“The Little Prince” turns 75 in 2018

Text: Solveig Hansen, 2018

200 million books sold. 300 official translations. 400 million readers. The figures speak for themselves. 2018 marks the 75th anniversary of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.

Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “The Little Prince”

Grown-ups always need explanations, the narrator in The Little Prince says. Once, when he was six, he saw a picture of a boa constrictor swallowing a wild animal. With this picture in mind, he made his first drawing:

littleprince1

The grown-ups thought it was a hat, when in fact it was a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. He then made another drawing to simplify things for them:

littleprince2

They advised him to put away his drawings and become something useful instead. He became a pilot but remained unimpressed by grown-ups. He still showed them his first boa restrictor drawing, and they always said it was a hat.

Later, when the little prince asks him to draw a sheep, he draws a box and explains that the sheep is inside it. Obvious, isn’t it? They both think so.

littleprince

Delightful storytelling
The tone is set in the preamble, where Antoine de Saint-Exupéry dedicates the book to his good friend Léon Werth, but because the book is a children’s book and Werth is a grown-up, he dedicates it “To Léon Werth, when he was a little boy.” This thoughtful dedication must be one of the best ever:

To Leon Werth

I ask children to forgive me for dedicating this book to a grown-up. I have a serious excuse: this grown-up is the best friend I have in the world. I have another excuse: this grown-up can understand everything, even books for children. I have a third excuse: he lives in France where he is hungry and cold. He needs to be comforted. If all these excuses are not enough then I want to dedicate this book to the child whom this grown-up once was. All grown-ups were children first. (But few of them remember it.) So I correct my dedication:

To Léon Werth,
When he was a little boy

Happy 75, The Little Prince!

littleprince_cover

The 75th Anniversary edition of The Little Prince, featuring a new cover and the history and making of the story, including a biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

 
Photo: Pixabay.com

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