When a pilot becomes stranded in the desert, he meets a little fellow who, as it turns out, is a prince from another planet! The pilot finds the prince a little strange at first, but as the prince explains why he left his planet and about his travels to other planets and the people he met along the way, the pilot becomes very fond of the him, and his entire worldview begins to shift as a result of knowing the little prince.
The Little Prince puts great emphasis on the importance of imagination and adventure, and the dangers of being too serious and narrow-minded. From the very beginning of the book, grown-ups are portrayed as preoccupied with “serious matters” like business and golf and politics, and with doing things in a prescribed way that is actually pretty silly when you think about it. It’s these “serious matters,” and an inability to think outside the box, that keep adults from a rich and full and enlightened existence. The prince has the open-mindedness and curiosity of a child, and through exploration, through asking questions of others and of himself, he’s able to glean what is really important in life. As the fox says, “anything essential is invisible to the eye,” and that proves to be the greatest difference between the way adults and children perceive the world.
Perhaps my favorite thing about The Little Prince is the way it approaches relationships. The grown-ups’ focus on “serious matters” keeps them relationally bankrupt in way because they’re unable to break free from their routines, and thus unable to really invest in another person. The book posits, however, that relationships are of the utmost importance in this world, and that they require effort and time and giving of yourself to another person to maintain them. When the prince meets a fox, the fox explains to him what it means to be tamed:
“It’s something that’s been too often neglected. It means ‘to create ties’…”
“‘To create ties’?”
“That’s right,” the fox said. “For me you’re only a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. For you I’m only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, we’ll need each other. You’ll be the only boy in the world for me. I’ll be the only fox in the world for you…”
The fox goes on to explain how through certain rites, their lives will start to be enriched by each other, and that the time they spend on their relationship is what will make it important and special. “You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed,” the fox tells the prince. Relationships take work and sacrifice, but in the end, you’ve cultivated a connection with another person that isn’t easily broken, and when you care for someone, you want to be responsible for them. If that’s not a poignant sentiment for the ages, I don’t know what is.
The Little Prince is truly one of the most profound books I’ve ever read, and after reading it, I aspire to see the world and people like the prince does. This is a story that begs to be shared, so I encourage you: read this book.