Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
A golden-haired boy—a little prince—unexpectedly appears in the vast Sahara, where a pilot has landed his plane because of engine problems. The pilot is anxiously trying to fix the engine, for he has no food or water to survive for long. The boy politely asks the pilot to draw him a picture of a sheep. The pilot instead draws a picture from his own childhood: a boa constrictor with an elephant in its stomach. The boy, exasperated, concludes that adults cannot understand anything without numerous explanations. Only after the pilot draws a box with air holes in it is the boy happy. Both the pilot and the little prince understand that a sheep is inside the box.
Gradually, the man and the boy “tame” each other. The home from which the little prince has come is an asteroid, hardly larger than a house; it holds one rose, one baobab tree, and three volcanoes. The boy hopes to widen his knowledge by visiting much larger places, such as the planet Earth, and meeting the people, animals, and plants that live in those places. He is inwardly preoccupied, however, with the safety of his dearly loved rose.
The little prince tells the pilot about his visits to other tiny asteroids, where he met one single inhabitant on each: a king claiming to rule the universe, although he has no subjects; a conceited man who sees everyone as his admirer; a drunkard living in a stupor, drinking to forget his shame of being an alcoholic; a businessman greedily...
(The entire section is 825 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Loved for its childlike simplicity and profound wisdom, The Little Prince is undoubtedly Saint-Exupéry’s most famous work. It has been translated into more than 170 languages and adapted into two operas, a musical film, and an animated television series. Saint-Exupéry wrote the book while he was living in New York City, shortly before he disappeared in flight. Though commonly referred to as a children’s story, the book has also been appreciated by adult audiences for its underlying philosophical nature. The story contains reflections on the themes of friendship, love, imagination, and the significance of an individual in the world. It is often published with the author’s illustrations, a whimsical series of watercolors.
The book begins with the narrator’s reflection on his own childhood and the unimaginative rationality of adults. The story quickly jumps ahead to the narrator’s adult life, to a time when he was stranded in the Sahara Desert after a plane crash. He is awoken one day by a young boy, the Little Prince, who asks him to draw a sheep. The exchange reveals the Prince’s childlike imagination, reminding the narrator of the innocent worldview of his own childhood.
The two characters are drawn together by their common exile—the pilot, who is stranded in the desert, and the Little Prince, who is far from his home on the asteroid B612. Gradually, the narrator learns the Prince’s story. The Prince lived on a small...
(The entire section is 731 words.)
Antoine de Saint Exupéry was born in France but wrote and illustrated The Little Prince during a self-imposed exile in America. This children’s book was published in 1943; a year later, the author was presumably shot down while flying a reconnaissance mission over the Mediterranean for his French air squadron.
When he was six, the narrator read a book about jungles and was fascinated with the fact that a boa constructor swallows its prey whole and then sleeps for six months while the meal digests. He drew a picture of the boa in this state; it looked kind of like a lumpy hat. When he showed it to adults, they all thought it was a lumpy hat and told him to study the important subjects in school, like geography. So he became a pilot and flew all over the world (a job in which his geography studies were helpful). Later, as an adult, he used the drawing to decide what kind of adults people were. If they looked at the picture and saw a lumpy hat, he talked about golf and bridge and politics; he never mentioned jungles or boa constrictors or stars. He lived without anyone to really talk to for a long time—until six years ago, when he was forced to make a crash landing in the Sahara Desert. He was a thousand miles from nowhere with a broken plane and eight days worth of water. That night, he hears a voice asking him to draw a sheep.
Startled, he wakes up to see a little boy, dressed handsomely and not looking in the least lost or abandoned a thousand miles from nowhere. The boy asks him again to draw him a sheep. The pilot starts to draw but then remembers he does not know how to draw very well because he was told to concentrate on other things while in school. The boy says that does not matter, and the pilot draws the only thing he knows how to draw—an elephant inside a boa constrictor, which looks kind of like a lumpy hat. When the boy sees the drawing, he says he does not want a drawing of a boa constrictor with an elephant inside; he wants a SHEEP. This young boy sees what the pilot sees—he understands. The pilot makes several drawings of a sheep, but each of them is somehow wrong: one is too old, one is a ram, one is sick. The boy wants a small sheep because where he lives everything is small. The pilot finally draws a small crate and tells the boy the small sheep is inside the crate, and the boy says it is perfect. He can even see the small sheep inside the crate....
