The Little Prince Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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 counting the stars as his own treasure; and a geographer who does not know the geography of his place and never leaves his office. The smallest planet he has visited, which turns very rapidly (with 1,440 sunsets per day), has no homes or people, yet the planet’s lamplighter has no moment of rest as he constantly lights and puts out the only lamp, following old orders that make no sense. The little prince, who sees grown-ups as odd, respects the lamplighter for his dedicated, selfless work.

In the Sahara, the prince meets the fox, who reveals to him the major secrets of life. These secrets cannot be seen by the eyes, unless the heart is involved. When the prince wants to play, the fox explains that “connecting” takes time and patience; through such connecting, one rose among thousands becomes special. The fox explains also that one is forever responsible where love is involved, that words cause misunderstandings; that rites and rituals are significant but often forgotten, and that crucial matters are often ignored and not appreciated. These lessons help the little prince understand his own mistakes, and he decides to return home to protect his rose.

The boy meets the snake, who talks in riddles, and he understands the creature’s power to send him back where he came from quickly. The little prince and the pilot are now both dying from thirst. In search of water, they walk through the starry night. On the verge of collapse, the pilot carries his little friend, not knowing whether they are even headed in the right direction. At dawn, when it is almost too late to save their lives, they find a deep, old well. The stars shimmer on the surface of the water. They drink, and the water tastes unusually sweet to them. Both the man and the boy sense the value of that moment. The pilot is sad; the prince feels fear mixed with joy, because of his decision to go home. The water feels like an earned gift. The prince comments that the beauty of the desert is in the knowledge that it hides such a well.

The prince tells his friend that he will be leaving the next day. Neither mentions the snake. When the little prince laughs to cheer his friend up, the laughter sounds like the jingle of a million little bells. He offers the pilot a farewell gift: From now on, when the pilot looks up on starry nights, he and only he will hear the little prince’s laughter. It will be comforting for both of them to know that they have each other.

The next day, on the one-year anniversary of the little prince’s arrival on Earth, the pilot comes to the same spot where he met the boy. There he glimpses the yellow flash of the snake as it bites the ankle of his little friend, and the boy falls quietly and gently onto the sand. Later, the little prince’s body is nowhere to be found. The pilot finally fixes his engine and leaves for home, hoping that his friend is safely back at his home, too. In the years afterward, on starry nights the pilot hears the little prince’s laugh and feels warm in his heart: Love is a powerful, invisible thread connecting people no matter how far apart in space and time they may be.

The Little Prince Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical 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 planet, where he spent his days weeding his home of baobab trees, tending to his volcanoes, and most of all, taking care of his rose. This mysterious rose was a delicate but vain creature. She was demanding and pretentious, and despite the Prince’s love for her, he grew disappointed with her capriciousness. When he caught her in a lie one day, he became disenchanted with her and left his planet to go exploring.

The simple clarity of the child’s point of view, exemplified in the Little Prince, is often contrasted with the narrow-mindedness of the adults. On his journeys, the Prince visits six other asteroid-planets, all inhabited by foolish adults. His encounters include that of a king who believes he controls the movement of the stars, a conceited man who craves attention but lives alone in his vanity, and a geographer who draws maps but does not leave his desk to explore the places he must see in order to draw. Such contradictions leave the Prince bewildered and disappointed.

Upon the geographer’s suggestion, the Prince travels to Earth, where he arrives at the desert and meets a snake who forebodingly offers to send the Prince back home with his deadly poison. The Prince declines and continues on his way. He arrives at a rose garden and is shocked to learn that there are millions of other flowers exactly like his rose, whom he thought was unique. Reaching the lowest point of his disenchantment with the world, the Prince lies down in the grass and cries.

It is then that he meets the fox, the sage of the story. The fox was probably inspired by Saint-Exupéry’s encounter with a fennec, a desert sand fox, after his crash in the Libyan desert. In the story, the fox persuades the Prince to tame him, and in so doing, teaches him the value of friendship. It is through friendship that two beings become unique to one another, and through friendship that life gains meaning. The Prince comes to realize that it is the time spent with his rose that has made her unique to him, different from all the other roses in the garden who do not belong to anyone.

Having gained this wisdom, the Prince plans to allow the desert snake to bite him so that he can return to his planet and be reunited with his rose. He shares a final moment with the pilot at a well, where the two find physical and spiritual restoration. They reflect on how the important things in life must be perceived not with the eyes but with the heart. The two part, and when the pilot comes searching for the Little Prince the next day, he has disappeared. The pilot finally finishes repairing his plane. The story ends with the narrator’s request for his readers to look at the skies and to remember the Little Prince.

The Little Prince Extended Summary

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.

Summary

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...

(The entire section is 5066 words.)

The Little Prince Chapter Summaries

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...

(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....

(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,...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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,...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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,...

(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,...

(The entire section is 622 words.)

Lori Steinbach, Ed. Scott Locklear