more. For me, it was like a spring of fresh water in the desert” (26.31).
Does it seem significant that the prince and the narrator only start to seek out water when it starts to get close to the end of the book? What about the fact that they find a well in what seems like the middle of nowhere? When they do get to drink this water, it sure seems extra-special:
I raised the bucket to his [the prince’s] lips. He drank, his eyes closed. It was as sweet as some special festival treat. This water was indeed a different thing from ordinary nourishment. Its sweetness was born of the walk under the stars, the song of the pulley, the effort of my arms. It was good for the heart, like a present. (25.13)
This water provides some kind of soul and body food that’s totally “different […] from ordinary nourishment.” The narrator compares drinking it to a “festival,” or to receiving a “present.” Like the little prince’s lessons, it, too, is a gift to be treasured and savored. What makes it all the more striking to us readers is that water is something we take for granted and rarely think about. But this book highlights the small pleasure of drinking cool water, reminding us that in our day-to-day lives, we have several opportunities for happiness that we don’t pay much attention to because we take these things for granted. We are in danger of becoming like one of the grown ups. (Oh, no!)