Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Book So Good it Makes my Heart Hurt a Little.

Written and drawn by Antoine De Saint-Exupery Translated from the French by Katherine Woods Harcourt, Brace, & World, Inc. 1943

With the holiday o' love in the not so distant past, I am still thinking of love stories and beloved books. The Little Prince is a beautiful tale, supposedly for children, but truly for all ages. It has wonderful fantastical moments involving a little prince from planet B612 and sheep and a desert, a flower and a fox. And it has beautiful and highly memorable artwork done by Antoine De Saint-Exupery, himself. The book is also rich with wonderful, thoughtful, quotations that resonate even outside the confines of the story. The entire book is available online here.

When the narrator of the story crashes in the Sahara desert he meets a little blonde boy who asks him to draw him a sheep. As the narrator and the readers gets to know him we learn the little prince comes from a small planet that he, alone, takes care of by making sure it is never taken over by the baobab trees. His life is changed one day by a rose with whom he falls in love, yet leaves because of a breach of trust. The little prince explores six other planets, each with a unique inhabitant and finally ends up on earth. At first the prince fails to meet any humans and is alone in the Sahara. Then he meets a snake, then a rose garden which depresses him because he felt his rose was the only one of its kind. He meets a fox who helps him to understand the important things in lofe and finally he encounters two unimpressive men. And then our narrator. The prince's time on earth was not in vain and he prepares to return home a wiser prince. The narrator's life is changed too and he hears the prince's laughter in the stars and asks that we watch for him, in case he ever returns.

The very first page of the book is one of my favorites. I love this bit:

I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked them whether the drawing frightened them. But they answered: "Frighten? Why should any one be frightened by a hat?" My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I made another drawing: I drew the inside of the boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly. They always need to have things explained.

I still remember my friend Tiffany showing me that picture, years ago, and asking me what I thought. I think, for her, it was a test of one's power of imagination, observation and the like. When I showed it to my mom, she dismissed the page with a wave, "Carmyn, you KNOW I hate snakes. Get that away from me!" I guess some of us can be grown up and see clearly.

And he went back to meet the fox.

Goodbye, he said.

Goodbye, said the fox. And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

What is essential is invisible to the eye, the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.

It is the time I have wasted for my rose--- said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

Men have forgotten this truth, said the fox. But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose.

I am responsible for my rose, the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

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