The Little Prince Summary
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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Overview

The Little Prince is a novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupery in which a little prince meets a pilot stranded in the desert. The prince tells the pilot that he was born on an asteroid and he recounts many strange encounters from his travels.

  • The little prince tells the pilot about the people he met on other asteroids during his travels.

  • The two nearly die of dehydration, but, after walking all night, they finally find a well.

  • Having decided to return home, the little prince allows himself to be bitten by a snake. He promises the pilot that they will always be connected.

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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...

(The entire section is 6,622 words.)