What does the snake represent in "The Little Prince"?

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In contrast to the evil (and, thus, more traditionally Biblical) representation of snakes, the snake in The Little Prince doesn't initially appear as a sinister creature to the Prince (although the narrator certainly isn't quick to warm to its appearance!). The snake and the Prince seem to have respect for each other, and the creature quickly demonstrates that he is wise and powerful. However, he also reveals in time that he poses a danger, for those who touch him are transported elsewhere, and he chooses to speak only in riddles.

Thus the snake is symbolic of risk; for the Prince to decide to take the snake up on his offer to return him to his home on Asteroid B-612, the Prince must assume an enormous risk. He cannot be sure that the snake is telling the truth or even that he will deliver on his offer in the way that is expected. When the snake claims that he returns those who touch him to the "earth from whence [they] came," he could be speaking literally or figuratively (implying death). 

The Prince ultimately must place faith--which is, in a way, an incredible final act of love--in the snake in order to go home. 

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The snake represents several things in "The Little Prince".  From a Biblical perspective, the snake represents the evils of the world, which are unknown to the Little Prince. The Little Prince had not been on the Earth long enough to experience the evils of man; he landed in a desert where these evils would not exist. The pilot was the only human he encountered on Earth, and the pilot displayed no evil towards the Little Prince.

The snake was also very persuasive, and upon learning of The Little Prince's desire to return to his asteroid to see his rose, and alleviate his being homesick, the snake offered him a way to return home.  The snake was the only means for The Little Prince to return to his asteroid, according to the snake. The snake was The Little Prince's "transportation" to his little asteroid and his beloved rose.

The snake also represents death.  Because of the Little Prince's desire to return to his beloved rose, he makes the decision to allow the snake to take him there.  The Little Prince did not understand the explanation of the snake's means of transportation, and as a trusting little child would do, he allowed the snake to bite him, not knowing that the snake would take his life in the process.

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In Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince, what does the snake represent or teach the little prince?  

The snake symbolizes death, in exactly the same way that the snake symbolizes death in the Garden of Eden. One of the dominant themes in The Little Prince is experiences beyond the corporeal. The little prince comes from a very tiny planet that can't really be seen from earth. The invisibility of his world represents spirituality. There are spiritual things that cannot be seen and are of greater importance than anything corporeal that can be seen, such as love, friendship, faith, peace and harmony. The prince uses the snake to return home to his planet because, as he says, "It is too far. I cannot carry this body with me. It is too heavy" (Ch. 26). Hence, the little prince's ascension back up to his planet with the use of the snake represents a spiritual ascension and a return to the things that are of greatest importance, such as love. Hence, the snake represents death, or a release from the corporeal world into the spiritual world.

The little prince first learns from the snake to look beyond the physical realm when he first meets the snake. The snake points out that even though he is "no thicker than a finger" he is "more powerful than the finger of a king," which is due to his ability to transform the corporeal world into the spiritual world through death (Ch. 17). Hence, the prince learns from the snake, which symbolizes death, that in order to return to the things that truly matter, he must have a spiritual ascension.  

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What is the role of the snake in Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince?

The moment that best enlightens us about the role of the snake is the moment that the Little Prince first meets the snake. The Little Prince has just arrived in the desert and is very surprised to see how empty it is of humanity. He ponders returning to his own planet. The snake, just like the snake in the Garden of Eden, symbolizes death and philosophizes with the prince about the nature of mankind and even the nature of life and death itself.

We know that the snake symbolizes death because it is a very poisonous snake that can kill within moments. The snake is well aware of its capabilities, as we see when it refers to itself as being "more powerful than the finger of a king." The snake also likens its ability to kill with the ability to "send back to the earth from whence [a person] came." This reference to earth can be interpreted as a reference to a person's origin, rather than a planetary reference, just as Adam was created from the dust and mankind returns to dust in death. Hence, we clearly see that the snake symbolizes death.

However, another interesting point about the snake is that it philosophizes about mankind, mankind's life, as well as death. We especially see the snake philosophizing about mankind when the prince points out that it is lonely in the desert and the snake replies, "It is lonely among men." The snake's point is that mankind is full of so many flaws that mankind creates distance and loneliness among themselves, creating a very lonely life for themselves. The snake also philosophizes about the nature of both life and death when in answer to the prince's question, "But why do you always speak in riddles?," it replies, "I solve them all." What the snake is referring to is that death is considered to be the most puzzling experience, the greatest riddle of life, and by sending people to their death, the snake is helping them "solve" the greatest riddle.

Hence, we see that the purpose of the snake is to symbolize death and also to philosophize about death and human nature.

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