DEDICATION At Leon Werth
I apologize to the children for having dedicated this book to a great person. I have a serious excuse: this great person is the best friend I have in the world. I have another excuse: this great person can understand everything, even children’s books. I have a third excuse: this great person lives in France where she is hungry and cold. She needs to be comforted. If all these excuses are not enough, I will dedicate this book to the child that was once that great person. All great people were first children. (But few of them remember.) So I corrected my dedication: To Leon Werth When He Was A Little Boy.
When I was six, I once saw a beautiful image in a book about the Virgin Forest called “Living Stories”. It represented a boa snake swallowing a wild beast. Here is the copy of the drawing. It was said in the book: “Boas snakes swallow their prey whole, without chewing, then they can not move and they sleep for six months of their digestion.” I then thought a lot about the adventures of the jungle and, in my turn, I managed to draw my first drawing with a colored pencil.
My drawing number 1. It was like this: I showed my masterpiece to grown-ups and asked them if my drawing scared them. They said, “Why would a hat be scary?” My drawing did not represent a hat. He represented a boa snake digesting an elephant. I then drew the inside of the boa snake so that grown-ups could understand. They always need explanations.
My drawing number 2 was like this: Great people have advised me to leave open or closed boa snake drawings aside, and to focus on geography, history, calculus and grammar.
That’s how I left, at the age of six, a wonderful painting career. I had been discouraged by the failure of my drawing number 1 and my drawing number 2. The grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiring for the children to always give them explanations. So I had to choose another job and I learned to fly planes. I flew around the world. And geography, that’s right, has served me a lot. I knew how to recognize, at first glance, the China of Arizona. This is useful if you are lost during the night. In my life, I have had lots of contacts with lots of serious people. I lived a lot in big people. I saw them very closely. It did not really improve my opinion. When I met one that seemed a little lucid, I was experiencing on it my drawing no. 1 that I have always kept. I wanted to know if she was really understanding. But she always said, “It’s a hat.” So I did not talk to him about boa snakes, virgin forests, or stars. I put myself within reach. I told him about bridge, golf, politics and ties. And the grown-up was very happy to know such a reasonable man.
I lived alone, without anyone with whom to speak truly, until a breakdown in the Sahara desert six years ago. Something had broken in my engine. And since I had neither a mechanic nor a passenger with me, I prepared myself to try to succeed, all by myself, a difficult repair. It was for me a question of life and death. I barely had water to drink for eight days. The first night I fell asleep on the sand a thousand miles from any inhabited land. I was far more isolated than a shipwrecked man on a raft in the middle of the ocean. So you imagine my surprise, at dawn, when a funny little voice woke me up. She said:-Please draw me a sheep!-Hein!-Draw me a sheep… I jumped on my feet as if I had been struck by lightning. I rubbed my eyes well. I watched well. And I saw a very extraordinary little man who looked at me seriously. This is the best portrait I later made of him. But my drawing, of course, is much less charming than the model. It is not my fault. I had been discouraged in my career as a painter by grown-ups at the age of six, and I had learned nothing to draw except closed boas and open boas. So I looked at this apparition with eyes full of astonishment. Do not forget that I was a thousand miles from any inhabited area. But my little fellow did not seem to me to be lost, nor to die from fatigue, nor to die of hunger, nor die of thirst, nor die of fear. He did not look like a child lost in the middle of the desert, a thousand miles from any inhabited region. When I finally managed to speak, I said:-What are you doing here? And he repeated to me, very slowly, as a very serious thing: -Please draw me a sheep… When the mystery is too impressive, we do not dare to disobey. As absurd as it seemed to me a thousand miles from all inhabited places and in danger of death, I took out of my pocket a sheet of paper and a pen. But I remembered that I had studied geography, history, calculus and grammar, and I told the little guy (with a little bad temper) that I did not know how to draw. He answered me:-It does not matter. Draw me a sheep. Since I had never drawn a sheep, for him I was one of only two drawings I could do. That of the boa closed. And I was stunned to hear the little man answer me:-No! No! I do not want an elephant in a boa. A boa is very dangerous, and an elephant is very cumbersome. My place is tight. I need a sheep. Draw me a sheep. So I drew. He looked closely, then: No! That one is already very ill. Do another one. I drew: My friend smiles gently, indulgently: “You see, it’s not a sheep, it’s a ram. He has horns … I thus still refine my drawing: But it was refused, like the preceding ones: This one is too old. I want a sheep that lives a long time. So, for lack of patience, as I was eager to start dismantling my engine, I scribbled this drawing. Then I DREW: That’s the cashier. The sheep you want is inside. But I was very surprised to see the face of my young judge light up:-That’s exactly how I wanted it! Do you think that this sheep needs a lot of grass?-Why?-Because it’s so small at home …-Surely that will suffice. I gave you a little sheep. He leaned his head toward the drawing:-Not so small that … Here! He fell asleep… And so I met the little prince.