(The entire section is 5066 words.)
Chapters 1-2 Summary
As The Little Prince begins, the narrator explains that, when he was six years old, he saw a picture of a boa constrictor swallowing an animal. Afterward, he used a colored pencil to draw a long, brown creature with a huge, two-humped lump in the middle. It was obvious to him that this was “a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant” but grown-ups thought it was a hat.
The narrator felt annoyed and redrew his picture. This time he made an outline of the boa constrictor with the elephant clearly visible in the middle, “so the grown-ups could understand.” The grown-ups were no more impressed with the second picture than with the first. They told the narrator to give up drawing and focus on schoolwork instead. He followed their advice because, as he says, “it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again.”
Now the narrator is all grown up, and he is a pilot who flies airplanes. Most of the time, he still finds grown-ups disappointing. Every now and then, he meets one who seems to understand the world. When this happens, he sometimes shows them Drawing Number One as a test. Then, no matter how great the grown-up is, he always says, “That’s a hat.” When the narrator hears this, he knows that he needs to avoid talking about “boa constrictors or jungles or stars.” Instead, he talks about “bridge and golf and politics and neckties,” and he and the other grown-ups get along just fine.
Because nobody he knows understands wonderful things like jungles and boa constrictors, the pilot feels alone in the world. One day he crash-lands his plane in the Sahara Desert. His engine is badly damaged, and he has to fix it by himself because nobody is around to help. This is scary because he is not a mechanic and because he only has enough water to last eight days.
On his first night, the pilot is very surprised when he hears a voice say, “Please...draw me a sheep.” The owner of this voice is a pretty little boy wearing a long coat and carrying a sword. Although he is in the middle of nowhere, he does not seem lost or afraid, nor does he look hungry or thirsty.
The pilot asks the boy where he came from, but the boy does not answer. He just demands a drawing of a sheep. The situation is so strange that the narrator cannot refuse. He gets out some paper, but then he remembers that he does not know how to draw because he...
(The entire section is 588 words.)
Chapters 3-4 Summary
The little prince never answers the pilot’s questions, although he asks many of his own. He reveals information about himself only in little hints. When he learns that the broken plane fell out of the sky, he laughs and says that he did too. He asks seriously, “What planet do you come from?” This is how the pilot learns that the little prince comes from another planet.
Another time, the pilot offers to draw the little prince a rope and a stake to secure the sheep so he will not get lost. This makes the little prince laugh again. Where he comes from, everything is so small that no sheep will be able to get very far. This is how the pilot learns that the prince’s planet is an asteroid about the size of a house.
Years later, after the little prince is gone, the pilot comes to believe that this asteroid is called B-612. This is a terrible name for a planet but, as the pilot points out, “Grown-ups like numbers.” If a child tells grown-ups about a new friend, they never ask about the important things, like the games he likes or the collections he makes. Instead, they ask his age, and how many brothers and sisters he has, and how much money his father makes. When grown-ups know numbers, they think they know something.
Because of the grown-ups’ obsession with numbers, it would be impossible to make them believe in the little prince just by telling them how he came from a faraway asteroid and wanted a sheep. Grown-ups only believe something if they have a number for it; if they hear that the little prince comes from asteroid B-612, only then will they believe he exists and leave the matter alone. The narrator admits this is silly but says:
That’s the way they are. You must not hold it against them. Children should be very understanding of grown-ups.
The pilot goes on to explain that anyone who understands life knows that numbers do not matter in the least. If such a person hears that the little prince comes from a tiny planet that is not much bigger than he is himself, where he feels lonely and wants a friend, then such information will seem true enough by itself.
It is important to the pilot to tell this story because, in meeting the little prince, he made a friend. Hardly anybody ever has a true friend. The pilot needs to make sure that he does not forget the little prince, so he is writing the story down and trying to draw it too. He...
(The entire section is 484 words.)
