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Remembering “The Little Prince”

Posted on Friday, September 15, 2023
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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Original oil painting The Little Prince and fox and Red Rose sitting on grass under starry sky. Colorful illustration.

I am not fond of the modern nonsense that passes as daily politics, so sometimes, I step aside. The other day, I re-read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. What could it teach that is still worth recalling? Turns out a lot.

In short, in real life, the author was a pilot in the 30s and early 40s.  As an intercontinental mail carrier, he crashed in the Libyan desert in 1935. He should have died, was seized with mirages, dehydrated, near death, then rescued by a Bedouin, whose camel strangely redirected him to intersect the crash site.

From that experience came an epic reflection, Wind Sand and Stars in 1939, and then – perhaps surprisingly – a volume for children, The Little Prince in 1942.

What is so special about that pithy book? How might it apply today? I can only begin to say. The tale involves a pilot crashing in a desert, meeting “a little prince” filled with other-worldly wisdom, a gentle critic of lives lived too fast.

Among the lessons “The Little Prince” teaches are these. Back on the prince’s little “asteroid” grows a rose. He loves the rose despite her vanity, pretensions, and judgments. He cares so much he protects her with a glass globe. In time, she resents his attention, so he leaves to explore the universe.

She says she does not need his globe. He wonders if he should have listened to her kinder actions, not her harsh words, but leaves to explore.

Visiting six planets before Earth, the little prince finds failed leaders, little “kings” consumed by power, giving into the human dispositions to issue orders (such as ordering the sun to rise and set), being admired, drowning sorrows in escapism, owning the stars, wasting short days, endlessly mapping for the sake of mapping. 

The last king suggests that some we meet are here only a short while; they are ephemeral, like his precious rose. The Little Prince pauses, then visits Earth.

Here, he finds many roses, yet none like his. As if to confirm his reflection, he meets a wild fox whom he loves and tames.

The fox explains: When you love and tame, everything changes, including responsibility. The little prince realizes those loved and who love are linked, never the same. His rose is not, nor is he, because of her. They have both changed.

Finally, the little prince – who has fictionally landed in the desert, met the author, and with him is dying of thirst, finds water. They are suddenly rejuvenated.

If you are still with me, a significant moment follows. The little blond-haired prince realizes he loves the rose and tells the narrator he must return to his home.

He tells the narrator not to worry and not to watch, as it will appear he is dying, but he is headed home, and all will be fine. The little prince is bitten by a snake and folds over.

The exact words used in The Little Prince are: “There was nothing but a flash of yellow close to his ankle. He remained motionless for an instant. He did not cry out. He fell as gently as a tree falls. There was not even any sound, because of the sand.”  The next morning, the little prince is gone. And there ends the fictional story.

So, here is the rest. The crashed author was, in fact, rescued. He wrote that children’s book, poignant. The book is still read. It reminds us of life’s journey, miracles, and other things, including caution about those who value power.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Antoine de Saint-Exupery had a little brother whom he loved, his early confidant. His brother had blond hair and grew sick, and Saint-Exupery stayed with him until the end.

In his diary, Saint-Exupery notes when his brother left, he “remained motionless for an instant…did not cry out…fell as gently as a young tree falls.”

The Little Prince showed up in 1942. But in 1943, 80 years ago, the aging author had another mission: saving France. He petitioned Dwight D. Eisenhower, then Supreme Allied Commander, WWII, to fly reconnaissance for the “Free French.”

Ike approved. The author began flying unarmed P-38 missions exactly 81 years ago this past week when he suddenly disappeared without a trace.

In 2004, his plane’s wreckage was found, and an aging German pilot confessed to the shootdown and to loving The Little Prince. Life is strange. The Little Prince is not about politics, not really, but worth pausing. Some of the best news is timeless.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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Digger 317
Digger 317
10 months ago

WOW. Some real haters commenting here. I read The Little Prince many years ago and have enjoyed re reading it many times. I also read Aristotle, Socrates, Sun Tzu, Shakespeare and many other authors & genres so I can learn, enjoy, ponder & get other points of view.
I have also enjoyed all of the articles written by Robert Charles. I believe that you don’t necessarily have to agree with everything in order to enjoy a book, a commentator, a journalist, a movie. You can always stop reading, watching or listening. Unfortunately too many people have stopped learning, listening or enjoying and live only to castigate, or complain. Keep up the good work Mr Charles.

SusanW
SusanW
10 months ago

Sorry! I just couldn’t resist! All well said, Robert. Thank you for highlighting this special, must read book. As an educator and lover of books, I have read it often. There are so many lifelong lessons to take away from reading it. It is not a book about politics, rather about being an active citizen of the world. Through the story of “the little prince” he warned of the dangers of narrow-mindedness and to be aware that everyone has different priorities. We are ALL different, but important. It’s imperative to keep an open mind regarding the opinions of others. The little prince explained that when “looking up at the stars”, they mean different things to different people. Always listen to your heart and be true to yourself. Don’t lump people together. We are all Americans who love our great country.
As a friend once quoted to me from “The Little Prince”. – “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly:what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
10 months ago

This description of “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint – Exupery is appreciated. Heard some reference to it occasionally, never read it. Some experience with the airplane crash in the desert in Libya in 1935 . The story has some significance for what is going on in the world at this time. Antoine de Saint – Exupery sure enough had courage , volunteering to fly as he did for the Free French . As you mentioned Robert “The Little Prince” is about life’s journey, miracles and caution about those who value power. A good example of exploring thoughts that can lead to new ideas, new territory to consider exploring . Thanks for writing this article Robert. Well Done !

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
10 months ago

Today the lefts idea of a children’s book has drawings of penises in it…

Rik
Rik
10 months ago

The Little Prince is a Fairy Tale just like when Jack*ss Joe Biden “promised” to “Unite this Country” IF ELECTED President!
So you can see: Fairy Tales ARE Fantasy!

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