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The Little Prince: Truth in Metaphor


A Timeless Tale

Antoine de Saint Exupery's author's note on The Little Prince-- "not for grownups" -- is a bit facetious. On the one hand, The Little Prince does portray 'grownups' as folks who go around foolishly pursuing wrong values; still the story themes (and the subtle ironies) are best appreciated by those selfsame adults. The Little Prince is probably my all-time favorite book, and yet... that was hardly my first response. I remember pulling it down from a library shelf in elementary school: I didn't like the pictures, I wasn't particularly captivated by the story, and I set it back on the shelf. Perhaps I was too young to appreciate the metaphor; perhaps I just lacked an adult guide.

I was reintroduced to The Little Prince in my early twenties when I read a memoir, One Child, by Tori Hayden. Hayden described reading The Little Prince to a brilliant but troubled child. Key scenes from the book were reprinted in Hayden's book. Thus I finally read about the fox who pleads with a little boy to tame him, then cries when it is time for the child to get on with his journey. I learned how the Little Prince laments that the taming did the fox no good whatsoever, but the fox tells him oh no, it has done him good. The fox shares some secrets about love and attachment and responsibility... big, big ideas for such a slim little book.

At that point, I had to read the full story of the little prince who leaves his home planet because his rose (a personified flower) does not seem to love him the way he loves her. And at that point, I was captivated indeed, enchanted by the parable of the mystical and wide-eyed little observer of human nature who learns some lessons about love and -- not without some pain -- finds his way back home.

Opening image is by the author of the page

The Little Prince

The Little Prince

Plot, Theme, and Metaphor

In The Little Prince

The Little Prince is narrated by an adult -- an aviator who is concerned with "matters of consequence". Stranded in the Sahara, the pilot is shocked to hear a little person asking him to draw a sheep. The little person, it turns out, wants the sheep to take back to his planet: a house-sized asteroid that has three volcanoes, a talking rose, and baobab shoots. (The little baobabs must be pulled out before they take hold -- either that, or they need to be eaten by a little grazing animal of some sort.) To the narrator's surprise, the little prince, who is not satisfied with any of the sheep drawings, is delighted by a picture of a closed box with (supposedly) a sheep inside.

The backstory tells how the Little Prince left his planet because he had grown disenchanted with his rose; she was boastful and did not seem to appreciate all he did for her. On his journey, The Little Prince encountered a number of small planets, each with a single inhabitant who represented some negative aspect of human nature: pride, greed, desire for power. When a self-important geographer told him that his rose was ephemeral -- subject to quick disappearance -- he experienced some regret about leaving his planet behind. Still, he continued on to Earth, where he made the acquaintance of a fox.

Some of the most beautiful lines in the story are uttered by the fox. Probably the most famous is, "One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes." This is one of the book's central themes, and one that was introduced in a playful way early in the story. (One can imagine that the little prince was able to see the sheep in the box because he saw with his heart!)

The fox also introduces taming as a metaphor for creating meaningful bonds. The fox couldn't just starting out playing with the boy right away because (as he explained) he wasn't yet tame. There is a bit of humor here. When he first uses the word 'tame', it sounds like he is using it in the sense that we usually use the word. However, he is talking about something larger. This fox is not your average wild creature -- nor yet your typical 'crafty' storybook fox. He appears as a voice of wisdom.

A favorite bit of fox-wisdom is, "It is the time that you wasted on your rose that makes it unique in all the world." How true! We don't love because something or someone is perfect; if we did, love, too, would be ephemeral... and not love at all. The value we find in another can be created by what we pour into them: blood, sweat, and tears. The fox, who is so knowledgeable, tells the prince also that one carries with them forever what they have 'tamed' or loved -- and that so, too, they become responsible for it.

