Le Petit Prince, was written and first published in 1943 in the US in English and in French. The author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was living in the US in exile from France at the time, after the armistice between France and Germany during World War II.
I read Le Petit Prince in French for the first time about 16 years ago while we were living in France. I could not remember details, but I just remember that I liked it. This was just prior to the birth of my son. My son is reading this book in his French class in high school this week and will likely write a very thoughtful essay in French on the topic. One of his homework questions was, “What does the box represent?” Meanwhile I’ll just tell you about a few of my favourite parts. I read it in French the second time and liked it the second time too.
My French was a little rusty and I was constantly looking up words. One word that surprised me was “crépuscule”. What do you suppose that could mean? Something crusty, crispy maybe, something bodily like a component of blood or some skin affliction? But actually, it means twilight. My kids who are in French Immersion did not know this one, but my daughter did recognize it when she heard it at the Remembrance Day assembly last week. It is in the French translation of Sunset Boulevard, Boulevard du Crépuscule and there is a group of circus performers in Quebec, Flip FabriQue who recently put on a show called Crépuscule.
I love the beginning of the book where the pilot describes the only two drawings that he had done up until meeting the prince. When the pilot was six years old he drew a boa constrictor who had just eaten an elephant – drawing #1 and the same image, but from the inside – drawing #2.
He was advised to study grammar and geography and arithmetic instead. He had kept the drawings and used them as an experiment or test in later years to identify another adult who could see in the same way. He had hopes of identifying someone who he could become a friend. No adult had ever passed the test. When he met the prince who asked him for a drawing of a sheep, the prince immediately knew what the drawings were. After a few attempts at sheep that were rejected, this is when the drawing of the box comes up in the story.
Although this drawing of the box is done out of exasperation, one of the things it means for me is a trust in the viewer to fill the box with the perfect sheep, which the prince does, to the pilot’s surprise. I sometimes wonder if I am just sharing some awkward sheep drawings, (I’m sure some of my work fits into that category,) but to my surprise, my writing has been well received and I am grateful for the kind words that have come my way. Thank you for the encouragement! It is surprising to know that after you let something go, that it could in some mysterious way connect or fill something somewhere in someone somehow, or maybe not… but maybe yes, and it has sometimes happened!
So much is conveyed through images and short dialogs between this extraterrestrial little prince and those he meets. Adults are exposed as the strange, joyless and unattractive idiots we can become when we are isolated and self-absorbed as if on some tiny planet of our own. The little prince meets these lone adults that are seated or standing or repeating the same movement in one spot and living an unchanging script, like a poster adult for the “Sitting is the new smoking.” That’s just my view from asteroid of the yoga teacher. Here, you can see these characters and get a brief overview of the story.
Really you just need to read or re-read this book. Read it in English, or French or one of the 250 languages and dialects that it has been translated into, (German, Spanish, Swahili, Turkish just to name a few). It says so much, so well in a short illustrated novella that is entertaining to both children and adults. I just noticed that Le Petit Prince was recently made into an animated film that was released in France last summer and this winter Theatre Calgary’s production of The Little Prince – The Musical will be premiering in January 2016. It will probably be very easy to find a copy in the library or in the bookstore or here in English (the full text is shown if you click on each chapter summary) or here in French.
Lastly, one of my favourite reminders from the fox, who points out that adults often forget, that to see what is most important we need to see with our hearts. I’m keeping this book. It definitely sparks joy.
Images from the Le Petit Prince produced by www.ebooksgratuits.com