The Little Prince or Le Petit Prince is supposedly a children’s book. However, it has many different and surprising levels of meaning. It may be a simple fairy tale but it hides profound philosophical observations on life.
A publishing phenomenon, the book is the most read and most translated book in the French language. It was voted the best book of the 20th century in France. Translated into more than 250 languages, it has sold over a million copies each year. Sales of this little book are over 200 million worldwide since it’s release in 1943. Le Petit Prince is one of the best selling books ever published.
The author of this magical tale is the French aristocrat writer, poet and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. A laureate of several of France’s highest literary awards, he was a reserve military pilot at the start of the Second World War. Saint-Exupéry wrote and illustrated the manuscript while exiled in the United States after the fall of France.
He was overseas on a personal mission to convince the US government to quickly enter the war against Nazi Germany. During this time, he was dealing with difficult personal times and failing health. He began to write. The result is this gentle tale of loneliness, friendship, love and loss, in the form of a young prince fallen to Earth.
Most likely, he drew on his aviation experiences in the Sahara desert to create some of the plot elements in The Little Prince.
Saint-Exupéry weaves many beautiful life philosophies into his tale such as the words the fox says on meeting the young prince during his travels on earth.
“On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” Or “One only sees clearly with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
The book’s simple, elegant water-colour illustrations which add so much to the story, were painted by Saint-Exupéry. Although he initially studied architecture, he certainly wasn’t considered an artist. Anyone who has read Le Petit Prince will remember how, at the beginning of the story, he delightfully makes fun of what adults regard as successful drawing.
Le Petit Prince is loved by young and old. For many, it takes pride of place in their favourite book list. If you love the story, you might like your very own Le Petit Prince shopping bag available in our online shop.
Museums and Exhibits Across the World
- Le Bourget, Paris. The Air and Space Museum of France established a special exhibit honoring Saint-Exupéry. It displays many of his literary creations. Among them are various early editions of The Little Prince. Remnants of the aircraft in which he disappeared are also on view. They were recovered from the Mediterranean in 2004.
- Hakone, Japan. The Museum of The Little Prince features outdoor squares and sculptures. You’ll see the B-612 Asteroid, the Lamplighter Square and a sculpture of the Little Prince. In the museum grounds there is a Little Prince Park featuring the Consuelo Rose Garden.
- Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. An imitation French village has adapted the story elements of The Little Prince into its architecture and monuments. There are several sculptures of the story’s characters. The village also offers overnight housing in some of the French-style homes.
- Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 2009 the giant Oca Art Exhibition Centre presented The Year of France and The Little Prince. The displays examined the book’s philosophies. Visitors passed through theme areas of the dessert, different worlds, stars and the cosmos.
- Fuglebjerg, Denmark. In 1996 the Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot unveiled an artistic arrangement of seven blocks of granite asteroids ‘floating’ in a circle around a 2-metre tall planet Earth. The artistic universe was populated by bronze sculpture figures that the little prince met on his journeys. The work was completed at the start of 1996 and placed in the central square. Sadly, in 2011, it was stolen from an exhibition in Billund.