The Little Prince in turn has much to teach to his next companion, the book's own awe-struck narrator. Soon, however, they too must part. The pilot succeeds in fixing his plane, and thus can return home. The Little Prince, though, must have a rendezvous with a snake in order to be sent back where he came. "Don't come with me," he advises the narrator (who ignores his words). He warns the narrator that he will look like he is suffering and dying, but the truth is something else. The narrator assumes he does make it home, as there is no body left behind.

Although Antoine de Saint Exupery's illustrations are quite simple, they are poignant. One is burned in my mind: the image of the Little Prince going to meet up with the snake. It represents the strength that comes from really loving. I think that attachment has gotten a bad rap, that pop culture too easily dismisses it as weakness... a thought that I would not likely have had if I had read the book at eight or nine!

Video: The Little Prince and the Fox

Here it is: the most moving scene in the book narrated by a master storyteller. The little prince forges a friendship with a fox and learns what it means to be tamed.

More Little Prince Quotes

Lesson Plans For The Little Prince - Philosophy and Big Ideas

The Little Prince can be an excellent book for developing critical literacy skills. I have read this book aloud to elementary school children, and feel that they are in the best position to appreciate it when it's done as a read-aloud. Older students are better able to 'go it alone' but guided study can still help them appreciate the metaphors.

  • Philosophy For Kids
    These questions help kids get at the 'big ideas' in The Little Prince. There are some good discussion question for the early chapters, where the Little Prince through space and meets some confounding individuals.
  • Sparknotes
    Sparknotes provides online resources for analyzing and understanding The Little Prince. The character is particularly interesting here. The writer notes that both the Little Prince and the narrator are protagonists and explores similarities and diffe
  • Little Prince Lesson Plans
    Here are lesson plans from the Vinton-Shellsburg School District: journaling and essay topics.
  • Essay Questions
    Here are Little Prince essay questions from Sparknotes --test yourself online.
  • Discussion Questions
    Questions for The Little Prince range from basic comprehension to sophisticated interpretation. The section at the top of the page marked "Discussion Questions" includes questions to challenge mature readers; not all are child-friendly. The latter s
  • Resources for Chapter 1 - 4
    Here is key vocabulary for Chapters 1 - 4, plus an introductory question and several discussion questions. These resources are from Beacon Hill Academy.
  • Great Performances
    This set of lesson resources was designed for students who will be watching the operatic version.

70th Anniversary Gift Set

The Little Prince is the 20th best-selling book of all time, and for good reason. The language is simple, yet poetic, and the message appeals to our inner idealism and goodness. Thus the book speaks to to generation after generation of adults and children alike. Originally written in French, it has been translated into many languages.

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There are two translations readily available in English. The first was by Katherine Woods in 1943, the second by Richard Howard in 2000.

This is one of Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt's 70th anniversary releases,a gift set featuring audio and text. The hardback book and audio are the Richard Howard version.

The Little Prince Lands on Earth - The Little Prince, upon landing on Earth, at first believes the whole planet is altogether dry and pointed.

The Little Prince Lands

The Little Prince Lands

Students can discuss their own first impressions of people and places. Have they ever acted like The Little Prince did when he first beheld our planet?

Who is The Little Prince written for?

Is The Little Prince primarily for children or for grownups?

The Little Prince Activity Book

The Little Prince Book of Fun and Adventure strives to get young kids into the character and story. I understand that there is a dry erase pen, and some activities can be done over and over.

More Reviews and Analysis - Of The Little Prince

  • Reading Matters
    This simple review -- and the writer's apt use of quotes -- captures the beauty in this timeless tale.
  • Beauty in the Breakdown: The Little Prince
    This Blogspot book analysis explores the theme of attachment.
  • The Literary Link
    Here you can find discussion questions and detailed answers.
  • Buzzle Editorial: The Little Prince
    The Little Prince inspires deep feelings in many readers. Here another writer shares.
  • Goodreads
    This site includes some clever and well-written short reviews. (You can tell when someone really loves a book!)
  • Harcourt Books
    Here is further information and links from Harcourt Publishing (the publisher of The Little Prince). A new edition with a study guide was recently published next year for the book's 70th anniversary.
  • Chicago Reader
    This is actually a review of the play version, but it contains quite a bit of discussion of themes that are central to both the book and play.
  • A High School Student's Perspective
    A mature high school student tackles the themes in The Little Prince.
  • Editor Eric
    This is a comparison of the two most common English language translations. Editor Eric prefers the Richard Howard translation -- I'm not sure I agree.
  • EduBlogs
    Here an articulate high school student talks about how the book is being used in her class. (They discussed the historical context of World War II.)
  • Scientific American
    Many see childhood wonder and imagination as the dominant theme. Here is a reflection.

