I’ve read a lot of books in my time and the number that have stayed in my mind and consciousness forever are very few. “The Little Prince” by Antoine De Saint Exupery is one that has never left me.
For those who have never read this beautiful bit of prose, it is a must read. Antoine De Saint Exupery was born in 1900 in Lyon, France to an aristocratic family. His father died when he was only four years old, leaving the family as improvrished artistocrats. When he came of age, Antoine and his brother Francois attended the Marionist college in Switzerland where his brother fell fatally ill with rheumatic fever.
At his bedside when he died, Antoine wrote in his diary that his fifteen year old brother “was motionless for an instant, he did not cry out, He fell as gently as a young tree falls”
These words, so beautifully prophetic were echoed in the story “The Little Prince” in a heartbreaking narrative of the Little Prince’s departure.
Antoine De Saint Exupery was an aviator for many years and on December 30, 1945, his plane went down in the Sahara desert. With only one day’s worth of liquid. he and his mechanic/navigator survived for four miraculous days with severe dehydration complete with hallucinations. Their lives were saved by a bedoin who discovered them and administered a life saving rehydration treatment.
This plane crash figured prominently in the story “The Little Prince” as does the image of what I believe to be Saint Exupery’s young brother whom Saint Exupery was extremely close to until his tragic death.
This story is touching in its beauty and the innocence of both the author and his tiny protagaonist. It is filled with wit and wisdom as well as words and concepts so touching that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
As Antoine De Saint Exupery was a seasoned air traveler and since his adorable little protagonist was also well versed in getting around, we can learn and be inspired by not only life but travel as well.
His words are poetic but hidden inside this story are gems. “What makes a desert beautiful is that it hides a well somewhere.”
Let’s explore some of his quotes.
“I know a planet inhabited by a red faced gentleman. He’s never smelled a flower. He’s never looked at a star, He’s never loved anyone. He’s never done anything except add up numbers. And all day long he says over and over, just like you, ‘I’m a serious man! I’m a serious man!’ And that puffs him up with pride. But he’s not a man at all-He’s a mushroom!”
The world is filled with wonderful things; beautiful things to see, amazing food to taste and most of all one of a kind people to love. Give yourself the chance to love as much as you possibly can. Life is love, it is sensation, it is spectacle and wonder. In order to really live you have to experience! Go out and experience everything this wonderful world has to offer!
“If they travel one day (the children in France) it could be useful to them. Sometimes there’s no harm in postponing your work until later.”
Your work will be there for you. It is not going anywhere. Your time, on the other hand, is fleeting and the joys and wonders you want to see and experience may not last. Take a vacation from the salt mines and go see the things you want to see. You will never regret it.
“Its a question of discipline, when you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet.”
“On the morning of his departure, he put his planet in order, He carefully raked out his active volcanoes.”
A part of tending to your planet (or your universe) is recognizing all of it. You have to see and experience a good part of it to really know what needs to be done to tend to it. What better excuse to go out and see the world? Go tend to your planet and don’t forget to rake out your active volcanoes!
“In order to make his departure, I believe he took advantage of a flock of wild birds.”
While a flock of wild birds would be very useful for travelling from place to place in the city, your arms would get awfully tired on transatlantic flights. Take my advice, take a comfy flight and pay a little more for more legroom or a reclining chair. You not only get a comfortable flight, you recoup valuable sleeping time so that you don’t waste time resting when you get to your destination.
“For me you are only a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. For you I’m only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me we’ll need each other. You’ll be the only boy in the world for me and I’ll be the only fox in the world for you.”
In this quote, a fox has met the Little Prince and asked him to tame him. The Little Prince asked the fox why he should tame him and this was the fox’s reply.
In these words, I see reflected experiences with people I have met while travelling. I see people in my village in Italy where I go when I have to run away and I wonder how I could ever live without them now that I have met them. People are the greatest treasure this planet has to offer and when you find one that you love it is a treasure beyond price.
There is nothing to compare with the sight of a friend coming up over the horizon. Your face lights up, you feel like laughing and you are in love all over again.
Be their fox and they will be your little boy. Become tamed by them.
“On earth, one sees all kinds of things.”
This is such a true statement. In all things there is good and bad and in this day and age there is Extreme good and almost unfathomable bad. We have to accept this fact. We can, however, acknowledge the bad but truly enjoy the good. The bad of any people is only a handful although what they do can be very upsetting. Don’t judge the many good by the evil few. Simply acknowledge that there are evil in every culture but that does not change the magic of the good ones.
Still be aware and study up before you go somewhere. Travel advisories are a good thing to check before you head off to somewhere that might be questionable.
If where you want to go is under siege or dangerous for some reason, go somewhere else. There are a million places on this planet that are magical.
“They’re sleeping in there or else they are yawning. Only the children are pressing their noses against the windowpanes.”
“Only the children know what they are looking for.”
In the above quote, the Little Prince has come across a railway switchman. He has watched as the trains rushed by filled with people and he didn’t understand why the people were rushing around.
The switchman tells him that the grown ups are sleeping or yawning but the children have their noses pressed against the window, watching in wonder as the scenery flashes past. For the children, the Earth has not lost her glory and excitement. For the adults, she has become old hat.
Train travel in other countries is filled with possibilities. You pass by houses and villages, each containing someone’s entire universe. It is where they live, where they work and everyone they love. It is interesting. It is not nameless, faceless villages that pass in the night.
In each one there is drama and there are stories and backgrounds. There is so much to be interested in that you find yourself wanting to stop in every little town you pass. When you do stop, people treat you differently when you are genuinely interested in them. They treat you with dignity and respect because they know you are a person of taste and quality and that you are interested in the things in life that are most important.
“For the travelers the stars are guides. For others they are nothing but tiny lights. “
Imagine looking into the night sky and seeing a million bright guides filled with promise. Then imagine looking up and seeing only tiny lights. All of life is different to a traveler because he has had his world opened. It will never be closed again and he has become an in extricable part of it.
“And it’ll be fun! You’ll have five hundred-million little bells; I’ll have five hundred-million springs of fresh water..”
“And he too said nothing, because he too was weeping.”
In this quote, the Little Prince tells our author that because his little boy laugh sounds like little bells, when he looks up in the sky, our author will have five hundred million little bells. One for each star. And because our author makes him think of a blissful drink of fresh well water after a long thirst, he will have five hundred million springs of fresh water, one for each star he sees from where he will be on his planet.
Even with this knowledge, the Little Prince was weeping. He reminds us that goodbyes are an inevitable part of living and loving but that in them, we must find something of exquisite beauty. One cannot love without saying goodbye, at least for a little while…
“And he fell gently, the way a tree falls. There wasn’t even a sound.”
The Little Prince had made a deal with a snake who, with one bite could send anyone back to where they came from.
And our heartbroken author, waking up from hallucinations, send us this plea:
“Then if a child comes to you, if he laughs, if he has golden hair, if he doesn’t answer your questions, you’ll know who he is. If this should happen, be kind! Don’t let me go on being so sad; Send word immediately that he has come back.”
It is up to us to find this Little Prince. If you look closely in the eyes of those you meet, you might see him peeking out, Go out and meet him. There is nothing more important than love.
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