To Leon Werth
I ask the indulgence of the children who may read this book for dedicating it to a grown-up. I have a serious reason: he is the best friend I have in the world. I have another reason: this grown-up understands everything
even books about children. I have a third reason: he lives in France where he is hungry and cold. He needs cheering up. If all these reasons are not enough
I will dedicate the book to the child from whom this grown-up grew. All grown-ups were once children– although few of them remember it. And so I correct my dedication:
To Leon Werth when he was a little boy
[ Chapter 1 ] – we are introduced to the narrator, a pilot, and his ideas about grown-ups
Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing.
In the book it said: “Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing it. After that they are not able to move, and they sleep through the six months that they need for digestion.”
I pondered deeply, then, over the adventures of the jungle. And after some work with a colored pencil I succeeded in making my first drawing. My Drawing Number One. It looked like this:
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. My Drawing Number Two looked like this:
The grown-ups' response, this time, was to advise me to lay aside my drawings of boa constrictors, whether from the inside or the outside, and devote myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic and grammar. That is why, at the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent career as a painter. I had been disheartened by the failure of my Drawing Number One and my Drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.
So then I chose another profession, and learned to pilot airplanes. I have flown a little over all parts of the world; and it is true that geography has been very useful to me. At a glance I can distinguish China from Arizona. If one gets lost in the night, such knowledge is valuable.
In the course of this life I have had a great many encounters with a great many people who have been concerned with matters of consequence. I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn't much improved my opinion of them.
Whenever I met one of them who seemed to me at all clear-sighted, I tried the experiment of showing him my Drawing Number One, which I have always kept. I would try to find out, so, if this was a person of true understanding. But, whoever it was, he, or she, would always say:
“That is a hat.”
Then I would never talk to that person about boa constrictors, or primeval forests, or stars. I would bring myself down to his level. I would talk to him about bridge, and golf, and politics, and neckties. And the grown-up would be greatly pleased to have met such a sensible man.
[ Chapter 2 ] – the narrator crashes in the desert and makes the acquaintance of the little prince
So I lived my life alone, without anyone that I could really talk to, until I had an accident with my plane in the Desert of Sahara, six years ago. Something was broken in my engine. And as I had with me neither a mechanic nor any passengers, I set myself to attempt the difficult repairs all alone. It was a question of life or death for me: I had scarcely enough drinking water to last a week.
The first night, then, I went to sleep on the sand, a thousand miles from any human habitation. I was more isolated than a shipwrecked sailor on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Thus you can imagine my amazement, at sunrise, when I was awakened by an odd little voice. It said:
“If you please– draw me a sheep!”
“Draw me a sheep!”
I jumped to my feet, completely thunderstruck. I blinked my eyes hard. I looked carefully all around me. And I saw a most extraordinary small person, who stood there examining me with great seriousness. Here you may see the best potrait that, later, I was able to make of him. But my drawing is certainly very much less charming than its model.
That, however, is not my fault. The grown-ups discouraged me in my painter's career when I was six years old, and I never learned to draw anything, except boas from the outside and boas from the inside.
Now I stared at this sudden apparition with my eyes fairly starting out of my head in astonishment. Remember, I had crashed in the desert a thousand miles from any inhabited region. And yet my little man seemed neither to be straying uncertainly among the sands, nor to be fainting from fatigue or hunger or thirst or fear. Nothing about him gave any suggestion of a child lost in the middle of the desert, a thousand miles from any human habitation. When at last I was able to speak, I said to him:
“But– what are you doing here?”
And in answer he repeated, very slowly, as if he were speaking of a matter of great consequence: “If you please– draw me a sheep…”
When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey. Absurd as it might seem to me, a thousand miles from any human habitation and in danger of death, I took out of my pocket a sheet of paper and my fountain-pen. But then I remembered how my studies had been concentrated on geography, history, arithmetic, and grammar, and I told the little chap (a little crossly, too) that I did not know how to draw. He answered me:
“That doesn't matter. Draw me a sheep…”
But I had never drawn a sheep. So I drew for him one of the two pictures I had drawn so often. It was that of the boa constrictor from the outside. And I was astounded to hear the little fellow greet it with,
“No, no, no! I do not want an elephant inside a boa constrictor. A boa constrictor is a very dangerous creature, and an elephant is very cumbersome. Where I live, everything is very small. What I need is a sheep. Draw me a sheep.”
So then I made a drawing.
He looked at it carefully, then he said:
“No. This sheep is already very sickly. Make me another.”
So I made another drawing.
My friend smiled gently and indulgenty.
“You see yourself,” he said, “that this is not a sheep. This is a ram. It has horns.”
So then I did my drawing over once more.
But it was rejected too, just like the others.
“This one is too old. I want a sheep that will live a long time.”
By this time my patience was exhausted, because I was in a hurry to start taking my engine apart. So I tossed off this drawing.
And I threw out an explanation with it.
“This is only his box. The sheep you asked for is inside.”
I was very surprised to see a light break over the face of my young judge:
“That is exactly the way I wanted it! Do you think that this sheep will have to have a great deal of grass?”
“Because where I live everything is very small…”
“There will surely be enough grass for him,” I said. “It is a very small sheep that I have given you.”
He bent his head over the drawing:
“Not so small that– Look! He has gone to sleep…”
And that is how I made the acquaintance of the little prince.
[ Chapter 3 ] – the narrator learns more about from where the little prince came
It took me a long time to learn where he came from. The little prince, who asked me so many questions, never seemed to hear the ones I asked him. It was from words dropped by chance that, little by little, everything was revealed to me.
