I think I lived under a Baobab tree to keep pushing aside ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, reasoning over its melancholic undertone. Though ironically it is a Children’s book.
‘The Little Prince’ reads like a parable. There is fantasy and realism that declutters many of our modern-day self-delusions.
‘The Little Prince’ begins with an adult narrator, a pilot marooned in the deserts after his plane crashed. He has a limited supply of water, no food, and his plane needs repair. There, in the middle of nowhere, he meets the little Prince.
The Little Prince is from a very tiny planet with three volcanoes and a rose plant. For an unaccepting adult mind, he is from an asteroid designated B 612 from Earth. Little Prince takes good care of his planet, he cleans the volcanoes and weeds unwanted plants, especially the Baobabs that would take over his entire planet if not taken care of.
Some time back, mysteriously a rose plant sprung up in his planet. Little Prince was besotted by her charm and beauty, but the rose was pretentious. So, he left his planet to explore other worlds. He cared for the rose so left her under a glass bowl for protection, though she responded that her four thorns were enough to keep her safe.
During his journey, the Little Prince meets six people – a king, a narcissist, a drunkard, a businessman, a lamplighter, and a geographer. The Little Prince is curious and asks these six people questions regarding their peculiar behaviour. But these men are far too self absorbed to provide any satisfactory answers.
Each of these men are lonely and at some level pretentious, consumed by their occupations and idiosyncrasies. On Geographer’s suggestion, the Little Prince visits Earth.
“Once upon a time there was a little prince who lived on a planet that was scarcely any bigger than himself, and who had need of a sheep…”
Here on Earth, as he wanders the desert, he befriends a fox and a snake. On meeting the narrator, the Little Prince demands a drawing of a sheep. He thinks a sheep would keep the baobabs in check and he could protect his rose.
This takes the narrator back to his first attempt at drawing. As a child, he had drawn a boa constrictor digesting an elephant which was interpreted as a floppy hat by adults. For an adult mind, a child’s imagination and creativity are bizarre. An adults’ imagination is self-restrictive and in turn, restricts the child’s imagination and free will.
With the little Prince around, the narrator realizes how he has turned into much like the grown-ups whom he detested as a child.
You would truly love and appreciate the book from a parent’s perspective. Your childhood on one hand to weigh against your child’s, up close and personal. You realize the importance of inquisitiveness and curiosity. Reading this book takes you to the moments when you had given up on questions asked by your child and simply ended it by saying, well, you see I am the adult here and I know it all.
Somewhere I read about the religious connotation that the Little Prince is presumably Jesus Christ. The text, however, has no direct reference to any religion or religious teaching. We simply know the little Prince is not from our world, he isn’t scared of snakes or foxes, he can communicate with them and feels no thirst or hunger.
Of course, for a plot that took birth in the unfortunate experience of the author crashing into the Sahara Desert during World War II ought to have magical realism in it. Antoine wandered for days, perhaps even hallucinating with desperation. Sadly, a year after the publication of ‘Little Prince’, Antoine took another plane which vanished.
“One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye”
Reading this book is like a therapeutic session on Life. You realize the futility in mindless pursuits of routines, numbers, and productivity. A step back and you can truly value the importance of that one rose in your garden, that is special to you.