Chapters 5-6 Summary
During his time with the little prince, the pilot learns a few new details every day. On their third day together, the little prince asks if sheep eat bushes as well as grass. When the pilot replies that they do, the prince asks if they eat baobabs as well. The pilot laughs at this, saying that baobab trees are “as tall as churches” and that a herd of elephants could not eat even one of them. The little prince laughs, too. He comments that elephants would not fit on his planet unless they were piled on top of each other.
Soon the little prince returns then to the topic of the baobabs and says that these trees do not start out big. Like any plant, they start out tiny. Many plants grow on the little prince’s planet, including baobabs. When the baobabs sprout, the little prince has to remove them. Otherwise they will grow so big that the whole planet will be infested. “It’s a question of discipline,” he explains. Every morning on his planet, he pulls out all the little baobabs right after he washes himself and gets dressed. Once on his journey he met a man who did not do this, and that man’s planet was entirely covered by three enormous baobab trees. At the little prince’s request, the pilot draws an elaborate picture of this baobab-infested planet so that Earth’s children will understand the danger of letting baobabs get too big. The pilot includes this picture in the book just in case any of his readers ever end up on an asteroid and need to know about the danger of baobabs.
The pilot soon learns that the little prince was sad and lonely before he left his little planet. Like most of the information the little prince reveals about himself, this comes out indirectly. One day he mentions offhand that he would like to go look at a sunset. When the pilot says that this is impossible until the sun sets, the little prince is surprised. After thinking the matter over, the pilot realizes that, on any planet, the sun is always setting somewhere. On a house-sized planet, you can see a sunset any time you want just by moving your chair to the right spot.
The little prince mentions offhand that he once watched the sun set forty-four times in a day. Later he says that sunsets provide great comfort when you feel sad. Hearing this, the pilot asks how the little prince felt on the day he watched forty-four sunsets. The little prince makes no reply, but it is clear that he was very unhappy.
(The entire section is 445 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
One day, with his voice full of concern, the little prince asks if sheep eat flowers. The pilot says they do. The prince asks if sheep eat thorny flowers, and the pilot says they eat those too. This bothers the little prince, who demands to know why flowers have thorns.
This is the pilot’s fifth day in the Sahara. He only has a few days’ water left and his engine is not fixed. He is working on it every day, but he does not know if he can fix it before his water runs out. He is worried, and his temper is short. As he struggles to unscrew a bolt that will not come off, he says that the flowers just have thorns because they want to be mean. This horrifies the little prince, who shouts:
I don’t believe you. Flowers are weak. They’re naïve....They believe their thorns make them frightening.
The pilot only half listens to this, focusing instead on the problem with his bolt. The little prince begins another question but the pilot shouts at him that he is “busy here with something serious!”
The little prince accuses the pilot of being “like the grown-ups,” laboring over an ugly problem and ignoring everything that really matters. According to the little prince, the pilot is just like a man he once met on a faraway planet. This man constantly refused to look at the stars and flowers. Instead he sat at a desk, writing numbers and muttering about being “a serious man.” He was, according to the little prince, nothing but a “mushroom!”
The little prince insists that thorny flowers and hungry sheep are a serious matter. After all, flowers have been making thorns practically forever, and for just as long, sheep have been eating the flowers anyway. He asks how this could not be serious and insists that it is more serious than useless numbers and broken engines—if not, then why would the sheep and the flowers go on doing what they do?
As it happens, the little prince loves a particular flower, a flower that is completely unique. There is only one such flower in the whole universe, and it lives on the little prince’s planet. Looking up at the sky makes the little prince happy because he knows that his flower is up there. But now he has a sheep, and that sheep could easily kill the flower in a single gulp. That, to him, is as important as it gets.
When he finishes this outburst, the little prince bursts into tears. The...
(The entire section is 491 words.)
Chapters 8-9 Summary
Over time, the pilot learns all about the little prince and his flower. She is unlike any other flower that exists on the little prince’s planet, where most of the plants are quite simple and quick to bloom. When the special flower first grew, she did not show her petals for a long time. The little prince watched her carefully and wondered if she might be a new kind of baobab. As the days passed, she stopped growing and started to bloom, but she was far too vain to open up quickly. She spent a long time choosing her colors and unfolding her petals. When she finally showed herself, she was complex and gorgeous. The little prince could hardly believe she existed.
