A HEARTWARmING BOOK OF LIFE LESSONS

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Today’s book review is a little different from the books we’ve reviewed so far. This time, it is the world-famous novella by the French author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince). This fable and modern classic was published with own illustrations of the aviator-author in French as Le Petit Prince in 1943 and has been translated into various languages as many as 301 and has sold some 200 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling books in publishing history.

To tell you the plot in a nutshell, an aviator (just like the author), who has crash-landed into the Sahara Desert, encounters the most exciting tiny young boy that one could only imagine to see in life, especially in a desert. This, young lad asks one small favour from the man–to draw him a sheep ‘please’. Refused first, as he was busy trying to fix the plane, the aviator eventually compromises with the Little Prince (as he calls), and sets his pen to draw. Meanwhile, he learns that the little man was actually a prince and was from another planet –an asteroid to be precise –called B-612.

The little prince narrates how he used to live happy and contended in his planet, pulling up baobab seedlings, lest they grow big enough to engulf the tiny planet which was no bigger than a house, raking the three volcanoes and enjoying the sunsets, until one day a rose seedling is carried by wind and gets implanted. It blossomed into the most gorgeous and the sweetest rose, the little prince had ever seen. So, he falls in love with her. Nonetheless, once when her vanity and demands became too much for the prince has left the planet to check on what others do with their life.

On his journey, the little prince has met numerous adults, an empire, a drunkard, a geographer, businessman and so on, who were much occupied with their boring and exhausting routine works like ruling over one mouse, getting drunk and piling up the stars. The little prince soon has left all those planets and eventually come to the earth where he has met the fox, who has taught him the value and beauty of relationships. The narration of this whole story is so genuine and heart-warming as the author delivers it from the perspective of a child; innocent, pure and imaginative.

What is really significant about the story is that the incidents that take place and described are not just working for the plot development but they function as metaphors as well. The manner in which the relationship between the little prince and the fox grows little by little, from strangers to friends and then to best friends. They connect so deeply with each other that it really hurts to depart. It is the fox who teaches the little prince to ‘tame’-symbolic of building-up relationships-step by step.

“To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world…”

The fox (yes, the canny fox we have learnt it to be) by and by makes the little prince realise why the rose is so important to him and why he should protect it and love it. “Men have forgotten this basic truth. But you must not forget it. For what you have tamed, you become responsible forever. You are responsible for your rose.” says the little fox.

Oh! Let me quote my favourite line from the whole novella, which is also spoken by the fox, “On ne voit bien qu’avec le Coeur,” which translates to “It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly.” It, indeed, is a very wise advice given to all of us. Everyone is born with the ability to see with their heart. But we begin to stop seeing the world with our hearts as we grow and start to see with the brains instead. So, the fox addresses all of us, the mundane and boring adults, and advises us to see with the heart. It is only then that one would really know what makes them happy. The Little Prince teaches us that what is precious in life is not money or wealth or knowledge but love, friendship, kindness and intimacy.

Since, you, my dearest young readers are still able to see the world with your hearts, I recommend you read this book so that you would never lose that ability. Actually, my advice for you is to read it at least thrice in your life; once as a child, then as a youth and last as an adult. You’ll know many truths about life!

By Induwara Athapattu