Only a couple of weeks ago I shared my all time favourite children’s classics with you. This list included Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and Charlotte’s Web, among a couple of other special titles. I was very selective in my choices, and thought long and hard about which books took me on the most significant journeys and which characters still warm my heart. The Little Prince did not receive a mention.
This is because I was only introduced to his story this week, and I am so very, very grateful that I found The Little Prince at this stage of my life. Having explored Earth and beyond with him, I would now place his tale not only at the top of my list of timeless children’s classics, but at the top of my list of all time favourite literature.
Le Petite Prince or The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. Written by Antoine De Saint-Exupery during his time of exile in America, the story is thought to be a fictional autobiography of the extraordinary challenges he faced during his life.
The Little Prince is a perfect example of the transient nature of children’s literature. Had I read this book as a child, the quirky sketches of baby elephants and baobabs would have intrigued me, and the loving story between a boy and his precious rose would have made me clutch my childhood teddy a little closer.
However, there is so much of this precious story that I would have missed. My tiny mind wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the sadness and sacrifice that the Little Prince experienced, nor would I have been able to comprehend the very wise words of ‘my friend the fox’ he says:
What is essential is invisible to the eye."
As a child, I would not have believed this to be true. My essentials included my toy rabbit, my warm and cosy bed, and most importantly my mum. Without these essentials, I would have been lost and afraid. As a young adult I can now understand that an object without meaning is nothing but a useless object.
It’s the security, love and stability that these precious things offered me that was most important. To someone else my adored ‘Rabsy’ would only have been a tired looking toy rabbit. To me, he was a hero, a best friend, and a companion.
The Little Prince offers a universe seen through the simplicity of a child’s eyes. He meets a variety of adults who are ‘decidedly very odd,’ my personal favourite being ‘the very serious, and precise businessman.’ This particular character owns all of the stars in the night sky, and makes it his life’s mission to continue counting the stars so that he can deposit them into the bank.
The Little Prince declares that his job is rather amusing, but not very serious at all, for he is of no use to the stars. In comparison The Little Prince who owns a flower and feeds her water everyday has a much more serious job, as she needs his assistance to continue growing,
This is only one section of the delightful story that encourages us to reflect on our roles in the world. I felt akin to the very serious businessman, in that I, like a lot of adults have spent a large proportion of my years bent over books, trying not to make mistakes in the hope of gaining good grades or money to satisfy my materialistic needs.
However, it is only in the last year that I have truly felt rewarded for my efforts, and that isn’t as a student or as an employee, but as a nanny - as a minder and protector of children. Taking care of someone other than myself gives me the greatest joy and has finally made me feel as though my role in the world is something of value.
I have always suspected that children are the wisest of us all, and after reading The Little Prince I am now convinced that this is indeed the case. As children we come into the world with open minds and open hearts. We are able to appreciate things for what they truly are, without needing to question every last detail before feeling satisfied. If a child is hungry he eats, if he is sad he cries and if he is tired he sleeps."
As an adult I have been known to deprive myself of these ‘luxuries’ because sometimes doing what we want, is simply not done. We make rules for ourselves and for each other that we follow in the hope of being responsible, civilised, serious people. On this endeavour we stop focusing on living and concentrate too much of our energy into being the people that we think others will admire.
If The Little Prince has taught me anything, it is that despite what adults say, the world can indeed be viewed in black and white. It is our mixing, muddling and over-thinking that creates the shades of grey we often see.
The author states: "Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children always and forever to be explaining themselves," this I must conquer, because I often exhaust myself.
I am so thankful to have read The Little Prince and to now fully realise that sometimes even if things don’t look right, or aren’t accepted as being right, so long as it feels right to me, that is what is most important.