Do You Have a Favorite Translation?

If you truly love a book, you know: Those turns of phrase matter. Slight differences in translation can alter the mood and the meaning in a text. I am most acutely aware of the differences in the key scenes with the fox. While I'm not fond of the reference to the time 'wasted' on the rose -- that one little word! -- the Katherine Wood version is otherwise my favorite.

Which edition do you prefer?

More About the Two Translations

  • Harcourt
    From the publisher: compare passages from the Woods and Howard translations.

More from Antoine de Saint-Exupery - Especially for Grownups

Antoine de Saint-Exupery was very good at the one-liner, and at summing up life truths with deceptively simple words. This collection draws from The Little Prince as well as from the wisdom of Saint-Exupery's adult books. If you believe that a lot of your learning came in kindergarten -- on the monkey bars as opposed to the corporate ladder -- you'll probably find quite a bit more here that rings true.


Share them here.

Thoughts on the Little Prince?

Beverly on October 22, 2016:

The first time I read "Le Petit Prince" was in high school. I read it in French. I've read it in English, also. I love the quote "on ne voit bien qu' avec le coeur, l'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux". I have this quote tattooed on my upper arm. I'm going to have to read this book again. I didn't get the allegories as the reviewer did.

PaigSr from State of Confusion on July 27, 2013:

Many years ago when I was at summer camp we had an hour each day where we just rested. Our counselor read this book to us during the week we were there. That was the first time that I had ever heard of this book.

lawyer-marketing on July 14, 2013:

Master piece !!!

flycatcherrr on June 17, 2013:

Time for me to re-read this one, I think. :)

knitstricken on February 28, 2013:

Bless You! And you didn't even sneeze! How curious! :o) I just stopped by to draw you a sheep, I mean, er, leave you a SquidAngel blessing! :o) Blessed!

JeffGilbert on February 25, 2013:

I remember reading this in French back in high school A great little masterpiece... :)

Lazuribooks on January 31, 2013:

Dear friends of the Little Prince Family,

A new edition is born !

Published new edition of The Little Prince (Mingrelian Tchitche Mapaskiri) only 350 copies.

Best regards

Lazuribooks on January 31, 2013:

Dear friends of the Little Prince Family,

A new edition is born !

Published new edition of The Little Prince (Mingrelian Tchitche Mapaskiri) only 350 copies.

Best regards

Vikki from US on January 27, 2013:

Leaving some angel dust....really amazing job here.

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on January 27, 2013:

Stopping back to bless this wonderful lens! :)

Emmie16 on December 15, 2012:

I have never read the Little Prince, not even in my children's literature class. I will now though! Thank you for sharing.

anonymous on November 20, 2012:

Lovely Story one of my favourites for my kids.

Kumar P S on October 20, 2012:

Great Lens ! Very well Presented.

Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on October 14, 2012:

Very special book for very special moments.

Tea Pixie on October 13, 2012:

I was fortunate to be involved in introducing reading in English to young French Immersions students. Not only did I love recommending this book, it was given to me as a gift by a very, very good friend, when we closed the library door for the last time. It's a book for everyone, at any age.

anonymous on October 13, 2012:

nice stuff thanks for sharing

Rosaquid on September 25, 2012:

The Little Prince has helped me as an adult to better understand children.

JerseyJames on September 19, 2012:

Enjoyed reading your lens.

