Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Little Prince, Page 2

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  So, as the little prince described it to me, I have made a drawing of that planet. I do not much like to take the tone of a moralist. But the danger of the baobabs is so little understood, and such considerable risks would be run by anyone who might get lost on an asteroid, that for once I am breaking through my reserve. "Children," I say plainly, "watch out for the baobabs!" My friends, like myself, have been skirting this danger for a long time, without ever knowing it; and so it is for them that I have worked so hard over this drawing. The lesson which I pass on by this means is worth all the trouble it has cost me.

  Perhaps you will ask me, "Why are there no other drawing in this book as magnificent and impressive as this drawing of the baobabs?" The reply is simple. I have tried. But with the others I have not been successful. When I made the drawing of the baobabs I was carried beyond myself by the inspiring force of urgent necessity.


  Oh, little prince! Bit by bit I came to understand the secrets of your sad little life... For a long time you had found your only entertainment in the quiet pleasure of looking at the sunset. I learned that new detail on the morning of the fourth day, when you said to me: "I am very fond of sunsets. Come, let us go look at a sunset now."

  "But we must wait," I said.

  "Wait? For what?"

  "For the sunset. We must wait until it is time."

  At first you seemed to be very much surprised. And then you laughed to yourself. You said to me: "I am always thinking that I am at home!"

  Just so. Everybody knows that when it is noon in the United States the sun is setting over France. If you could fly to France in one minute, you could go straight into the sunset, right from noon. Unfortunately, France is too far away for that. But on your tiny planet, my little prince, all you need do is move your chair a few steps. You can see the day end and the twilight falling whenever you like...

  "One day," you said to me, "I saw the sunset forty-four times!"

  And a little later you added:

  "You know -- one loves the sunset, when one is so sad..."

  "Were you so sad, then?" I asked, "on the day of the forty-four sunsets?"

  But the little prince made no reply.


  On the fifth day -- again, as always, it was thanks to the sheep -- the secret of the little prince's life was revealed to me. Abruptly, without anything to lead up to it, and as if the question had been born of long and silent meditation on his problem, he demanded: "A sheep -- if it eats little bushes, does it eat flowers, too?"

  "A sheep," I answered, "eats anything it finds in its reach."

  "Even flowers that have thorns?"

  "Yes, even flowers that have thorns."

  "Then the thorns -- what use are they?"

  I did not know. At that moment I was very busy trying to unscrew a bolt that had got stuck in my engine. I was very much worried, for it was becoming clear to me that the breakdown of my plane was extremely serious. And I had so little drinking-water left that I had to fear for the worst.

  "The thorns -- what use are they?"

  The little prince never let go of a question, once he had asked it. As for me, I was upset over that bolt. And I answered with the first thing that came into my head: "The thorns are of no use at all. Flowers have thorns just for spite!"


  There was a moment of complete silence. Then the little prince flashed back at me, with a kind of resentfulness: "I don't believe you! Flowers are weak creatures. They are naive. They reassure themselves as best they can. They believe that their thorns are terrible weapons..."

  I did not answer. At that instant I was saying to myself: "If this bolt still won't turn, I am going to knock it out with the hammer." Again the little prince disturbed my thoughts: "And you actually believe that the flowers -- "

  "Oh, no!" I cried. "No, no, no! I don't believe anything. I answered you with the first thing that came into my head. Don't you see -- I am very busy with matters of consequence!"

  He stared at me, thunderstruck.

  "Matters of consequence!"

  He looked at me there, with my hammer in my hand, my fingers black with engine-grease, bending down over an object which seemed to him extremely ugly...

  "You talk just like the grown-ups!"

  That made me a little ashamed. But he went on, relentlessly: "You mix everything up together... You confuse everything..."

  He was really very angry. He tossed his golden curls in the breeze.

  "I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: 'I am busy with matters of consequence!' And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man -- he is a mushroom!"

  "A what?"

  "A mushroom!"

  The little prince was now white with rage.

  "The flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years. For millions of years the sheep have been eating them just the same. And is it not a matter of consequence to try to understand why the flowers go to so much trouble to grow thorns which are never of any use to them? Is the warfare between the sheep and the flowers not important? Is this not of more consequence than a fat red-faced gentleman's sums? And if I know -- I, myself -- one flower which is unique in the world, which grows nowhere but on my planet, but which one little sheep can destroy in a single bite some morning, without even noticing what he is doing -- Oh! You think that is not important!"

  His face turned from white to red as he continued: "If some one loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself, 'Somewhere, my flower is there...' But if the sheep eats the flower, in one moment all his stars will be darkened... And you think that is not important!"

  He could not say anything more. His words were choked by sobbing.

