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 is pretty sure he is getting some of the details wrong, but he is determined to do the best he can even though he is growing old and thus “cannot see a sheep through the sides of a crate” as the little prince can.