the little prince

The Little Prince – the tale of returning - Part 1

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We are all travelers... we hold onto those with whom we have a spiritual connection, rather than a physical one, and we hope to arrive at our desired destination. At the end of our journey we realize that the only thing that matters is whether we could give something from ourselves to our companion that helped them grow. Did our presence make the journey more beautiful and easier? - Robert Lawson (born: Róbert Kováts)

 

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novel is one of the most famous tales in the world. It is a popular story referenced and cited by many. It has left its mark on the cultural history of the world and affected the development of humanity’s consciousness.

Compared to old fables and folktales this novel can be seen as a didactic story full of emotions displayed through a plot with many threads. Using a similar topic, words and characters, it would be easy to create pretentious works of fiction without true depth, wisdom or inspiration. Despite its many ways of expressing emotions, Exupéry’s tale is not sentimental; despite its didactic quality and aphorisms, it is not preaching. It is a teaching, a fable of eternal importance delivered in the most poetic language – at the same time accessible for 21st century readers.

The author remained faithful to the worldview of traditional tales; even though he gives direct statements, the story is full of elements unsaid and inexpressible. The presence of “wonder” in the book is magical and natural; mystical powers and principles of order shine through the storyline. The main conflict does not occur between characters but between ignorance and knowledge.

The novel reaches and shakes both atheistic and religious readers. The events seem understandable and easy to follow (even though the storytelling is not linear), but – just like in the Bible or in other religious texts – they represent a higher meaning for the followers of the ancient wisdom, the Universal Doctrine, for travelers of the “royal road.” Since the same words, expressions and symbols are used by spirituality at an extraneous level as by religious groups following the inner road, the difference, the “higher degree” – like in The Little Prince – is achieved by the clarity, power and authenticity of the text. This is what shines through the story and beautifies the desert of letters.

The name of the protagonist is quite enigmatic: the Little Prince. This is how the small, fragile man with golden locks of hair is referred to by the pilot, one of the main characters, who narrates the story. He is woken up by the Little Prince at dawn after his emergency landing in the desert and asked to draw him a lamb. The name bears no explanation, but it does not refer to a worldly title, but to a spiritual quality, a divine rank, which the earthbound pilot in distress recognizes in the peculiar creature of ethereal purity. As a child, the narrator used to be a sensitive, creative, open-minded soul, just like the Little Prince. As an adult he lost these liberating traits, and his wish to awaken these qualities may have driven him to become a pilot. His effort must have been hindered as during his mechanical flying he was forced to perform an emergency landing in the middle of the desert due to engine trouble (which is the “heart” of the airplane). As it turns out, a year before the Little Prince also arrived on Earth due to a “forced landing.”

The life story of the tiny man unravels slowly as he fails to provide answers to questions aimed at him or his past. He only replies spontaneously and in due course – although in an indirect and selective manner. But he never drops his questions when he wants to know something: he only stops inquiring when he receives a proper answer.

This asymmetry may be explained by an adult-child relationship. The fact that the Little Prince is a child is stated by the narrator only once (through the fox): “To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys”.  But the main character is more of a childlike soul of unspoiled purity. It might seem strange, but this uneven relationship resembles a master-student connection. And in this tale it is not the adult, the pilot, who teaches. Of course we cannot strictly separate the two roles as the master also learns from his pupil and from others as well. To uncover the true nature of their relationship, we might imagine the master to be ahead of his student on the spiritual road; even though they walk side by side on a real one. The two roles can also be interpreted metaphorically as parts, traits, opportunities of one being’s consciousness – and this is the more important and mature approach. But it is easier to follow their life stories in this tale if we look at them as two connected, but separate beings. The Little Prince represents the pure spirit the pilot – maybe only unconsciously – longs to achieve.

After their peculiar encounter, their fates are connected, which provides ground for several comparisons and parallels. The main focus of the narrative can best be described by the term religio: in the sense of returning to, connecting to, reuniting with, rejoining the divine origin. Its main sections can be defined by Faith, Hope and Love, which grow from the seeds sown in the mellow ground of disbelief.

The story of the two characters – and its analysis – starts and ends with the invisible sheep drawn inside the box. The tale does not explain why the drawing of this animal is necessary. The Little Prince is not satisfied with any of the figures the pilot draws for him, but immediately accepts the box when the man claims that the sheep is inside. Why does he do so? Naivety, unconditional trust? An extraordinary vision, a magical skill for animation?  All of this and the mystery that characterizes the whole story. I will come back to the role and importance of the sheep in the tale at the end of the analysis.

To be continued in part 2

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