The little flower was quite demanding, and for a long time the little prince did everything she wanted. She showed him her thorns and said they could ward off a tiger. She demanded a screen and a glass so she would be protected from wind. Rather than thank him when he did what she wanted, she criticized all his attempts to satisfy her. This made him very sad.
Now, the little prince confides, he understands that he should not have allowed his flower to make him sad. He explains:
You must never listen to flowers. You must look at them and smell them. Mine perfumed my planet, but I didn’t know how to enjoy that.
The little prince says he should have appreciated his flower more and ignored her contradictory nature. Flowers are silly and difficult, but he should have loved her in spite of all that. Instead, he decided to leave.
Before leaving, the little prince tended the two active volcanoes on his planet, raking them so that they would not erupt too abruptly and burn everything up. Naturally, Earth’s volcanoes are too big to rake, so they cause huge problems, but the little volcanoes on the little prince’s planet are quite useful; they are good for cooking breakfast. When he finished with the active volcanoes, the little prince raked the inactive one—just in case—and pulled up the last baobab sprouts.
Finally, the little prince went to his flower to say good-bye. She refused to answer at first, but then she burst out that she loved him and wanted him to stay. She apologized for being silly. This just confused the little prince, who did not understand enough about life to know that she meant what she was saying. When he did not answer, the flower grew angry again and told him to...
(The entire section is 461 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
The narrative shifts away from the scene in the Sahara and the conversations with the pilot. It flashes back to the prince’s journey through the asteroid belt after he leaves his home planet.
The little prince decides to visit several planets because it is something to do; besides, he wants to learn. On the first planet he visits, he meets a king. The king sits on a huge throne wearing a beautiful fur cape. When the little prince arrives, the king shouts, “Ah, here’s the subject!” This surprises the little prince, who wonders how the king could know what he is. The prince does not yet know that a subject is a person under a king’s command and that this particular king considers himself in command over everyone he ever meets—which is normally nobody at all.
The prince and the king have a hard time communicating. First the prince yawns, and the king orders him to stop. The prince explains that he is tired, so the king changes his mind and orders the prince to yawn. This makes the prince too nervous to yawn, so the king relents and orders the prince to yawn only when he feels like it and not otherwise.
This sort of conversation is typical for the king, who wants to rule absolutely over everything but also wants to be kind and sensible about his commands. He realizes that he cannot order anyone to do the impossible because the order would not be obeyed. Because of this, he constantly commands things to happen only when he knows they are about to happen or when they have already happened.
The little prince asks for permission to sit down and is promptly ordered to do so. After settling himself on the ground, the prince asks what the king rules, and the king explains that he rules over the entire universe. The prince feels that this would be exhausting and frightening, although he imagines that he would see many more sunsets if he were the absolute ruler of the universe.
As he thinks this, the prince realizes that he feels like watching a sunset right away. He asks the king to order one, but the king explains that he can only command a sunset to occur at 7:40, when it is time for a sunset to occur. This leaves the little prince feeling gloomy, so he says he wants to go.
The king begs the prince to stay and become minister of justice, but the prince points out that there is nobody to judge—except himself, but he can judge himself anywhere. The king offers the little...
(The entire section is 519 words.)
Chapters 11-13 Summary
A vain man lives on the next planet. Seeing the little prince, the man says, “Ah! A visit from an admirer!” In some ways, he is like the king. Just as the king feels that everyone exists to be ruled by him, the vain man feels that everyone exists to admire him.
The vain man tells the little prince to clap his hands. When the little prince obeys, the vain man tips his hat over and over, accepting the prince’s praise. The little prince finds this fun for a few minutes, but eventually it gets boring, so he stops. He suggests that the man make his hat fall off, but the man does not hear the request. Unfortunately, vain people cannot hear anything except praise.
The vain man asks if the little prince admires him, and the little prince asks what that means. The vain man explains:
To admire means to acknowledge that I am the handsomest, the best-dressed, the richest, and the most intelligent man on the planet.
This surprises the little prince. He points out that nobody else lives on the vain man’s planet. Still, at the vain man’s urging, he offers his admiration anyway. “But what is it about my admiration that interests you so much?” he asks. Soon after this, he leaves, muttering once again, “Grown-ups are certainly very strange.”
