Imagine being able to watch the sun set forty-three times in one day, heating your breakfast over a volcano, and hitching an interplanetary ride with a flock of birds. Mere details in the life of the Little Prince, the questing innocent who drops to Earth from the stars, in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s famous fable. Celebrating its 75th anniversary, this edition has been translated by the always excellent Michael Morpurgo.
In this, his first outing as a translator, he is tasked with conveying the philosophical depths of this beautiful story for ‘children and grown-up children.’ One of the bestselling French books of all time, there can’t be many adults unfamiliar with the golden-haired visitor from asteroid B-612.
On the opening page, we meet our narrator, a pilot who has crash landed in the desert. The Little Prince appears to him at dawn, the bearer of a fantastical tale. He has travelled from his home on a far-flung asteroid, where he lives alone with a single rose. This rose is crucial to the plot. Her proud and haughty nature has tormented the prince, forcing him to take flight in search of a new home.
On his travels, the prince has encountered various characters, each of whom represents a dark trait. A king on a power trip, the businessman on a mission to own the very stars in the sky. The narrator and the prince share a certain clarity of vision. They both understand that passing years and circumstance can deceive, and make us blind to what is truly essential in life. Too many grown-ups have ‘put away childish things.’
The prince becomes stricken by the memory of his beautiful, abandoned rose. She is both treasure and burden, and he is compelled to return to her, although does not know how. A desert snake, vibrant and venomous, provides the ultimate solution. A sensitive translation of this rich, allegorical tale opens up a world of philosophical thought.
A delightful gift.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and translated by Michael Morpurgo is published by Vintage Children’s Classics, 96 pages.