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 tamed.” Hearing this, the prince realizes for the first time that he is responsible for his rose.