A drunk lives on the next planet. The little prince asks what he is doing, and the drunk explains that he is drinking to forget his shame. When the little prince asks what makes him feel ashamed, the drunk says that drinking makes him feel ashamed. The little prince cannot understand this, so he leaves, feeling sad and also more certain than ever that grown-ups are “very, very strange.”
On the next planet, a man sits at a desk adding up numbers. When the little prince greets the man and asks what he is adding, the man hardly has time to say hello. But the little prince never gives up a question once he has asked it, so he keeps asking until the man has to stop and acknowledge the interruption. The man grumbles that it is the third time ever that he has been forced to stop his work. He claims that he is “a serious man” who does not enjoy such interruptions.
The little prince continues to ask what the man is adding. The man explains that he is adding “little shiny things,” and eventually the little prince realizes the man is adding up the stars. The man brags that he owns the...
(The entire section is 565 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
The fifth planet is smaller than any of the others, and the man there spends all his time lighting a streetlamp and putting it back out. The little prince finds this odd, but he also thinks the man’s work is the best of all the jobs he has seen so far. After all, lighting a lamp is “like bringing one more star to life, or one more flower.” This is more interesting and more “useful” than giving orders to nobody, asking for admiration, drinking, or claiming to own stars.
The lamplighter tells the little prince that he spends all his time lighting his lamp and putting it out because he has orders. He does not or cannot say where these orders come from, just that they require him to light the lamp at dusk and put it out at dawn. He says his job used to be okay because he had time to sleep and rest, but every year his planet turns a bit faster. Now the planet turns so quickly that a day and a night only last a minute. This means the lamplighter has to spend all his time on his work. He is unhappy, but he cannot stop. “Orders are orders,” he says.
The little prince watches the lamplighter for a long time and eventually decides that he likes the man. His faithfulness to orders is a good thing, as is the fact that he spends his time focused on something other than himself. The little prince suggests that the lamplighter avoid his job for a while by walking in one direction so that he stays in the sun. That way his day will last as long as he wants, and he will not have to do his work.
The lamplighter rejects the little prince’s suggestion because what he really wants is sleep. He cannot walk and sleep at the same time, so he might as well stay in one spot and keep lighting and putting out the lamp. The little prince accepts this. In some ways, he wishes he could stay on this planet, but it is far too small for two. As he leaves, the little prince feels a twinge of sadness. He is not only leaving behind the chance to make a friend; he is also leaving a planet that is “blessed with one thousand, four hundred forty sunsets every twenty-four hours!”
(The entire section is 400 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
The next planet, the sixth, is much larger. It is home to an old man who writes in books. He introduces himself as a geographer and explains that it is his job to know the locations of mountains and cities and oceans. This excites the little prince, who thinks he has finally found someone whose occupation is really wonderful. The prince looks around and sees that the geographer’s planet is far more beautiful than any he has ever seen. He asks about its mountains and oceans, but the geographer has no idea if there are any.
The geographer explains that he is “far too important to go wandering about.” To get information about geography, he needs the help of explorers. He sits in his study and waits for explorers, who come to him and tell him about what they have seen. He must examine each explorer’s “moral character” to make sure he is a fit person to discover geographical objects. Not everyone can do this job. A drunk, for instance, cannot be trusted because he may see double, which means he may see two mountains where there is only one. The little prince comments that he has met at least one person who would make a terrible explorer. The geographer goes on to say that, if an explorer has a good moral character, then the geographer can investigate his discoveries. Naturally, the geographer does not go to see the actual discoveries, but the explorer brings evidence—such as large rocks from a mountain—and the explorer examines them to make sure they are real.
At the geographer’s urging, the little prince describes his planet; he mentions the three volcanoes and the flower. The geographer says he does not write anything about flowers because they are “ephemeral.” When the little prince asks what this means, the geographer gives him a definition: “threatened by imminent disappearance.” This surprises the little prince, who wonders for the first time if his flower might disappear someday. He feels guilty for leaving her behind, now that he knows this danger exists for her. He remembers that she only has four small thorns as defense against anything that might harm her.
In spite of his fears, the little prince does not yet consider returning home. Instead, he asks the geographer where he should go next. The geographer suggests Earth. “It has a good reputation,” he says. This is how the little prince decides to make the final visit of his long journey.
