[ Chapter 4 ] – the narrator speculates as to which asteroid from which the little prince came
I had thus learned a second fact of great importance: this was that the planet the little prince came from was scarcely any larger than a house!
But that did not really surprise me much. I knew very well that in addition to the great planets– such as the Earth, Jupiter, Mars, Venus– to which we have given names, there are also hundreds of others, some of which are so small that one has a hard time seeing them through the telescope. When an astronomer discovers one of these he does not give it a name, but only a number. He might call it, for example, “Asteroid 325.”
I have serious reason to believe that the planet from which the little prince came is the asteroid known as B-612.
This asteroid has only once been seen through the telescope. That was by a Turkish astronomer, in 1909.
On making his discovery, the astronomer had presented it to the International Astronomical Congress, in a great demonstration. But he was in Turkish costume, and so nobody would believe what he said.
Grown-ups are like that…
Fortunately, however, for the reputation of Asteroid B-612, a Turkish dictator made a law that his subjects, under pain of death, should change to European costume. So in 1920 the astronomer gave his demonstration all over again, dressed with impressive style and elegance. And this time everybody accepted his report.
If I have told you these details about the asteroid, and made a note of its number for you, it is on account of the grown-ups and their ways. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.
If you were to say to the grown-ups: “I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof,” they would not be able to get any idea of that house at all. You would have to say to them: “I saw a house that cost $20,000.” Then they would exclaim: “Oh, what a pretty house that is!”
Just so, you might say to them: “The proof that the little prince existed is that he was charming, that he laughed, and that he was looking for a sheep. If anybody wants a sheep, that is a proof that he exists.” And what good would it do to tell them that? They would shrug their shoulders, and treat you like a child. But if you said to them: “The planet he came from is Asteroid B-612,” then they would be convinced, and leave you in peace from their questions.
They are like that. One must not hold it against them. Children should always show great forbearance toward grown-up people.
But certainly, for us who understand life, figures are a matter of indifference. I should have liked to begin this story in the fashion of the fairy-tales. I should have like to say: “Once upon a time there was a little prince who lived on a planet that was scarcely any bigger than himself, and who had need of a sheep…”
To those who understand life, that would have given a much greater air of truth to my story.
For I do not want any one to read my book carelessly. I have suffered too much grief in setting down these memories. Six years have already passed since my friend went away from me, with his sheep. If I try to describe him here, it is to make sure that I shall not forget him. To forget a friend is sad. Not every one has had a friend. And if I forget him, I may become like the grown-ups who are no longer interested in anything but figures…
It is for that purpose, again, that I have bought a box of paints and some pencils. It is hard to take up drawing again at my age, when I have never made any pictures except those of the boa constrictor from the outside and the boa constrictor from the inside, since I was six. I shall certainly try to make my portraits as true to life as possible. But I am not at all sure of success. One drawing goes along all right, and another has no resemblance to its subject. I make some errors, too, in the littl e prince's height: in one place he is too tall and in another too short. And I feel some doubts about the color of his costume. So I fumble along as best I can, now good, now bad, and I hope generally fair-to-middling.
In certain more important details I shall make mistakes, also. But that is something that will not be my fault. My friend never explained anything to me. He thought, perhaps, that I was like himself. But I, alas, do not know how to see sheep through t he walls of boxes. Perhaps I am a little like the grown-ups. I have had to grow old.
[ Chapter 5 ] – we are warned as to the dangers of the baobabs
As each day passed I would learn, in our talk, something about the little prince's planet, his departure from it, his journey. The information would come very slowly, as it might chance to fall from his thoughts. It was in this way that I heard, on the third day, about the catastrophe of the baobabs.
This time, once more, I had the sheep to thank for it. For the little prince asked me abruptly– as if seized by a grave doubt– “It is true, isn't it, that sheep eat little bushes?”
“Yes, that is true.”
“Ah! I am glad!”
I did not understand why it was so important that sheep should eat little bushes. But the little prince added:
“Then it follows that they also eat baobabs?”
I pointed out to the little prince that baobabs were not little bushes, but, on the contrary, trees as big as castles; and that even if he took a whole herd of elephants away with him, the herd would not eat up one single baobab.
