Thursday, July 22, 2010

The year in books #17: The Little Prince

I somehow managed to make it through more than twenty-seven years of life without ever reading Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's classic novella The Little Prince. I finally sat down with Rose's copy a few weeks ago and was astounded that I'd been missing out on such a gem for so long. The tale follows the titular diminutive royalty as he sets forth from the tiny asteroid where he makes his home, finally ending up on Earth, where he encounters the narrator, an aviator stranded in the desert following a crash landing. En route, the prince experiences a series of morally-edifying encounters in the style of Gulliver's Travels with the inhabitants of other asteroids: the king who is careful to give only commands that were going to be followed anyhow; the businessman who wants to establish ownership of the stars so that he can use them to buy more stars; the drunk who drinks to forget the shame of his drunkenness. On Earth, his conversations with the narrator are both thought-provoking and wonderfully sweet.

Ostensibly, The Little Prince is a children's book, and I can absolutely imagine a small child loving it, but a great deal of the story deals with philosophical concepts like the nature of property, the meaning of life, the definition of love, that make the story worth a read for adults, as well.

Something that amused me terribly when I started reading The Little Prince (in fact, seeing the cover was what did it) was that I immediately recognized it as the basis for a cartoon I watched as a small child. All I could remember of the series was that it featured a boy who lived on an asteroid and traveled about with his bird-like companion by catching shooting stars in a butterfly net. And that I had an episode on cassette tape at one point; my father, wanting to nap for half an hour and then go to work, told me to wake him up when the episode was done. I, being a thoughtful boy who wanted to let his daddy sleep, pressed rewind at the end of every scene and watched it a second time. Daddy was not pleased. In any case, now that I knew where the cartoon came from, I was very quickly able to track it down on YouTube for a quick blast of nostalgia. Unfortunately, like most cartoons from my childhood, it doesn't hold up well.

1 comment:

  1. I used to own The Little Prince as an audiobook when I was myself a little princess, and just recently actually read the book for the first time. It was so interesting that this book, some of which I still know by heart, can change so much in meaning. 10 years ago it was nothing but a nice pastime now and then while trying to sleep, and now that I read it again I realized that it has actually thaught me a lot, unconsciously. I would have been able to recite the next current next line nearly all the time, but suddenly there formed meaning around the words...
    Benny, have you read Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Die Möwe Jonathan)? It works similarly, only that I read it only when I was already 18.

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