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Chapters 16-17 Summary
Following the geographer’s advice, the little prince visits Earth. Earth is completely unlike any of the other planets he has seen. It is far bigger, and it is home to far more people—about two billion. These two billion people include more than a hundred kings. There are also thousands of geographers and businessmen and millions of drunkards and vain men. A long time ago, before the invention of electricity, Earth was home to hundreds of thousands of lamplighters. It must have been a beautiful sight, in that time, to watch the lamps light up and go out again on all of the various continents.
There are many people on Earth, but there is even more space. If all of the people on the whole planet stood side by side, shoulder to shoulder, they would only fill up twenty square miles. Grown-ups might refuse to believe this, but it is true. If a child suggested it, certain grown-ups might actually enjoy sitting down and figuring it out mathematically. For children, who understand what is important, there is no need to do the math. It is best just to accept the truth of the matter: human beings are not as important as they believe themselves to be.
When the little prince arrives on Earth, he is surprised that he does not see any people. He looks down at the ground and sees a snake. The snake confirms that this planet is indeed Earth, and he explains that the little prince has landed on the continent of Africa. The prince asks why he does not see any people, and the snake explains that people do not live in the desert. The little prince sits down to look at the stars and think. The snake asks why he is visiting Earth. He replies that he is “having problems with a flower.”
After a while, the little prince comments that he is lonely. Rather than offer comfort, the snake says, “It is lonely with people.” The prince tells the snake that it looks funny—too small and skinny and footless. The snake says that he can send the prince home. “Anyone I touch, I send back to the land from which he came.” The little prince says he understands but is not ready to go yet. He asks why the snake speaks in riddles, and the snake says, “I solve them all.” After that, the prince just sits in silence.
(The entire section is 407 words.)
Chapters 18-20 Summary
The prince leaves the snake behind and crosses the desert alone. Along the way he finds a little flower with three petals. She is clearly an unimportant and ignorant flower, but she does not know it. He greets her politely, and she greets him back. He asks where all the people are, and she says that very few people, only about six or seven, exist in all the world. She saw them years ago, but she does not know where to find them. They have no roots, so the wind blows them around. This, she says, makes their lives difficult. The little prince says good-bye and moves on.
The prince comes to a mountain. It amazes him because it is so much taller than the little volcanoes on his planet. He climbs it, thinking he will see the whole world and all its people from the top. Unfortunately, he sees nothing except more desert. He shouts “hello” into the distance. When he hears the same “hello” bounce back as an echo, he thinks he has finally found people. “Who are you?” he calls out, and all he hears back is “Who are you?... Who are you?” He explains that he is lonely, and the echo replies the same. The prince gets frustrated and stops shouting. He decides Earth is yet another strange planet, “all dry and sharp and hard.” Worst of all, its people lack imagination:
They repeat whatever you say to them. Where I live I had a flower. She always spoke first.
The little prince climbs back down the mountain and finds a road. He follows it, hoping it will lead him to people. Instead he finds a garden full of roses. There are thousands of them, and they all look like his special flower. But she said she was “the only one of her kind in the whole universe.” He thinks that she would hate to know the truth, that there are thousands and maybe millions like her. If she did know, she would pretend to get sick to hide her embarrassment. He would have to take very good care of her or she would die just to make him unhappy.
The prince thinks about his home and how rich he used to feel with his three knee-high volcanoes and his one common rose. Now he knows that the universe holds enormous mountains and multitudes of roses. “It doesn’t make me much of a prince,” he thinks. He lies down on the ground and cries.
(The entire section is 419 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
As the little prince weeps, a fox appears. The fox says that the prince does not need human friends. To him, people are uninteresting except for their habit of keeping chickens. In any case, people do not want friends because they are already busy shopping in stores. The fox has no interest in people most of the time, but he would like to know how it would feel to be tamed. He explains:
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. I’ll be the only fox in the world for you.
The little prince thinks this over and says he was tamed once—by a flower. This story intrigues the fox, especially when he learns that the little prince comes from a faraway planet where there are no hunters. However, when he learns that the planet has no chickens, he turns his attention back to the matter of being tamed.
