In what way could the Little Prince be seen as the childhood form of the pilot himself?

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The Prince and the pilot share a particular bond, which is the knowledge that what is essential is invisible. This comes out early in the story, with the pilot's tale about his drawings number 1 and number two, and the Prince's immediate (and correct) interpretation of drawing number one as a snake swallowing an elephant. The pilot talks a lot about "grown ups" and how they are concerned with things that don't matter. In a sense, the Prince is a kind of test for the pilot, to see if he, too, has simply become another grown up. If the Prince is an earlier version of the Pilot, then his appearance in the desert is meant to remind the Pilot that the truth of life lies not in outward circumstances — being stranded in the desert — but in the beauty hidden inside all things.

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The Little Prince could be seen as the childhood form of the pilot who crashes in the desert because both share the same childlike understanding of life. When the pilot, for example, shows the Little Prince his drawing of the boa constrictor who has swallowed the elephant, the Prince immediately can perceive what it is. In contrast, when the pilot goes to parties among adults and shows them the same picture of the boa constrictor, they all identify it as a hat. They lack a child's imaginative ability to see beneath the surface reality of things and find the deeper, richer meanings in life.

Like the pilot, the Little Prince has a child's vision and imagination. The pilot realizes that they are kindred spirits, in sympathy with one another.

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