The first time he saw my airplane, for instance (I shall not draw my airplane; that would be much too complicated for me), he asked me:
“What is that object?”
“That is not an object. It flies. It is an airplane. It is my airplane.”
And I was proud to have him learn that I could fly.
He cried out, then:
“What! You dropped down from the sky?”
“Yes,” I answered, modestly.
“Oh! That is funny!”
And the little prince broke into a lovely peal of laughter, which irritated me very much. I like my misfortunes to be taken seriously.
Then he added:
“So you, too, come from the sky! Which is your planet?”
At that moment I caught a gleam of light in the impenetrable mystery of his presence; and I demanded, abruptly:
“Do you come from another planet?”
But he did not reply. He tossed his head gently, without taking his eyes from my plane:
“It is true that on that you can't have come from very far away…”
And he sank into a reverie, which lasted a long time. Then, taking my sheep out of his pocket, he buried himself in the contemplation of his treasure.
You can imagine how my curiosity was aroused by this half-confidence about the “other planets.” I made a great effort, therefore, to find out more on this subject.
“My little man, where do you come from? What is this 'where I live,' of which you speak? Where do you want to take your sheep?”
After a reflective silence he answered:
“The thing that is so good about the box you have given me is that at night he can use it as his house.”
“That is so. And if you are good I will give you a string, too, so that you can tie him during the day, and a post to tie him to.”
But the little prince seemed shocked by this offer:
“Tie him! What a queer idea!”
“But if you don't tie him,” I said, “he will wander off somewhere, and get lost.”
My friend broke into another peal of laughter:
“But where do you think he would go?”
“Anywhere. Straight ahead of him.”
Then the little prince said, earnestly:
“That doesn't matter. Where I live, everything is so small!”
And, with perhaps a hint of sadness, he added:
“Straight ahead of him, nobody can go very far…”
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
当我还只有六岁的时候，在一本描写原始森林的名叫《真实的故事》的书中， 看到了一副精彩的插画，画的是一条蟒蛇正在吞食一只大野兽。页头上就是那副 画的摹本。
大人们劝我把这些画着开着肚皮的，或闭上肚皮的蟒蛇的图画放在一边，还 是把兴趣放在地理、历史、算术、语法上。就这样，在六岁的那年，我就放弃了 当画家这一美好的职业。我的第一号、第二号作品的不成功，使我泄了气。这些 大人们，靠他们自己什么也弄不懂，还得老是不断地给他们作解释。这真叫孩子 们腻味。
后来，我只好选择了另外一个职业，我学会了开飞机，世界各地差不多都飞 到过。的确，地理学帮了我很大的忙。我一眼就能分辨出中国和亚里桑那。要是 夜里迷失了航向，这是很有用的。
这样，在我的生活中，我跟许多严肃的人有过很多的接触。我在大人们中间 生活过很长时间。我仔细地观察过他们，但这并没有使我对他们的看法有多大的 改变。
当我遇到一个头脑看来稍微清楚的大人时，我就拿出一直保存着的我那第一 号作品来测试测试他。我想知道他是否真的有理解能力。可是，得到的回答总是： “这是顶帽子。”我就不和他谈巨蟒呀，原始森林呀，或者星星之类的事。我只 得迁就他们的水平，和他们谈些桥牌呀，高尔夫球呀，政治呀，领带呀这些。于 是大人们就十分高兴能认识我这样一个通情达理的人。
我就这样孤独地生活着，没有一个能真正谈得来的人，一直到六年前在撒哈 拉沙漠上发生了那次故障。我的发动机里有个东西损坏了。当时由于我既没有带 机械师也没有带旅客，我就试图独自完成这个困难的维修工作。这对我来说是个 生与死的问题。我随身带的水只够饮用一星期。
第一天晚上我就睡在这远离人间烟火的大沙漠上。我比大海中伏在小木排上 的遇难者还要孤独得多。而在第二天拂晓，当一个奇怪的小声音叫醒我的时候， 你们可以想见我当时是多么吃惊。这小小的声音说道：
我象是受到惊雷轰击一般，一下子就站立起来。我使劲地揉了揉眼睛，仔细 地看了看。我看见一个十分奇怪的小家伙严肃地朝我凝眸望着。这是后来我给他 画出来的最好的一副画像。可是，我的画当然要比他本人的模样逊色得多。这不 是我的过错。六岁时，大人们使我对我的画家生涯失去了勇气，除了画过开着肚 皮和闭着肚皮的蟒蛇，后来再没有学过画。
我惊奇地睁大着眼睛看着这突然出现的小家伙。你们不要忘记，我当时处在 远离人烟千里之外的地方。而这个小家伙给我的印象是，他既不象迷了路的样子， 也没有半点疲乏、饥渴、惧怕的神情。他丝毫不象是一个迷失在旷无人烟的大沙 漠中的孩子。当我在惊讶之中终于又能说出话来的时候，对他说道：
当一种神秘的东西把你镇住的时候，你是不敢不听从它的支配的，在这旷无 人烟的沙漠上，面临死亡的危险的情况下，尽管这样的举动使我感到十分荒诞， 我还是掏出了一张纸和一支钢笔。这时我却又记起，我只学过地理、历史、算术 和语法，就有点不大高兴地对小家伙说我不会画画。他回答我说：
我费了好长时间才弄清楚他是从哪里来的。小王子向我提出了很多问题，可 是，对我提出的问题，他好象压根没有听见似的。他无意中吐露的一些话逐渐使我搞清了他的来历。例如，当他第一次瞅见我的飞机时（我就不画出我的飞机了， 因为这种图画对我来说太复杂），他问我道：