Published originally in April 1943, ‘The Little Prince’ is categorized as a children’s book, but it is also popular among grown-ups. The simplicity of the language makes it suitable for both demographics.
The novel begins with a little biography of the boy who later became the young man. From there, the author takes us to the desert, where the young man encounters a peculiar character, the little prince. As a flashback, away from the desert now, the young man recalls the little prince’s story and his too, consisting of the time the little prince spent on some planets- including his, before visiting Earth, where they met.
Spoiler-free Summary of The Little Prince
A boy who has reservations about grown-ups, and who is fast becoming one himself, finds himself trapped in a desert in Africa. There, he meets someone that would go on to change his life forever.
General Summary of The Little Prince
Warning – This article contains important details and spoilers
‘The Little Prince‘ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry tells the story of a boy who crashes his aircraft into a desert, where he meets someone that would go on to change his life forever- the little prince. His very first encounter with the little prince is a request for him to draw him (the little prince) a sheep. An imaginary sheep that later outlives its owner, as far as the physical or near-physical world is concerned.
The little prince owns and tends to a flower that he loves so much. He also owns three volcanoes, one of which is dead or almost dead. All these, he leaves behind on his little planet, on a mission, one that ends up being bigger than he anticipated, a mission in which he teaches creatures a lot of lessons and learns from them, in return.
The little prince travels through about five planets before arriving the Earth. On each planet, he meets one being (except on Earth, where he meets many beings). On one planet- this one has to be the smallest of them all- all the planets. I mean, he meets the little king, living in his own bubble. He picks something valuable, though- that only reasonable orders are expected to be obeyed.
On another planet, he meets the lamplighter who prefers to sleep, but who feels he just has to put the light off and on, signifying night and day; therefore, to him, that means no rest. On the lamplighter’s planet, they have thousands of sunsets in just one day. The little prince finds this incredible, and he wishes he could stay to witness it all. The lamplighter is also rigid, because he decides to continue with his monotonous and tiresome work, even though the little prince already suggested a better alternative for achieving the same results, to him.
On yet another planet, the little prince meets a merchant, so engrossed in counting the stars, he is aloof, and barely takes notice of what is happening around him. He is counting the stars, to sell them.
On another planet, the little prince meets the geographer who does no fieldwork, and only waits for the explorers to research or do the fieldwork, and bring back information, for scrutiny.
On another planet, he meets the conceited man. The man who thinks himself to be the “handsomest” around, even though it was only him on his planet.
On yet another planet, he meets the depressed man who keeps gulping and gulping drinks and who couldn’t get more drunk than he already was, but who also couldn’t stop gulping. This man continues to grow sadder, as a result.
All the people mentioned are adults, without much understanding, grown-ups who are much more delusional than they think others are.
On earth, he meets the fox, and from the fox, he learns to love and appreciate all he has. He learns that contentment can coexist with admiration for other things and others’ things, and that contentment can coexist with healthy ambition. He also meets the snake, which is so full of itself.
Finally, he meets the boy who later becomes his friend till the very end of his physical life and even beyond, for he becomes a star.
He spends a lot of time with the boy in a desert in Africa. They learn a lot from each other, especially the boy, from the little prince.
Just as it was difficult, his parting with the fox from whom he learned a great deal, at the tail end of his physical life, after having been bitten by a snake, things become quite tense between and for the little prince and his friend. The little prince tries to joke about it, and he also tries to make the boy see the bright side to all that, but nothing seems to be working. The boy is very sad, with nothing able to make him come to terms with losing his friend. The little prince ignores all that and continues to promise and assure his friend that he will always be there, that all he just has to do is to look up to the stars. The little prince transforms in a very peaceful way.
Six years later, the boy reminisces. He doesn’t mind being thought to be crazy as he looks up to the sky and smiles, and even laughs, maybe, knowing that his dear friend would most likely be smiling back.
Is The Little Prince a true story?
No, ‘The Little Prince‘ is not a true story. Though inspired probably by Antoine’s experiences, the story is based purely on the adventures of a fictional character. In fact, the little prince is a fantasy. So, the young man, the little prince, the flower that talks, the fox, the geographer, the desert on Earth, all the other planets, and the rest are all based on fiction.
What is most ironic about the events in The Little Prince?
There are so many ironies in ‘The Little Prince,’ but summarised, it is the fact that grown-ups are not infallible; in fact, most of them are much more than children. A good example is grown-ups taking pills in order not to become thirsty only to spend the time saved by the freshwater spring. This is utterly ironic.
How is The Little Prince structured?
The story of ‘The Little Prince‘ has a simple structure in all ramifications. The book has 27 chapters, contains illustrations in the form of drawings, and has 109 pages. The author also mostly makes use of simple vocabulary. And this is a win for the book because simplicity is the heart of communication. Meaning can get lost in complexity, and Antoine Saint-Exupéry keyed into this by totally avoiding complexity.
Is The Little Prince a children’s novel?
Yes, ‘The Little Prince‘ is a children’s novel. However, grown-ups as well have a lot to learn from it. The simplicity of its language makes it suitable for both demographics. A good way to tell that the book is suitable for both children and adults, even before getting to the first chapter, is to read the ‘Dedication.’ There, the author stylishly pleads with the grown-ups to accept children as the audience too. He ends up dedicating the book, not to the grown-up, but to the child who later became the grown-up. That part was hilarious, by the way.