MayaIxchel on September 19, 2012:

I love this book! I have read it in English, French, and Spanish. There is a theory that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry based his book on our town when he crashed his plane in Guatemala and stayed in Antigua (the city of roses) during his recovery and talked about the three volcanoes. I also love that France had his drawings on their currency! Great lens, thanks for sharing!

Barbara Radisavljevic from Paso Robles, CA on August 05, 2012:

Great job. I'm going to share it on All Things Education on Tumbler.

Melissa Miotke from Arizona on August 04, 2012:

I love this story!

YogaAngel on July 29, 2012:

I have loved this book since I was a kid! There even used to be a cartoon! Read it in college English class too!!!

JoshK47 on July 23, 2012:

Popping back in the sprinkle some angel dust on this great lens! :)

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on July 22, 2012:

Stopping back to sprinkle some angel dust on this well deserving lens (now that I can!). :)

sherioz on June 22, 2012:

When I taught sex and family education to sixth graders, I would start one of my lessons with reading the part about taming the fox - it got them to think about how people develop relationships and what intimacy means. Enjoyed your lens.

UKGhostwriter on May 22, 2012:

I love the illustrations as well as a great story

anonymous on May 21, 2012:

So you are a teacher and a writer, as was my high school English teacher. Your lens has brought back a very pleasant memory. The Little Prince was required reading and my teacher introduced us to the figure of speech knows as a metaphor.

seemarahate on May 10, 2012:

lovely picture ...

anonymous on May 05, 2012:

Seems like I have missed reading this gorgeous book that looks like a must read.

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on May 02, 2012:

I introduced my husband to this book a few years ago and it instantly became one of his favorites, too. I was only familiar with the original French version before I purchased an English translation version for him. The translation was excellent, but I still prefer the original.

anonymous on April 27, 2012:

this is all-time favorite book. it has the story and the message, add the awesomely drawn pictures by Exupery himself.

JoyfulReviewer on April 24, 2012:

Enjoyed your overview of this classic. Glad to see you included lesson plans and other resources. ~~Blessed~~

Rose Jones on April 05, 2012:

This is one of my favorite books too, and we read it in French class as well.

vinodkpillai lm on April 03, 2012:

Loved your lens about my favorite book. Thanks!

Jethro from Philippines on April 02, 2012:

I think I should read it again. Thanks for this lens. :)

NoYouAreNot on April 02, 2012:

You have a wonderful taste in books ;)

karMALZEKE on April 02, 2012:

You did a wonderful job writing this lens. I like a lot of good "meat" in a lens. Nice writing!

Aquavel on March 25, 2012:

The Little Prince (and Lewis Caroll's two "Alice" books) are my favorite books of all time! Definitely for children of all ages!

TTMall on March 23, 2012:

Loved Your Lens! You really put a lot of good information in it.

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin on March 14, 2012:

Wonderful lens.

Jethro from Philippines on March 09, 2012:

I want to re-read it because the first time I read it was when I studied in college. Anyway, thanks for sharing this. :)

Jethro from Philippines on March 09, 2012:

I love this great book! I'm glad I found this. :)

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin on February 27, 2012:

Great lens.

Edutopia on February 12, 2012:

Great lens and introduction to the story. Good job.

Edutopia on February 12, 2012:

Great lens and introduction to the story. Good job.

ifuturz on February 09, 2012:

Nice Lens to Read

anonymous on February 05, 2012:

looks like i need to read

mellie4 on January 29, 2012:

fantastic lens!

julieannbrady on January 26, 2012:

Hmmm, I must say, "what an intelligent page!" And, doesn't "The Little Prince" story of portraying "'grownups' as folks who go around foolishly pursuing wrong values," just a real slice of reality?

Aquavel on January 05, 2012:

Love the Little Prince, his journeys and adventures, and his love for his rose. Amazing illustrations and metaphors too! One of my lifetime favorites!

askdaguru lm on December 31, 2011:

great story

Terrie_Schultz on December 28, 2011:

I haven't read it for many years, now I want to read it again!

