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The History of The Little Prince

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The Little Prince  
Author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Original title Le Petit Prince
Translator Katherine Woods, T.V.F. Cuffe, Irene Testot-Ferry, Alan Howard, Richard
Illustrator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Cover artist Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Country France
Language French
Publisher Gallimard
Publication date 1943
Published in
English
1943

The Little Prince (French: Le Petit Prince), published in 1943, is French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's most famous novella, which he wrote in the United States while renting The Bevin House in Asharoken, New York, on Long Island. The novella includes a number of drawings by Saint-Exupéry himself, which are reproduced in most versions.

The book has been translated into more than 180 languages and sold more than 80 million copies making it one of the best-selling books ever. It has been adapted into a movie musical by Lerner and Loewe, two different operas, as well as into an animated series. It is often used as a beginner's book for French language students.

Katherine Woods' classic English version (1943) was later followed by other translations, as her original version was shown to have several mistakes. Up to now, four additional translations have been published:

Each of these translators do their best to approach the essence of the original, each with their own style and focuses.


Though ostensibly a children's book, The Little Prince makes several profound and idealistic points about life and human nature. Saint-Exupéry tells of meeting a young prince in the middle of the Sahara. The essence of the book is contained in the famous lines uttered by the fox to the Little Prince: "On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." (One cannot see well except with the heart, the essential is invisible to the eyes). Other key thematic messages are articulated by the fox, such as: "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed" and "It is the time you have spent with your rose that makes your rose so important."

Interleaved in the first nine chapters the narration's point of view changes from third person to first person. In the first eight days of the narrator being stranded in the desert, the Prince has been telling these stories to the narrator.

The Prince asks the narrator to draw a sheep. Not knowing how to draw a sheep, the narrator draws what he knows, a boa with an elephant in its stomach, a drawing which previous viewers mistook for a hat. "No! No!", exclaims the Prince. "I don't want a boa with an elephant inside! I want a sheep...". He tries a few sheep drawings, which the Prince rejects. Finally he draws a box, which he explains has the sheep inside. The Prince, who can see the sheep inside the box just as well as he can see the elephant in the boa, says "That's perfect".

The home asteroid or "planet" of the Little Prince is introduced. His asteroid (planet) is house-sized and named, B612, which has three volcanoes (two active, and one dormant) and a rose among various other objects. The actual naming of the asteroid B612 is an important concept in the book that illustrates the fact that adults will only believe a scientist who is dressed or acts the same way as they do. According to the book, the asteroid was sighted by a Turkish astronomer in 1909 who had then made a formal demonstration of asteroid B-612 to the International Astronomical Congress . "No one had believed him on the count of the way he was dressed." Then, he and his people dressed like Europeans and went again to present asteroid B-612 to the International Astronomical Congress and they fully believed him and credited him with the work this time.

The Prince spends his days caring for his "planet", pulling out the baobab trees that are constantly trying to take root there. The trees will make his little planet turn to dust if they are not pulled out. Throughout the book he is taught to be patient and to do hard work to keep his "planet" in order. The prince falls in love with the rose, who returns his love but is unable to express it. He leaves to see what the rest of the universe is like, and visits six other asteroids (numbered from 325 to 330) each of which is inhabited by an adult who is foolish in his own way:

Chapter 16 begins: "So then the seventh planet was the Earth". On the Earth, he starts out in the desert and meets a snake that claims to have the power to return him to his home planet (A clever way to say that he can kill people, thus "Sending anyone he wishes back to the land from whence he came.") The Prince meets a desert-flower who, having seen a caravan pass by, tells him that there are only a handful of men on earth and that they have no roots, which lets the wind blow them around making life hard on them. The little prince climbs the highest mountain he has ever seen. From the top of the mountain, he hopes he will see the whole planet and find people, but he sees only a desolate, craggy landscape. When the prince calls out, his echo answers him, and he mistakes it for the voices of humans. He thinks Earth is unnecessarily sharp and hard, and he finds it odd that the people of Earth only repeat what he says to them. The Prince sees a whole row of rosebushes, and is downcast because he thought that his was the only one in the whole universe. He begins to feel that he is not a great prince at all, as his planet contains only three tiny volcanoes and a flower he now thinks of as common. He lies down in the grass and weeps. Chapter 21 is the author's statement about human love in that the Prince then meets and tames a fox, who explains to the Prince that his rose is unique and special, because she is the one that he loves. The Prince then meets a railway switchman and a merchant who are as non-self-aware and non-philosophical as the other adults encountered earlier. In Chapter 24, the narrator's point of view changes again from third person to first person, as the narrator is dying of thirst, but then they find a well. After some thought, the Prince bids an emotional farewell to the narrator, explaining to him that while it will look as though he has died, he has not, but rather that his body is too heavy to take with him to his planet. He tells the narrator that it was wrong of the narrator to come and watch, as it will make him sad. The Prince then allows the snake to bite him. The next morning when the narrator looks for the Prince, he finds his body has disappeared. The story ends with a portrait of the landscape where the meeting of the Prince and the narrator took place and where the snake took the Prince's life. The narrator also makes a plea that anyone encountering a strange child in that area who refuses to answer questions to contact the narrator immediately. The Little Prince is represented as having been on Earth for one year, and the narrator ends the story six years after he is rescued from the desert.


In The Little Prince, Saint-Exupéry talks about being marooned in the desert in a damaged aircraft. Without doubt, this account was drawn from his own experience in the Sahara. He also writes about this ordeal, in detail, in his book Wind, Sand and Stars.

On December 30, 1935 at 14:45, after an 18 hour and 36 minute flight, Saint-Exupéry, along with his navigator André Prévot, crashed in the Libyan Sahara desert en route to Saigon. They were attempting to fly from Paris to Saigon faster than anyone before them ever had; and all for a prize of 150,000 francs. Their plane was a Caudron C-600 Simoun n° 7042 (serial F-ANRY). Supposedly, the crash site is located in the Wadi Natrum. Both of them had survived the crash, but they were then faced with rapid dehydration in the Sahara. Their maps were primitive and ambiguous. Lost in the desert with a few grapes, a single orange, and some wine, the duo had only one day's worth of liquids. After that day, they had nothing. Both men began to see mirages, which were quickly followed by more vivid hallucinations. Sometime between the second and the third day, the two were so dehydrated that they stopped sweating altogether. Finally, on the fourth day, a Bedouin on a camel discovered them and administered native dehydration treatment that saved Saint-Exupéry and Prévot's lives.

In the desert, Saint-Exupéry had met a fennec (desert sand fox), which had most likely inspired him to create the fox character in the book. In a 1918 letter that he had written to his sister Didi from Cape Juby, he tells her about raising a fennec that he adored.

Antoine may have drawn inspiration for the Little Prince's appearance from himself as a youth. Friends and family would call him "le Roi-Soleil" ("Sun King"), due to his golden curly hair.

The Little Prince's reassurance to the Pilot that his dying body is only an empty shell resembles the words of Antoine's younger brother François's last words: "Don't worry. I'm all right. I can't help it. It's my body" (Airman's Odyssey).

In 2003, a small asteroid moon, Petit-Prince (discovered in 1998), was named after the Little Prince.

There is an asteroid called 46610 Bésixdouze, which is French for "B-six-twelve". B612 was the name given the asteroid which the Little Prince lived on. In addition, the asteroid's number, 46610, is written B612 in hexadecimal notation.

In addition, asteroid 2578 Saint-Exupéry was named after the author of The Little Prince.

With a need for holding six digits of information in five digit fields for the number of real asteroids, it is now possible to have an actual asteroid designated similarly to B612: B0612. The asteroid (110612) 2001 TA142 is listed as (B0612) 2001 TA142 in the compacted lists that use A=10, B=11, etc. to extend the existing five-digit fields in many asteroid software databases.


Excerpt from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Prince"

Little Prince