Study Guide

The Little Prince Transformation

By Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Chapter 2
The Narrator

“This is only his box. The sheep you asked for is inside.”

I was very surprised to see a light break over the face of my young judge: “That is exactly the way I wanted it! Do you think that this sheep will have to have a great deal of grass?” (2.27-8)

There are two kinds of transformations taking place in this scene. We need some twinkly lights or explode-y sounds. First, the narrator makes a drawing that changes a box into a sheep. Poof! Second, the prince’s face is transformed by his knowledge of that drawing. Swoosh! And the narrator is transformed because he realizes that the friend he’s been searching for all his life is in front of him. Ka-POW!

Chapter 4
The Narrator

In certain more important details I shall make mistakes, also. But that is something that will not be my fault. My friend never explained anything to me. He thought, perhaps, that I was like himself. But I, alas, do not know how to see sheep through the walls of boxes. Perhaps I am a little like the grown-ups. I have had to grow old. (4.15)

Poor narrator guy. This comment that he makes is kind of sad. We know, because he keeps on saying so, that the narrator thinks most adults don’t understand what really matters. He doesn’t feel an affinity for them. That’s a fancy way of saying he doesn’t think he sees eye-to-eye with other adults.

What do we mean by this? Well, he feels like the odd one out: they don’t have the same kind of understanding. Grown-ups don’t view the world in the same way. But, as much as the narrator wants to be able to view the world with imagination and innocence, like the child that he used to be, he fears he may not have as much imagination as the prince he meets. Has he changed too much from the child he once was?

Fortunately, however, for the reputation of Asteroid B-612, a Turkish dictator made a law that his subjects, under pain of death, should change to European costume. So in 1920 the astronomer gave his demonstration all over again, dressed with impressive style and elegance. And this time everybody accepted his report. (4.7)

The astronomer’s facts don’t change at all. He’s always right about the existence of Asteroid B-612. However, until he changes his outer appearance, people don’t believe his facts. He has to be wearing a specific type of outfit for his ideas to be accepted by the adults. Once he changes his outfit, it’s like his ideas are brand new. People “accept” them without any problems, just because of how he’s dressed. Has that ever happened to you?

Chapter 8
The Narrator

But the shrub soon stopped growing, and began to get ready to produce a flower. The little prince, who was present at the first appearance of a huge bud, felt at once that some sort of miraculous apparition must emerge from it. (8.2)

The prince predicts the transformation that will take place when his shrub (a rosebush) gets ready to bloom. He expects that it will end up being a “miraculous apparition.”

Well, it both is and isn’t. The apparition ends up being his rose, which is a flower unlike any other. The flower is special to him. However, the flower doesn’t turn into a young lady, or a fairy, or a poodle. Instead, it changes into the best version of itself – a rose in full bloom – and that is enough to amaze the prince.

Chapter 9
The Flower

He was surprised by this absence of reproaches. He stood there all bewildered, the glass globe held arrested in mid-air. He did not understand this quiet sweetness. 

 “Of course I love you,” the flower said to him. “It is my fault that you have not known it all the while. That is of no importance. But you—you have been just as foolish as I. Try to be happy… Let the glass globe be. I don’t want it any more.” (9.9-10)

When the flower does a total 180 on the prince, he is completely confused. It’s not until she realizes the prince is leaving that she admits her love for him.

Chapter 15
The Geographer

“Geographies,” said the geographer, “are the books which, of all books, are most concerned with matters of consequence. They never become old-fashioned. It is very rarely that a mountain changes its position. It is very rarely that an ocean empties itself of its waters. We write of eternal things.” (15.37)

The geographer is both right and wrong. It’s true that mountains are pretty much stuck where they are and that oceans generally have water in them. If you’ve ever tried to move a mountain, you’ll know where we’re coming from here. In any of our lifetimes, it’s extremely unlikely that we’d see something so tremendous and monumental change that much. Something like a mountain can be catalogued by a geographer and, a hundred years later, that mountain will most likely look exactly the same.

However, even mountains and stuff like them aren’t “eternal things.” Eventually, an ocean could empty. A mountain could move. What if a volcano explodes, for example, or an earthquake takes place? Can what the geographer describes really last forever, without changing at all?

Chapter 24
The Little Prince

“The stars are beautiful, because of a flower that cannot be seen.” (24.19)

What we can’t see changes what we can see. (That idea’s a bumper sticker waiting to happen.) The prince’s flower is something “that cannot be seen.” Even though he can’t see her, though, he knows she’s there, out there somewhere in the stars. Because she exists, even unseen, her presence makes the stars that are visible so “beautiful.”

This point also helps us understand the fox’s big idea about seeing with your heart, not your eyes. The flower is something that can be experienced with the heart, even when she is too far to be seen. Finding the flower with your heart helps you find the beauty in the stars.

Chapter 26
The Little Prince

“You understand… It is too far. I cannot carry this body with me. It is too heavy.”

I said nothing.

“But it will be like an old abandoned shell. There is nothing sad about old shells…”(26.70-72)

The prince is about to undergo a transformation that is so intense that he will be leaving his body behind. Even so, he tells the narrator not to be upset. For the prince, the end of “this body” doesn’t mean the end of his being or the end of his life. Instead, he compares his body, once he will leave it, to “an old abandoned shell.” The body is just like a carrying case for what really matters, which is inside.

“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure… And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, ‘Yes, the stars always make me laugh!’ And they will think you are crazy. It will be a very shabby trick that I shall have played on you…” (26.52)

Despite the fact that he’s planning to leave, which makes the narrator incredibly sad, the prince tries to use this departure to give his good friend a gift: stars that laugh! So, although the prince’s departure will cause the narrator great pain, the memory of it will bring him happiness, too. (We know, we know. It’s small consolation for losing a friend like this one.)

The Narrator

I realized clearly that something extraordinary was happening. I was holding him close in my arms as if he were a little child; and yet it seemed to me that he was rushing headlong toward an abyss from which I could do nothing to restrain him… (26.23)

Here’s that separation between inside and outside again. On the surface, which the narrator can see, the prince still looks like “a little child.” If the prince really was just a little child, the narrator would be able to take care of him and boss him around. The narrator would be able to keep him from going to get bitten by the snake. But, on the inside, it seems, the prince may be much more mature than the narrator. On the inside, the prince is going places where the narrator can’t follow. His inside is changing dramatically, while his surface remains the same.

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