The idea of the herd of elephants made the little prince laugh.
“We would have to put them one on top of the other,” he said.
But he made a wise comment:
“Before they grow so big, the baobabs start out by being little.”
“That is strictly correct,” I said. “But why do you want the sheep to eat the little baobabs?”
He answered me at once, “Oh, come, come!”, as if he were speaking of something that was self-evident. And I was obliged to make a great mental effort to solve this problem, without any assistance.
Indeed, as I learned, there were on the planet where the little prince lived– as on all planets– good plants and bad plants. In consequence, there were good seeds from good plants, and bad seeds from bad plants. But seeds are invisible. They sleep deep in the heart of the earth's darkness, until some one among them is seized with the desire to awaken. Then this little seed will stretch itself and begin– timidly at first– to push a charming little sprig inoffensively upward toward the sun. If it is only a sprout of radish or the sprig of a rose-bush, one would let it grow wherever it might wish. But when it is a bad plant, one must destroy it as soon as possible, the very first instant that one recognizes it.
Now there were some terrible seeds on the planet that was the home of the little prince; and these were the seeds of the baobab. The soil of that planet was infested with them. A baobab is something you will never, never be able to get rid of if you attend to it too late. It spreads over the entire planet. It bores clear through it with its roots. And if the planet is too small, and the baobabs are too many, they split it in pieces…
“It is a question of discipline,” the little prince said to me later on. “When you've finished your own toilet in the morning, then it is time to attend to the toilet of your planet, just so, with the greatest care. You must see to it that you pull up regularly all the baobabs, at the very first moment when they can be distinguished from the rosebushes which they resemble so closely in their earliest youth. It is very tedious work,” the little prince added, “but very easy.”
And one day he said to me: “You ought to make a beautiful drawing, so that the children where you live can see exactly how all this is. That would be very useful to them if they were to travel some day. Sometimes,” he added, “there is no harm in putting off a piece of work until another day. But when it is a matter of baobabs, that always means a catastrophe. I knew a planet that was inhabited by a lazy man. He neglected three little bushes…”