  The night had fallen. I had let my tools drop from my hands. Of what moment now was my hammer, my bolt, or thirst, or death? On one star, one planet, my planet, the Earth, there was a little prince to be comforted. I took him in my arms, and rocked him. I said to him: "The flower that you love is not in danger. I will draw you a muzzle for your sheep. I will draw you a railing to put around your flower. I will -- "

  I did not know what to say to him. I felt awkward and blundering. I did not know how I could reach him, where I could overtake him and go on hand in hand with him once more.

  It is such a secret place, the land of tears.


  I soon learned to know this flower better. On the little prince's planet the flowers had always been very simple. They had only one ring of petals; they took up no room at all; they were a trouble to nobody. One morning they would appear in the grass, and by night they would have faded peacefully away. But one day, from a seed blown from no one knew where, a new flower had come up; and the little prince had watched very closely over this small sprout which was not like any other small sprouts on his planet. It might, you see, have been a new kind of baobab.

  The shrub soon stopped growing, and began to get ready to produce a flower. The little prince, who was present at the first appearance of a huge bud, felt at once that some sort of miraculous apparition must emerge from it. But the flower was not satisfied to complete the preparations for her beauty in the shelter of her green chamber. She chose her colors with the greatest care. She dressed herself slowly. She adjusted her petals one by one. She did not wish to go out into the world all rumpled, like the field poppies. It was only in the full radiance of her beauty that she wished to appear. Oh, yes! She was a coquettish creature! And her mysterious adornment lasted for days and days.

  Then one morning, exactly at sunrise, she suddenly showed herself.

  And, after working with all this painstaking precision, she yawned and said:

  "Ah! I am scarcely awake. I
beg that you will excuse me. My petals are still all disarranged..."

  But the little prince could not restrain his admiration:

  "Oh! How beautiful you are!"

  "Am I not?" the flower responded, sweetly. "And I was born at the same moment as the sun..."

  The little prince could guess easily enough that she was not any too modest -- but how moving -- and exciting -- she was!

  "I think it is time for breakfast," she added an instant later. "If you would have the kindness to think of my needs..."

  And the little prince, completely abashed, went to look for a sprinkling-can of fresh water. So, he tended the flower. So, too, she began very quickly to torment him with her vanity -- which was, if the truth be known, a little difficult to deal with. One day, for instance, when she was speaking of her four thorns, she said to the little prince:

  "Let the tigers come with their claws!"

  "There are no tigers on my planet," the little prince objected. "And, anyway, tigers do not eat weeds."

  "I am not a weed," the flower replied, sweetly.

  "Please excuse me..."

  "I am not at all afraid of tigers," she went on, "but I have a horror of drafts. I suppose you wouldn't have a screen for me?"

  "A horror of drafts -- that is bad luck, for a plant," remarked the little prince, and added to himself, "This flower is a very complex creature..."

  "At night I want you to put me under a glass globe. It is very cold where you live. In the place I came from -- "

  But she interrupted herself at that point. She had come in the form of a seed. She could not have known anything of any other worlds. Embarrassed over having let herself be caught on the verge of such a naive untruth, she coughed two or three times, in order to put the little prince in the wrong.

  "The screen?"

  "I was just going to look for it when you spoke to me..."

  Then she forced her cough a little more so that he should suffer from remorse just the same. So the little prince, in spite of all the good will that was inseparable from his love, had soon come to doubt her. He had taken seriously words which were without importance, and it made him very unhappy.

  "I ought not to have listened to her," he confided to me one day. "One never ought to listen to the flowers. One should simply look at them and breathe their fragrance. Mine perfumed all my planet. But I did not know how to take pleasure in all her grace. This tale of claws, which disturbed me so much, should only have filled my heart with tenderness and pity."

  And he continued his confidences:

  "The fact is that I did not know how to understand anything! I ought to have judged by deeds and not by words. She cast her fragrance and her radiance over me. I ought never to have run away from her... I ought to have guessed all the affection that lay behind her poor little stratagems. Flowers are so inconsistent! But I was too young to know how to love her ..."


  I believe that for his escape he took advantage of the migration of a flock of wild birds. On the morning of his departure he put his planet in perfect order. He carefully cleaned out his active volcanoes. He possessed two active volcanoes; and they were very convenient for heating his breakfast in the morning. He also had one volcano that was extinct. But, as he said, "One never knows!" So he cleaned out the extinct volcano, too. If they are well cleaned out, volcanoes burn slowly and steadily, without any eruptions. Volcanic eruptions are like fires in a chimney.

  On our earth we are obviously much too small to clean out our volcanoes. That is why they bring no end of trouble upon us. The little prince also pulled up, with a certain sense of dejection, the last little shoots of the baobabs. He believed that he would never want to return. But on this last morning all these familiar tasks seemed very precious to him. And when he watered the flower for the last time, and prepared to place her under the shelter of h er glass globe, he realized that he was very close to tears.

