The Little Prince is the tale of a pilot who crashes in the desert and is trying to survive without provisions (and without company) until he can fix his plane. He meets a little boy who mysteriously appears out of nowhere, and an unlikely friendship is formed. He discovers the Little Prince is from a distant planet and that he, too, is trying to get home so he can be with a special rose that he nurtured and loved. Along the way, the pilot learns a lot of important life lessons from his young friend, simply by speaking with him and learning how to think as a child again.
This book has been on my “to-read” list for quite some time, but I’ve always managed to successfully put it off. I had the feeling that I was either going to fall head-over-heels for it, or I’d feel bored and apathetic. However, my initial impression of the book turned out to be a mixture of both.
I’ve always felt that this was a children’s classic that everyone just naturally falls in love with, so the fact that I didn’t really enjoy it all that much made me a little concerned. I thought the story was kind of depressing, and the illustrations felt a bit flat. The narrator of the story is very clear that adults will not understand a child’s way of thinking, even though the simplicity and candor they embody are some of the truest tools we can use to view the world. So, if I wasn’t fully on board, then had I become that dreaded word……a grown-up?
After a little more reflection, I decided that although growing up is just a fact of life, not losing touch with your inner child is a greater victory than any kind of worldly success. What good would a fabulous home, a six-figure salary, and the latest iPhone do for you if you’ve forgotten how to be curious, how to keep that inner sense of wonder? Plus, I think there is a distinct difference between being a kid at heart and being childish. That difference lies in being able to tumble on the living room floor with your kids rather than allowing video games to suck the vitality out of your life. It’s being able to laugh at the silly, stupid mistakes we make instead of throwing up our hands in disgust because we’re thinking more about the mess or the embarrassment rather than the humor.
My favorite scene in the book is when the Little Prince meets a fox and they have a discussion about what it means to be “tamed,” or to “create ties”:
“‘That’s right,’ the fox said. ‘For me you’re 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 just 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. I’ll be the only the only fox in the world for you.'”The Little Prince, pg. 59
Such advice is profound for a children’s book. One of the most vital things a person can learn, whether they be a grown-up or a child, is that to love or be loved requires trust and vulnerability. One must be open enough to create a tie with another. The more ties two beings have, the deeper the connection between them. And later, the tamed fox reveals some more important wisdom to the tiny hero:
“‘Here is my secret. It’s quite simple: One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.'”The Little Prince, pg. 63
Of course, we know human hearts to be fickle, changeable things, but when the heart is pointed in the direction of what is true and good, I can think of no better life advice. As some wise friends of mine pointed out, The Little Prince seems to be less of a traditional children’s book, and more of an allegory for adults who have forgotten what it’s like to think, act, and be like a child. Although this didn’t turn out to be a new favorite book, I think it’s worth a read, even if it only serves as a reminder to search for the child within.