The fox explains that he is bored with an ordinary fox’s life. He wants to be tamed so he will see the world differently. He will, for instance, begin to care about wheat because it is the same color as the little prince’s hair. The little prince thinks this sounds nice, so he agrees to give it a try. On the fox’s instructions, he returns to the field at the same time every day and sits quietly. At first he must sit far away from the fox, but every day he moves a bit closer. Eventually he finishes taming the fox, and they become friends.
Eventually, the prince has to leave. The fox cries, and the little prince worries that it hurts to be tamed. The fox explains that he is hurting but that he is also changed for the better. When the prince fails to understand, the fox sends him to look again at the roses. The prince goes, and then he understands that these garden roses are nothing like his own rose. They are ordinary because nobody cares about them as individuals. His own rose may not be the only one in the universe, but she is the only truly important one.
Before leaving, the little prince says good-bye to the fox. The fox gives him a secret: “One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes.” He says that the prince’s rose is important because of the time he spent caring for her. Most people do not understand this. They also do not understand the consequences: “You become responsible forever for what you’ve...
(The entire section is 470 words.)
Chapters 22-23 Summary
The little prince travels on, leaving his fox behind and looking for friends. He meets a railway switchman who explains that it is his job to send out trains full of travelers “in bundles of a thousand.” The travelers zoom along, “sometimes to the right, sometimes to the left.” Very soon, a train passes, and the little prince watches in amazement as it rushes by, shaking the cabin where the switchman sits. The little prince comments that travelers are very hurried. The switchman agrees and says that nobody, “not even the engineer of the locomotive,” knows why.
When another train comes by in the opposite direction, the little prince is confused because he thinks the first set of travelers is already back. The switchman explains that this is a different train full of different people. The little prince asks whether the people were dissatisfied with the place where they were before. “No one is ever satisfied where he is,” the switchman says.
Another train rumbles past, and the little prince guesses that they are trying to chase down the first train he saw. The switchman explains that travelers do not care about chasing anything. Most of them are unaware of the other trains. They do not even notice the scenery. They spend their time sleeping or being bored. Only the children care enough to look out the windows. “Only the children know what they’re looking for,” he says.
This, finally, is a statement the little prince understands. He says that children love their rag dolls. They spend time caring for the dolls, and this makes the dolls important. If anyone takes the dolls away, this makes the children cry. The switchman seems to understand exactly what the little prince means. He does not seem to think that it is sad that the children cry. “They’re lucky,” he says.
Next the little prince meets a salesman who sells pills. The salesman explains that the pills stop people from feeling thirsty, thus saving them time. If people just swallow one pill per week, they have no need to drink. The time saved by taking this pill gives people fifty-three extra minutes for doing anything else they want instead of drinking. When the little prince asks what else people would want to do, the salesman does not seem to care. This gets the little prince thinking about how he would spend the extra fifty-three minutes: “I’d walk very slowly toward a water fountain.”
(The entire section is 413 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
Back at the site of the plane crash, the pilot finishes listening to the little prince’s story about the salesman. By now eight days have passed since he crashed his plane, and he is out of water. After he drinks the last of it, he says that the little prince’s memories are nice but not nice enough to fix a broken plane. Now he does not want to hear any more about people or foxes. He has no water left, and he is going to die.
The little prince insists that friends are important “even if you’re going to die.” The pilot decides that the prince simply does not understand how dire the situation is. Moments later, the prince suggests that they find a well. The pilot thinks this is a ridiculous idea. What chance could anyone have of finding a well just by looking in the empty Sahara? Still, there is nothing to do but try, so the pilot and the prince begin to walk.
After several hours, night falls, and the pilot looks up at the stars. He thinks they look especially bright and beautiful, probably because he is sick with thirst. The two friends sit in the sand and look up at the sky together. “The stars are beautiful because of a flower you don’t see,” the little prince says.
The desert, too, is very beautiful. It is silent and barren, but the pilot thinks it has a special quality like music. The little prince says the desert’s beauty comes from the fact that, within it, there is a well somewhere.
The pilot realizes this is true. Any place is beautiful if it hides a mysterious treasure. He thinks back on a house he lived in as a little child. Once he heard someone claim that a treasure was buried inside it. Nobody ever found any sign of that treasure, but the story “cast a spell” on the place. It seemed to have a valuable secret deep within. He says to the little prince, “Whether it’s a house or the stars or the desert, what makes them beautiful is invisible.” This makes the little prince happy because the fox said much the same thing.