It took me a long time to understand where he came from. The little prince, who asked me many questions, never seemed to hear mine. These are words pronounced by chance which, little by little, have revealed everything to me. So, when he saw my plane for the first time (I will not draw my plane, it’s a drawing too complicated for me) he asked me: -What is that thing? It’s not a thing. It flies. It’s a plane. It’s my plane. And I was proud to tell him that I was flying. So he cried: -How! you fell from the sky!-Yes, I said modestly. Ah! Now that’s funny… And the little prince had a very pretty laugh that irritated me a lot. I want to take my misfortunes seriously. Then he added:-So, you too come from heaven! What planet are you from? I immediately glimpsed a glimmer, in the mystery of his presence, and I questioned sharply:-You come from another planet? But he did not answer me. He nodded slowly while looking at my plane:-It is true that, on that, you can not come very far… And he sank into a reverie that lasted a long time. Then, talking my sheep out of his pocket, he plunged into the contemplation of his treasure. You can imagine how intrigued I was by this half-confidence about “other planets”. I tried to find out more: “Where are you from, my little fellow? Where is it “at your place”? Where do you want to take my sheep? He answered me after a meditative silence : -What is good, with the box that you gave me, is that, at night, it will serve him as a house. Of course. And if you’re nice, I’ll also give you a rope to tie in during the day. And a picket. The proposal seemed to shock the little prince: -L’attacher? What a funny idea! -But if you do not tie it, it will go anywhere, and it will get lost… And my friend had another burst of laughter: -But where do you want him to go! -Anywhere. Right in front of him…
Then the little prince remarked gravely: -I do not do anything, it’s so small, at home! And, with a bit of melancholy, perhaps, he added: -Right in front of you can not go far…
So I learned a second important thing: That his home planet was barely bigger than a house! It could not surprise me much. I knew that apart from the big planets like Earth, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, to whom we gave names, there are hundreds of others that are sometimes so small that we have a lot of trouble to see them with the telescope. When an astronomer discovers one of them, he gives him a name of a zero. He calls it for example: “the asteroid 3251.” I have serious reasons to believe that the planet where the little prince came from is asteroid B612. This asteroind was only seen once by a telescope in 1909 by a Turkish astronomer. He had made a great demonstration of his discovery at an International Congress of Astronomy. But nobody believed him because of his costume. Great people I like that. Fortunately, for the reputation of the asteroid B 612 a Turkish dictator imposed on his people, on pain of death, to dress at the European. The astronomer refit is shown in 1920, in a very elegant dress. And this time everyone was of his opinion. If I told you these details about asteroid B 612 and I gave you his number, it’s because of the big people. Big people like numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never question you about what’s important. They never tell you, “what is the sound of his voice, what games he prefers, does he collect butterflies?” They ask you, “How old is he, how many brothers does he have, how much does he earn, how much does his a father earn?” Only then do they think they know him. If you say to grown-ups: “I saw a beautiful pink brick house, with geraniums on the windows and doves on the roof…” They can not imagine this house. You have to tell them: So, if you tell them: “the proof that the little prince existed is that he was beautiful, and that he wanted a sheep, when you want a sheep, it is a proof that one exists”. shrug your shoulders and treat you as a child! But if you tell them, the planet from which it came is the asteroid B 612″ then they will be convinced, and they will leave you alone with their questions. They are like that. Do not blame them. Children must be a very lenient towards grown-ups.
But, of course, we who understand life, we do not care about numbers! I would have liked to start this story like fairy tales. I would have liked to say: “Once upon a time there was a little prince who lived on a planet barely bigger than him, and who needed a friend… “For those who understand life, it would have looked a lot more true. Because I do not like to read my book lightly. I feel so sorry to tell you these memories. It’s been six years since my friend left with his sheep. They cannot imagine this house. You have to tell them, so, if you tell them the proof that the little prince exist it is that he was beautiful and that he wanted a sheep when you wanna shape it is a prove that one exist shrug your shoulders and treat you as a child. But if you tell them, the planet from which it came is the astroid to be 612 then they will be convinced, and they will leave you alone with their questions. They are like that. Do not bring them. Children must be a very lenient towers grown-ups. But, of course, we put understand life, we do not care about numbers. I would have liked to start the story like fairytales. I would have liked to say. Once upon a time there was a little prince who lived on the planet very bigger than him and if you needed a friend for those who understand life it would have looked a lot more true. Because I do not like to read my book lately. I feel so sorry to tell you these memories. It’s been six years since my friend left with his sheep.
If I try to describe it here, it’s in order not to forget it. It’s sad to forget a friend. Everyone did not have a friend. And I can become like big people who are interested only in numbers. So that’s why I bought a box of the colors and pencils. It’s hard to get back to drawing, at my age, when one has never made other attempts than that of a closed boa and that of an open boa, at the age of six! I would of course try to make portraits as similar as possible. But I’m not quite sure of success. A drawing goes, and the other does not look anymore. I make some errors, also on the size. Here the little prince is too big. There he is too small. I also hesitate about the color of his costume. So I fumble like this and like that, somehow.
Finally, I will be deceiving some more important details. But that, it will be necessary to forgive me. My friend never gave explanations. He thought I might be like him. But I, unfortunately, do not know how to see the sheep through the crates, I may be a bit like grown-ups. I must have got older.
—『The Little Prince』Antoine De Saint-Exupéry著