The Little Prince has captured the hearts of readers around the world since he first appeared in 1943. Written by pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry while in America, the tale was inspired by his experiences in the French Air Force. On the surface it’s a simple story, but this little prince is as wise as they come and his messages of compassion and goodwill continue to endure. Here are seven life lessons we can learn from this enchanting tale, as told through quotes.
1. Don’t be too fond of numbers
‘Grown-ups are very fond of numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask you the kind of questions that should be asked, such as: “What kind of voice does he have?” “What are his favourite games?” “Does he collect butterflies?” Instead they ask: “How old is he? How much money does his father earn?” They really do imagine this is the best way to discover what sort of person he is!’
2. Look after the planet
‘“It’s a just a question of self-discipline,” the little prince explained later. “First thing in the morning you look after yourself, you brush your teeth and wash your face, don’t you? Well, the second thing you must do is to look after the planet.”’
3. Don’t judge others by their words, but by what they do
‘“[My rose] filled me with her fragrance, she had brought joy to my life. I should never leave her. I should have recognised what a sensitive sweet soul there was under all her rather silly games.’”
4. Relationships make life worth living
‘“What exactly does ‘tamed’ mean?”
“Well, it’s something too often forgotten,” said the fox. “I suppose it means: to make some kind of relationship.”
“Yes,” said the fox. “I’ll explain. To me, you are just a just a little boy like any other, like a hundred thousand other little boys. I have no need of you and you have no need of me. To you I am a fox like any other, like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, you and I, we will have created a relationship, and so we will need one another. You will be unique in the world for me… If you were to tame me, my whole life would be so much more fun. I would come to know the sound of your footstep, and it would be different from all the others. At the sound of any other footstep I would be down in my hole in the earth as quick as you like. But your footstep would be like music to my ears, and I would come running up out of my hole, quick as you like.”
5. The important things in life you cannot see with your eyes, only with your heart
‘Once the little prince fell asleep, I picked him up in my arms and set off on my way again. I was so moved as I walked. It seemed to me that I was carrying in my arms the most delicate of treasures, that there could be nothing more fragile on the whole Earth. In the light of the moon I looked down at this pale forehead, those closed eyes, those locks of his that trembled in the wind: “What I am seeing,” I thought, “is no more than the shell. What is truly important I cannot see.”
6. It is the time you give to something that makes it precious
‘I lifted the bucket to his lips. He drank, his eyes closed. Then I drank. It was like a feast of water. This was not ordinary food of course, but it might just as well have been. The sweetness of this water was born from the long walk under the stars, from the song of the pulley, and for the effort of pulling up that bucket. It made me feel good, made me happy, as a present does.’
7. And finally, remember to look up at the stars
‘“Stars mean different things to different people. For travellers, stars tell them where they are, where they are going. For others, they are just little lights in the sky. For scholars, they are the world of the unknown, yet to be discovered and understood. For my businessman, they are gold. But all stars stay silent. And you? No one else in the world will see the stars as you do… For you, and only for you, the stars will always be laughing.”’
The Little Prince, translated by Michael Morpurgo with audiobook read by Richard E. Grant is out now.
Meet the Little Prince, a young fellow who hails from a tiny, distant planet. He loves to watch sunsets and look after his flower, to ask questions and to laugh. And now here he is on Earth, appearing out of nowhere in the middle of the desert, looking for a friend. The friend he finds is the narrator of this story – a pilot who has crash landed and is in grave danger of dying of thirst.
The Little Prince might be just a boy but he can help our pilot. Because he understands the really important things in life – things like flowers, stars, a drink of water or laughing. Many grown-ups have lost sight of what matters and children have to remember to be tolerant towards them. But adult or child, very silly or very wise, this story is for you.
Includes exclusive material: In the Backstory you can read a letter from master storyteller and translator of this book Michael Morpurgo!