The grown-ups’ response, this time, was to advise me to lay aside my drawings of boa constrictors, whether from the inside or the outside, and devote myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic and grammar. That is why, at the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent career as a painter. (1.7)
It’s not enough to simply decide you want to do something, like become a great painter, and then stick with it. You also need encouragement and backing up, for starters. When the narrator was a little kid, all the grown-ups he knew told him that he wasn’t good at drawing and that his pictures didn’t represent what he thought they represented. This was enough to make the narrator give up on art, when he could have been “magnificent” if only he’d stuck with it.
When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey. Absurd as it might seem to me, a thousand miles from any human habitation and in danger of death, I took out of my pocket a sheet of paper and my fountain-pen. But then I remembered how my studies had been concentrated on geography, history, arithmetic and grammar, and I told the little chap (a little crossly, too) that I did not know how to draw. (2.12)
The narrator is ready to give up on drawing before he even starts, practically. As a grown-up himself, not having had enough of the proper encouragement when he was young, he left behind his creative instinct and imaginative style.
Now it would be a lot harder for him to make something like his Drawing Number One than it was before. For example, he can barely draw a correct sheep and ends up drawing a box instead. But, because the prince is so persuasive and has such a strong personality, this new friend persuades the narrator to keep trying to draw anyway.
…I am not at all sure of success. One drawing goes along all right, and another has no resemblance to its subject. I make some errors, too, in the little prince’s height: in one place he is too tall and in another too short. And I feel some doubts about the colour of his costume. So I fumble along as best I can, now good, now bad, and I hope generally fair-to-middling. (4.14)
Even when he’s not satisfied with his work, the narrator has to keep going. He explains that some pictures are better than others, and sometimes he does a better job of recording the details than others, without being exactly sure of why that is. The most important thing, though, is telling his story and conveying the essence of the little prince to his readers. In order to do this, the narrator simply has to keep drawing.
Perhaps you will ask me, “Why there are no other drawings in this book as magnificent and impressive as this drawing of the baobabs?”
The reply is simple. I have tried. But with the others I have not been successful. When I made the drawing of the baobabs I was carried beyond myself by the inspiring force of urgent necessity. (5.20-1)
In this passage the narrator explains just how much he has kept on going. He “ha[s] tried” again and again to make all his drawings “magnificent and impressive,” but the one that has the most of these characteristics is the drawing of the baobabs. The reason the narrator thinks this drawing is more snazzy than the others is because of the subject. The baobabs themselves are so significant that the drawing reflects their significance.
“Oh, no!” I cried. “No, no, no! I don’t believe anything. I answered you with the first thing that came into my head. Don’t you see—I am very busy with matters of consequence!” (7.16)
Here, the narrator is focusing on the wrong thing. He’s been working so hard to fix his plane (and we admit, that sounds pretty important) that he misses out on something else that’s just as important, only in a different way.
And that’s his conversation with the prince. The narrator doesn’t pay attention to what the prince is saying because he is preoccupied with his plane—but to the prince, his worries are way more important than what the narrator sees as “matters of consequence.” Of course, that’s like grown-up speak and is one thing that the narrator usually tries to avoid.
The Little Prince
“The fact is that I did not know how to understand anything! I ought to have judged by deeds and not by words. She cast her fragrance and her radiance over me. I ought never to have run away from her… I ought to have guessed all the affection that lay behind her poor little stratagems. Flowers are so inconsistent! […]” (8.27)
The prince admits he should’ve worked harder to understand and get to know his flower. She made it hard for him to know her or see the real her. He looked at the obvious and didn’t see what really mattered. If he’d looked harder, and persisted, then he would’ve gotten to know her better.
“Eh? Are you still there? Five-hundred-and-one million—I can’t stop… I have so much to do! I am concerned with matters of consequence. I don’t amuse myself with balderdash. Two and five make seven…” (13.5)
The businessman, who is counting the stars, keeps persevering with his task. He’s millions of stars in. He thinks what he’s doing is super important and that everything else is “balderdash.” Ironically, though, by paying attention to something like this he misses out on other really important things, like human interaction. What’s really “balderdash” in this scenario?
The Little Prince
“I wonder,” he said, “whether the stars are set alight in heaven so that one day each one of us may find his own again… Look at my planet. It is right there above us. But how far away it is!” (17.11)
It’s hard to figure out exactly why the stars are in the sky, isn’t it? That’s one of the great universal mysteries. The prince gives us an intriguing reason for them here—you can follow the stars to find your way back home.
The Little Prince
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
“It is the time I have wasted for my rose—” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember. (21.60-61)
Not all of us can remember something—whether it’s a fact or a phone number—just by hearing it one time. The more important this thing is, the more essential it becomes to make sure you hold on to it. The prince holds on by repeating. Repeating helps him make sure he’s got the important thing safely recorded.
The Little Prince
“Now you must work. You must return to your engine. I will be waiting for you here. Come back tomorrow evening…”
But I was not reassured. I remembered the fox. One runs the risk of weeping a little, if one lets himself be tamed… (25.47-8)
The narrator has worked hard on fixing his engine and is about to reap the fruit of his hard work. Do you feel that the prince already knew that his engine would be fixed? And was there a message in their long walk to find water?