The little prince goes to sleep in the sand, and the pilot picks him up and carries him through the desert. While walking, the pilot thinks the boy is beautiful. What makes him beautiful is an invisible quality—his love for a flower that lives on a faraway planet. The pilot walks until dawn. When the sun rises, he finds the well.
(The entire section is 435 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
The pilot stares at the well, amazed. It is complete with a pulley and a bucket, the kind of set-up that could provide water for a whole village. He looks around but sees no village. He wonders if it is a dream.
The little prince laughs at the pilot’s amazement and begins to draw up water. The rope creaks, and he says it is singing. The pilot, who is beginning to love the prince and worry about him, takes over the hard work of pulling the heavy bucket. When it reaches the top, he pauses and stares at the beauty of the sun’s reflection on the water.
The little prince asks for some of the water to drink. The pilot understands that the prince does not really need the water itself. He needs the magical, invisible quality that is contained within the water. He takes a long drink, and then he says that the people of Earth can grow thousands of roses and never know what they really want:
And yet what they’re looking for could be found in a single rose, or a little water....But eyes are blind. You have to look with your heart.
Next, the pilot drinks the water. It refreshes him and leaves him feeling better. He sits looking at the beauty of the desert, but he also feels sad without understanding why.
The prince mumbles that the pilot has to keep his promise and draw a muzzle for the sheep. Obediently, the pilot takes out his drawings. The little prince looks at them and laughs at their poor quality. This hurts the pilot’s feelings a little, and he explains that he never had any practice except for his two childhood drawings of boa constrictors. The little prince says it does not matter: “Children understand.”
After the pilot draws the muzzle, the prince comments that tomorrow will be the one-year anniversary of his arrival on earth. He adds that his landing point was very close by. Now the pilot realizes for the first time why he and the prince met. The little prince is on his way to his landing point; he wants to go home. The little prince tries to prevent the pilot from feeling sad, but the pilot cannot help loving the prince. He goes back to work on his plane, thinking that, like the fox, he now knows what it means to be tamed. Like the fox, he knows that the experience of friendship is worth it—even though it can bring sadness and loss.
(The entire section is 427 words.)
Chapters 26-27 Summary
The next day, the pilot sees the little prince talking to a poisonous yellow snake. The prince orders the snake to meet him later at the exact spot where they met a year ago. He asks, “Your poison is good? You’re sure it won’t make me suffer long?”
All this terrifies the pilot, who wants to kill the snake but cannot. It slithers away and disappears before the pilot can take a single shot with his revolver. The pilot tries to comfort the prince with water, but it does not seem to work. The prince looks frightened and says that his journey is extremely long and dangerous.
The pilot begs the little prince to laugh and promise to stay. But the little prince reminds him that the most important things, like the star and the flower, are invisible. Soon he will be invisible too. He explains that he is returning to his star, so from now on, the pilot will look at the stars and think of his friend. For different people, the stars have different meanings: they are guides for travelers, or problems for scholars to figure out, or gold for a businessman to collect. For the pilot, the stars will be more important than for anyone else:
When you look up at the sky at night, since I’ll be living on one of them, since I’ll be laughing on one of them, for you it’ll be as if all the stars are laughing. You’ll have stars that can laugh!
The little prince begs the pilot not to come along for the meeting with the snake. He explains that his body is too heavy to travel to the stars, so he must leave it behind. He will appear to die, but he will not really die. Instead he will go home. The pilot refuses to stay behind, and the little prince cries because he knows how sad it will be for his friend to see him leave.
At the spot where the prince first landed, he reminds the pilot that he must return to his flower. “I am responsible for her. And she’s so weak! And so naïve.” He approaches the snake, who lashes out with one quick bite. His body falls silently to the ground.
As The Little Prince ends, the pilot explains that six years have passed since the prince left. When he finally made it home, his friends told him that he seemed sad, and he was too upset even to explain why. Now his grief is beginning to heal. He knows that the little prince got back to his planet. At night, the stars laugh “like five hundred million little bells.”...
(The entire section is 622 words.)