“That doesn’t matter. Where I live, everything is so small!”
And, with perhaps a hint of sadness, he added:
“Straight ahead of him, nobody can go very far…” (3.28-30)
We’re only in chapter 3 and already there are signs that this isn’t going to be the happiest of books. Uh-oh. The prince is talking about his home, which should be a happy thing, but there’s “a hint of sadness,” in his tone. Although he loves his planet and it’s dear to him, its size has also limited him.
For I do not want any one to read my book carelessly. I have suffered too much grief in setting down these memories. Six years have already passed since my friend went away from me, with his sheep. If I try to describe him here, it is to make sure that I shall not forget him. To forget a friend is sad. Not every one has had a friend. And if I forget him, I may become like the grown-ups who are no longer interested in anything but figures… (4.13)
The narrator wants us readers to be clear about how important this story is. He says it’s been really rough on him just to write everything down. When he lost the prince, he lost a friend. Now, he’s scared of losing his memories of that friend, too.
Oh, little prince! Bit by bit I came to understand the secrets of your sad little life… For a long time you had found your only entertainment in the quiet pleasure of looking at the sunset. I learned that new detail on the morning of the fourth day […] (6.1)
When the prince was back on his own planet (before he began any of his adventures), he didn’t really have the most awesome times. His “only entertainment” was “the quiet pleasure of looking at the sunset.” In other words, he had no X-Box, candy bars, or Internet. And worst of all, he didn’t even have anyone to talk to.
The Little Prince
“If some one loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself: ‘Somewhere, my flower is there…’ But if the sheep eats the flower, in one moment all his stars will be darkened… And you think that is not important!” (7.30)
The prince’s life may have been limited, in what he could see or do or enjoy, but that didn’t keep him from becoming wise. In fact, even without much experience or education, the prince knows what can take a person from happiness to total dejection in the blink of an eye.
He believed that he would never want to return. But on this last morning all these familiar tasks seemed very precious to him. And when he watered the flower for the last time, and prepared to place her under the shelter of her glass globe, he realized that he was very close to tears. (9.3)
It’s one thing to think about leaving and another thing to actually leave, isn’t it? The prince first thought, as he was getting ready to go, that this would be it for him: “that he would never want to return” to his planet. He doesn’t realize that there’s no place like home. Yet, the closer he gets to actually leaving, the harder it becomes.
The Little Prince
“Who are you?” he demanded, thunderstruck.
“We are roses,” the roses said.
And he was overcome with sadness. His flower had told him that she was the only one of her kind in all the universe. And here were five thousand of them, all alike, in one single garden! (20.6-8)
This is a pretty good reason for getting sad: Something that the prince had firmly believed to be true (that his own flower on his planet was totally unique) seems, in this moment, to be absolutely untrue. Boo.
So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near—
“Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”
“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…”
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox. (21.42-5)
It’s because the prince has tamed the fox that leaving is so difficult. Even though the fox “wanted” to be tamed, and the prince wanted to make a new friend, they didn’t take into account what would happen when it would be time to say goodbye. It’s like the worst ending to summer camp ever.
I had drunk the water. I breathed easily. At sunrise the sand is the colour of honey. And that honey colour was making me happy, too. What brought me, then, this sense of grief? (25.20)
This is a moment that feels pretty weird to the narrator. He’s got several things going on that are “making [him] happy.” He’s got water in the desert. And he’s got a sunrise, making the world full of beautiful color. Woot, right? Yet, with all of that, he is puzzled by the fact that he feels sad, too—perhaps because he senses that the prince will be leaving him soon.
The Little Prince
“You have good poison? You are sure that it will not make me suffer too long?”
I stopped in my tracks, my heart torn asunder; but still I did not understand. (26.9-10)
The narrator’s emotions are faster than his brain. His “heart” knows what he doesn’t “understand.”
And now six years have already gone by… I have never yet told this story. The companions who met me on my return were well content to see me alive. I was sad, but I told them: “I am tired.”
Now my sorrow is comforted a little. That is to say—not entirely. But I know that he did go back to his planet, because I did not find his body at daybreak. It was not such a heavy body… And at night I love to listen to the stars. It is like five hundred million little bells… (27.1-2)
At the end of the book we’re pretty close to where we started, with the narrator thinking about how long it’s been since he had his encounter with the prince. When he first parted from the prince, he “was sad”; six years later, he’s still full of “sorrow.” Although he says the sorrow’s gotten a little better, it’s still there. Looks like losing someone like the prince isn’t something you can get over very quickly.