  "Goodbye," he said to the flower.

  But she made no answer.

  "Goodbye," he said


  The flower coughed. But it was not because she had a cold.

  "I have been silly," she said to him, at last. "I ask your forgiveness. Try to be happy..."

  He was surprised by this absence of reproaches. He stood there all bewildered, the glass globe held arrested in mid-air. He did not understand this quiet sweetness.

  "Of course I love you," the flower said to him. "It is my fault that you have not known it all the while. That is of no importance. But you -- you have been just as foolish as I. Try to be happy... Let the glass globe be. I don't want it any more."

  "But the wind -- "

  "My cold is not so bad as all that... The cool night air will do me good. I am a flower."

  "But the animals -- "

  "Well, I must endure the presence of two or three caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies. It seems that they are very beautiful. And if not the butterflies -- and the caterpillars -- who will call upon me? You will be far away... As for the large animals -- I am not at all afraid of any of them. I have my claws."

  And, naively, she showed her four thorns. Then she added: "Don't linger like this. You have decided to go away. Now go!"

  For she did not want him to see her crying. She was such a proud flower.


  He found himself in the neighborhood of the asteroids 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, and 330. He began, therefore, by visiting them, in order to add to his knowledge.

  The first of them was inhabited by a king. Clad in royal purple and ermine, he was seated upon a throne which was at the same time both simple and majestic.

  "Ah! Here is a subject," exclaimed the king, when he saw the little prince coming.

  And the little prince asked himself:

  "How could he recognize me when he had never seen me before?"

  He did not know how the world is simplified for kings. To them, all men are subjects.

  "Approach, so that I may see you better," said the king, who felt consumingly proud of being at last a king over somebody.

  The little prince looked everywhere to find a place to sit down; but the entire planet was crammed and obstructed by the king's magnificent ermine robe. So he remained standing upright, and, since he was tired, he yawned.

  "It is contrary to etiquette to yawn in the presence of a king," the monarch said to him. "I forbid you to do so."

  "I can't help it. I can't stop myself," replied the little prince, thoroughly embarrassed. "I have come on a long journey, and I have had no sleep..."

  "Ah, then," the king said. "I order you to yawn. It is years since I have seen anyone yawning. Yawns, to me, are objects of curiosity. Come, now! Yawn again! It is an order."

  "That frightens me... I cannot, any more..." murmured the little prince, now completely abashed.

  "Hum! Hum!" replied the king. "Then I -- I order you sometimes to yawn and sometimes to -- "

  He sputtered a little, and seemed vexed.

  For what the king fundamentally insisted upon was that his authority should be respected. He tolerated no disobedience. He was an absolute monarch. But, because he was a very good man, he made his orders reasonable.

  "If I ordered a general," he would say, by way of example, "if I ordered a general to change himself into a sea bird, and if the general did not obey me, that would not be the fault of the general. It would be my fault."

  "May I sit down?" came now a timid inquiry from the little prince.

  "I order you to do so," the king answered him, and majestically gathered in a fold of his ermine mantle.

  But the little prince was wondering... The planet was tiny. Over what could this king really rule?

  "Sire," he said to him, "I beg that you will excuse my asking you a question -- "

  "I order you to ask me a question," the king hastened to assure him.

  "Sire -- over what do you rule?"

  "Over everything," said the king, with magnificent simplici

  "Over everything?"

  The king made a gesture, which took in his planet, the other planets, and all the stars.

  "Over all that?" asked the little prince.

  "Over all that," the king answered.

  For his rule was not only absolute: it was also universal.

  "And the stars obey you?"

  "Certainly they do," the king said. "They obey instantly. I do not permit insubordination."

  Such power was a thing for the little prince to marvel at. If he had been master of such complete authority, he would have been able to watch the sunset, not forty-four times in one day, but seventy-two, or even a hundred, or even two hundred times, without ever having to move his chair. And because he felt a bit sad as he remembered his little planet which he had forsaken, he plucked up his courage to ask the king a favor:

  "I should like to see a sunset... Do me that kindness... Order the sun to set..."

  "If I ordered a general to fly from one flower to another like a butterfly, or to write a tragic drama, or to change himself into a sea bird, and if the general did not carry out the order that he had received, which one of us would be in the wrong?" the king demanded. "The general, or myself?"

  "You," said the little prince firmly.

  "Exactly. One must require from each one the duty which each one can perform," the king went on. "Accepted authority rests first of all on reason. If you ordered your people to go and throw themselves into the sea, they would rise up in revolution. I have the right to require obedience because my orders are reasonable."

  "Then my sunset?" the little prince reminded him: for he never forgot a question once he had asked it.

  "You shall have your sunset. I shall command it. But, according to my science of government, I shall wait until conditions are favorable."

  "When will that be?" inquired the little prince.