Angela F from Seattle, WA on December 27, 2011:

I loved the book as a child. Definitely think it's time to read it again with "grownup" eyes.

Heather Bradford from Canada on December 22, 2011:

I respect the reputation and following that The Little Prince Has. I got it out of the library to share with my kids on recommendation but they didn't enjoy it and I couldn't get into it either. Perhaps it's something I will re-visit at another time and love?!

Jereme Causing from Philippines on December 22, 2011:

Very nice lens.. this is one of my favorite books :) The first time I read the little prince when I was 13, I also didn't understand it at first not until I have grown up a bit.. I read the book when I got to college and I realized that it was a very nice book :) I've read it a lot of times ..

oxfordian on December 14, 2011:

I was first introduced to the original French verson, Le Petit Prince by my mother and I still have my old, worn little book. Over the years, I collected many different editions and versions of the story, including, last year, a pop-up version. You did such an admirable job representing the story here; it makes me want to take it off the shelf and read it again.

kathysart on December 04, 2011:

one of my fav books.. luv it

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on November 09, 2011:

Congrats on your new Purple Star! Outstanding. :-)

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on November 09, 2011:

I am at a point in my life where I need to rediscover the Little Prince. Thank you for this exceptional review. *Blessed* and appreciated.

Iudit Gherghiteanu from Ozun on November 02, 2011:

i did not like it as child and i did discover it much later, as parent. thanks for this beautiful memento of the Little Prince in my life.

mercin12 on October 29, 2011:

I have used quotes from the Little Prince in academic papers I have written. There is such wisdom in the book!

WayneDave LM on October 27, 2011:

I would say it is for both children and adults. Great lens though. Thanks a lot for sharing this.

EMangl on October 09, 2011:

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well

ananimoss2 on October 08, 2011:

I was in 4th grade when I read it first. I have sisters who are much older than I am, and they were reading it, and the book looked like a picture book. Of course, I didn't understand much at that time, but it has been my favorite ever since. Every time I read it, I find something a hidden treasure!

Heather B on September 25, 2011:

I came across this lens by chance. I've never read the Little Prince, but family and friends have raved about it. I now feel inspired to pick it up.

natashaely on September 02, 2011:

I love this book, I read it a long time ago but having read this page it's made me want to dig out my copy and read it again. A fantastic review, I love the personal touch. I also love the pages aboves, The Velveteen Rabbit, hich has been printed so many times and should be a must for all children and The Ugly duckling which I have not only read, had on tape and seen various versions but sadly (can't believe I admit this) have it on record in the song version! Great page, happily added to my library!

Paul from Liverpool, England on September 01, 2011:

A blast from the past indeed! I put off reading TLP when I first gheard about it and evetually read it after finding out more about Antoine de Saint Exupery - that casts a different light on mch of what he writes.

whyamiwealthy on August 29, 2011:

If I were to choose the Top 10 books in my list, the Little Prince will be in my Top 10 books of all that I have read. Every time I read and re-read it, I find some new valuable insight. How this book touches my life just grows and grows as I get older and experience more in life. An excellent lens and a great topic to choose!

Barbara Radisavljevic from Paso Robles, CA on August 14, 2011:

This book became one of my favorites when I was a young adult. It's been a good 30 years since I read it. Maybe it's time to do it again.

Wanda Fitzgerald from Central Florida on August 14, 2011:

I've never read the book. I used to watch the cartoon though. Gosh I'm shallow. This is a great review of it and I'll see if my kid's copy is around somewhere. Sounds like it's worth reading.

Teddi14 LM on June 11, 2011:

I have had a copy for years and never read it. I have a 9 year old son and after reading this lens I think I will read it with him this summer.

Krafick on May 07, 2011:

One of my favorites.