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.
[ Chapter 6 ] – the little prince and the narrator talk about sunsets
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, w hen 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.
这倒并没有使我感到太奇怪。我知道除地球、木星、火星、金星这几个有名 称的大行星以外，还有成百个别的星球，它们有的小得很，就是用望远镜也很难 看见。当一个天文学者发现了其中一个星星，他就给它编上一个号码，例如把它 称作“325小行星”。
幸好，土耳其的一个独裁者，为了小行星B612的声誉，迫使他的人民都要穿 欧式服装，否则就处以死刑。1920年，这位天文学家穿了一身非常漂亮的服装， 重新作了一次论证。这一次所有的人都同意他的看法。
我给你们讲关于小行星B612的这些细节，并且告诉你们它的编号，这是由于 这些大人的缘故。这些大人们就爱数目字。当你对大人们讲起你的一个新朋友时， 他们从来不向你提出实质性的问题。他们从来不讲：“他说话声音如何啊？他喜 爱什么样的游戏啊？他是否收集蝴蝶标本呀？”他们却问你：“他多大年纪呀？ 弟兄几个呀？体重多少呀？他父亲挣多少钱呀？”他们以为这样才算了解朋友。 如果你对大人们说：“我看到一幢用玫瑰色的砖盖成的漂亮的房子，它的窗户上 有天竺葵，屋顶上还有鸽子……”他们怎么也想象不出这种房子有多么好。必须对 他们说：“我看见了一幢价值十万法郎的房子。”那么他们就惊叫道：“多么漂 亮的房子啊！”
要是你对他们说：“小王子存在的证据就是他非常漂亮，他笑着，想要一只 羊。他想要一只小羊，这就证明他的存在。”他们一定会耸耸肩膀，把你当作孩 子看待！但是，如果你对他们说：“小王子来自的星球就是小行星B612”，那么 他们就十分信服，他们就不会提出一大堆问题来和你纠缠。他们就是这样的。小 孩子们对大人们应该宽厚些，不要埋怨他们。
我可不喜欢人们轻率地读我的书。我在讲述这些往事时心情是很难过的。我 的朋友带着他的小羊已经离去六年了。我之所以在这里尽力把他描写出来，就是 为了不要忘记他。忘记一个朋友，这太叫人悲伤了。并不是所有的人都有过一个 朋友。再说，我也可能变成那些大人那样，只对数字感兴趣。也正是为了这个缘 故，我买了一盒颜料和一些铅笔。象我这样年纪的人，而且除了六岁时画过闭着 肚皮的和开着肚皮的巨蟒外，别的什么也没有尝试过，现在，重新再来画画，真 费劲啊！当然，我一定要把这些画尽量地画得逼真，但我自己也没有把握。一张 画得还可以，另一张就不象了。还有身材大小，我画得有点不准确。在这个地方 小王子画得太大了些，另一个地方又画得太小了些。对他衣服的颜色我也拿不准。 于是我就摸索着这么试试那么改改，画个大概齐。我很可能在某些重要的细节上 画错了。这就得请大家原谅我了。因为我的这个朋友，从来也不加说明解释。他 认为我同他一样。可是，很遗憾，我却不能透过盒子看见小羊。我大概有点和大 人们差不多。我一定是变老了。
原来，在小王子的星球上就象其他所有星球上一样，有好草和坏草；因此， 也就有益草的草籽和毒草的草籽，可是草籽是看不见的。它们沉睡在泥土里，直 到其中的一粒忽然想要苏醒过来……于是它就伸展开身子，开始腼腆地朝着太阳长 出一棵秀丽可爱的小嫩苗。如果是小萝卜或是玫瑰的嫩苗，就让它去自由地生长。 如果是一棵坏苗，一旦被辨认出来，就应该马上把它拔掉。因为在小王子的星球 上，有些非常可怕的种子……这就是猴面包树的种子。在那里的泥土里，这种种子 多得成灾。而一棵猴面包树苗，假如你拔得太迟，就再也无法把它清除掉。它就 会盘踞整个星球。它的树根能把星球钻透，如果星球很小，而猴面包树很多，它 就把整个星球搞得支离破碎。
“这是个纪律问题。”小王子后来向我解释道。“当你早上梳洗完毕以后， 必须仔细地给星球梳洗，必须规定自己按时去拔掉猴面包树苗。这种树苗小的时 候与玫瑰苗差不多，一旦可以把它们区别开的时候，就要把它拔掉。这是一件非 常乏味的工作，但很容易。”
有一天，他劝我用心地画一副漂亮的图画，好叫我家乡的孩子们对这件事有 一个深刻的印象。他还对我说：“如果将来有一天他们出外旅行，这对他们是很 有用的。有时候，人们把自己的工作推到以后去做，并没有什么妨害，但要遇到 拔猴面包树苗这种事，那就非造成大灾难不可。我遇到过一个星球，上面住着一 个懒家伙，他放过了三棵小树苗……”
于是，根据小王子的说明，我把这个星球画了下来。我从来不大愿意以道学 家的口吻来说话，可是猴面包树的危险，大家都不大了解，对迷失在小行星上的 人来说，危险性非常之大，因此这一回，我贸然打破了我的这种不喜欢教训人的 惯例。我说：“孩子们，要当心那些猴面包树呀！”为了叫我的朋友们警惕这种 危险——他们同我一样长期以来和这种危险接触，却没有意识到它的危险性—— 我花了很大的功夫画了这副画。我提出的这个教训意义是很重大的，花点功夫是 很值得的。你们也许要问，为什么这本书中别的画都没有这副画那么壮观呢？回 答很简单：别的画我也曾经试图画得好些，却没成功。而当我画猴面包树时，有 一种急切的心情在激励着我。
啊！小王子，就这样，我逐渐懂得了你那忧郁的生活。过去相当长的时间里 你唯一的乐趣就是观赏那夕阳西下的温柔晚景。这个新的细节，是我在第四天早 晨知道的。你当时对我说道：
确实，大家都知道，在美国是正午时分，在法国，正夕阳西下，只要在一分 钟内赶到法国就可看到日落。可惜法国是那么的遥远。而在你那样的小行星上， 你只要把你的椅子挪动几步就行了。这样，你便可随时看到你想看的夕阳余辉……