Okay, you may be thinking, “Of course The Little Prince is an amazing book! But why are you bringing it up now? Have you been living under a rock?” Well, yes? I was unaware of the virtue and beauty of this novel for much of my life.
That is, until until I read it for the first time nearly two years ago when I went to Seoul, South Korea. What does that have to do with The Little Prince? Well, I’ll tell you.
Back in 2018, I moved to Korea to teach English to a group of adorable 6-year-olds. While I was there, I enjoyed a plethora of art museums, shopping areas, and delicious treats. Interestingly enough, as I happily shopped, I came across several notebooks and wallets decorated with images from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. The first thought I had when seeing them was of my high school friends who read it as part of their curriculum for French class. If only those friends had told me to read it then.
The images of The Little Prince on stationery didn’t stop there. I also found earrings and tapestries featuring the beloved main character. Not too long after that, I visited the Dear My Little Prince exhibit at Korean Museum of Contemporary Art. It contained a series of rooms modeled after the different planets in The Little Prince as well as some beautiful neon signs and dreamy fixtures. The exhibit had many areas that were perfect for taking pictures which I enjoyed immensely. If you’d like to see a few pictures of the exhibit, check them out here. After attending the exhibit and perhaps before, it was decided: I had to get my hands on a copy and read it as soon as possible. And I did.
Reading The Little Prince
Reading it as an adult is probably a different experience than reading it as a teen or middle schooler. I remember how I felt reading it so vividly. It evoked the more childlike qualities that I possess—that is, my curiosity and wonder. It brought me closer to the mindset of my students who encompassed these characteristics most vibrantly. Reading it while teaching reminded me how nurturing a child’s natural curiosity shouldn’t just be a positive side effect of education, but rather a priority and goal.
After leaving Seoul and returning to the United States, I’ve had my fair share of difficulty navigating the events of 2020. The last year or so has brought new challenges, a notable one being the dreary environment that we are operating in. Like others, I’ve found myself inside more and away from loved ones. So what has given me a helping hand and refreshed my mind? Why, The Little Prince of course.
Rereading The Little Prince has been one of the best decisions I’ve made so far during this pandemic. Over the course of a week and a half, I read one chapter before I went to sleep. This time around I read a different version of the book that has a new translation by Juok Yoon and illustrations by Minji Kim.
Not only was it soothing, but it gave me time to dwell on certain ideas. It took me from my current situation and transported me far away to a little star of my own. When I got to the end, I still couldn’t hold back the tears.
With that in mind, here are three messages from The Little Prince that I hold in my heart during stressful times.
1. What is Important in Life
As the little prince travels from planet to planet, he runs into a collection of characters that represent follies we often encounter and exhibit as adults. One such example is when the little prince goes to the second planet where Mr. Conceited lives. After Mr. Conceited asks the little prince if he admires him, the prince replies,
“I admire you” while “shrugging his shoulders slightly, wondering to himself what difference it could make…He thought to himself, as he traveled, that the grown-ups were certainly very strange” (73).De Saint-Exupery, Antoine. The Little Prince. Translated by Juok Yoon. Indigo, 2015.
These days I often focus on things that matter, but I also can get caught up in things that waste my time and drain my spirit. In this way, us grown-ups are indeed very very strange.
2. To Care For My Loved Ones
Second, it shows me how I need to care for and hold on tightly to those who are dear to me. What better representation of this than our little prince and his flower? After the little prince finds out that there are more roses than his rose, he becomes sad. Later, when he meets the fox, he revisits the garden of roses and realizes the value of his singular rose.
“Of course, my own rose, an ordinary passer-by would think she looks just like you. However, she is much more important than all of you combined, because it is her that I have watered. Because it is over her that I have placed a glass globe” (121).De Saint-Exupery, Antoine. The Little Prince. Translated by Juok Yoon. Indigo, 2015.
In the same way, I want to take care of those that are most important to me. They may be just another stranger or person in the vast sea of people, but they’re mine and that is everything.
3. We Are Not Alone
Third and most of all, the little prince and pilot have demonstrated that even when apart, we are not alone. In the end, when the little prince is gone and the pilot moves on, the prince is still there, shining brightly in the sky.
“When you look at the sky at night, because I live on one of the stars, because I shall laugh on one of them, it will be as if all the stars were laughing!…And when you are consoled…you will be happy because you have known me. You will be my friend forever” (150).De Saint-Exupery, Antoine. The Little Prince. Translated by Juok Yoon. Indigo, 2015.
Even when distance and time don’t allow you to be with the ones you love, that love is still there. The support and care may be farther away, but it isn’t gone. Sometimes it just takes a little extra effort to reconnect or strengthen what’s hard to see.
If your eyes have danced along the pages of The Little Prince before, perhaps you could find joy twirling with the imagery once more. If you’ve never delighted in the tale of our dear prince, I encourage you to take a peek into his little world. It may bring some comfort to your own.
After all, I think we all could use a little bit of wonder these days, right?
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