Chazz from New York on May 06, 2011:

Wonderful lens on an ageless, timeless book. Blessings. Your lens is now featured on our tribute page to blessed lenses: Wing-ing it on Squidoo. (You can see it at

Philippians468 on April 12, 2011:

this is one of the simplest yet deepest book i've ever read! cheers

careermom on April 07, 2011:

I've not read this book in years. Thank you for reminding me of it.

UKGhostwriter on March 26, 2011:

what a fantastic lens!!

MelissaInTheSky on March 25, 2011:

The Little Prince has always been my Bible. Books are my friends, but THAT book has been my heart and soul. My sense of family, my faith, my dreams, my life's work - my very identity came to life the day I discovered The Little Prince. In the 35 years since, I have added to my list of literary blessings, but that book will always remain my guiding light. :)

Thanks for sharing a great lens!

Sheilamarie from British Columbia on March 07, 2011:

When my son was in fifth grade, he played the Little Prince in the local high school production, with his older brother as the pilot. That is a very special memory for me.

jvsper63 on March 05, 2011:

Lovely story. I remember it from when I was young. Nice lens Joni

James Jordan from Burbank, CA on January 31, 2011:

I love this story. I have it from my childhood. It really resonated with me and was a great way to look at love!

wadestar on November 21, 2010:

nice lens thank you.

LouisaDembul on November 05, 2010:

Next week they will show the play of the Little Prince in my daughter's school. Will review this with her before that, to help her appreciate it more!

darciefrench lm on November 01, 2010:

Beautiful lens; it brought me back to the questions of my childhood. Many blessings to you, including a squid angel blessing.

ZablonMukuba on October 28, 2010:

great book, its awesome, he loved his rose

jlshernandez on October 22, 2010:

Thumbs up on a great lens. I read this book when I was in high school.

jp1978 on October 15, 2010:

Hi, this is my favorite book! Although I like the other translation better, where yours says

"One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes." (Richard Howard translation, usually blue cover)

I prefer

"It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye." (KAtherine Woods translation, usually white cover)

kimmanleyort on October 13, 2010:

You know, I remember my Mom loved this book, but I don't remember ever reading it. I think it's about time I did. Lovely review.

Light-in-me on October 13, 2010:

Ahh I remember the Little Prince, very nice lens.

Thanks for sharing,

Robin :)

Jacqueline Marshall from Chicago area on October 10, 2010:

Lovely lens about a lovely book.

ZablonMukuba on October 06, 2010:

i really like this book you have put it into perspective

hlkljgk from Western Mass on September 18, 2010:

well done. thanks for the views.

GrowWear on September 12, 2010:

A loving review of The Little Prince.

resabi on August 20, 2010:

Hard to resist a lens on a book that's one of my favorites also. Very nice job. I have a suggested addition to your other books with big ideas section: The 100 Dresses, by Eleanore Estes. Hmmm... Come to think of it, I might have to do a lens on it. Lol. Thanks for that idea also.

myraggededge on July 05, 2010:

Excellent review of a classic book. I adore the 'time wasted on your rose' quote... indeed it is the essence of ourselves that we give/offer/put into things (work, art, people, anything) that makes them so unique and special. Blessed by a Squid angel :-)

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on June 07, 2010:

I love the book and used it for my lessons before. I still read it once in a while just to remind me about some of its truths.

Sharon Weaver from Los Angeles, CA on May 03, 2010:

This is a classic and your lens gets people thinking about the lessons it contains. Good stuff.

KarenTBTEN (author) on April 26, 2010:

It's a good experience to reread the book as an adult -- and, yes, it would be cool to see the book your friend is working on, too.

AnxiousAthena LM on April 25, 2010:

OMG, This is awesome! I LOVED that book as a child! I def have to re-read must have spent a time doing this lens, there is so much stuff to see and do...great job, 5 stars! My friend Dan is doing something very similar to this book. he is writing a children's book with adult-ish themes...let me know if you want to see his work in progress and I'll send you a link :)

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