1-Sentence-Summary: The Little Prince is a beautiful children’s story full of valuable lessons for adults, recounting the tale of an aviator and a little boy from a distant planet, both stranded in the desert, looking to get home, sharing what they’ve learned about life.
Read in: 4 minutes
Favorite quote from the author:
If you had to explain the big, complicated world of humans to a child, how would you do it? Would you open Wikipedia? Grab a textbook? Perhaps, you should just tell the little one a story — and there might be no better one to tell them than to read The Little Prince.
The French poet and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote this less-than-100-page novella during World War II. It so beautifully captures the essence of humanity and its problems, it has become one of the best-selling books of all time. The book has been translated into more than 500 languages and sold some 200 million copies.
Antoine experienced a lot as a pilot flying many reconnaissance missions during WWII. He held many frustrations with society, and he brilliantly worked them into this book, which he also illustrated himself. Sadly, Antoine disappeared on one of his missions at just 44 years old, but his messages survive to this day.
Here are 3 lessons we can learn as we follow the plot of the book:
- Without imagination, it’s impossible to see the meaning of our life experiences.
- There are 6 common traps adults fall into, but we can recognize and climb out of them.
- What’s truly important in life we can only see with our heart, like friendship, for example.
Let’s see what the little prince has to teach us!
Lesson 1: If we don’t apply our imagination to our sensory observations, we’ll miss the point of life.
The story begins with the narrator complaining about adults’ inability to understand what’s important in life. To test them, he shows them a picture of a boa that has eaten an elephant. When they claim it looks like a hat, he knows they’ve lost their imagination.
The narrator is an aviator, and when his plane crashes in the Sahara desert, he meets the little prince, a young boy with golden hair and strong curiosity. Surprisingly, the prince interprets the elephant-devouring boa correctly. Then, the prince asks the narrator to draw a sheep but dismisses his first few attempts. Only when he draws a simple box, claiming the sheep is inside, is the prince satisfied — finally they both got to use their imagination!
Some people will look at a van Gogh painting and only see sunflowers, but there’s more on the canvas than just dried colors. If you try, you can feel what it would be like to touch the flowers, sense the sunshine nourishing them in a field, or even picture their whole life journey from seed to wilting.
Imagination is our strongest skill as humans. If we don’t apply it to what we take in through our senses, we’ll miss the meaning of our life experiences. Einstein once said that “imagination is more important than knowledge,” and it was only through imagination that he derived his most important theories.
Don’t lose your imagination, and always look beyond the obvious.
Lesson 2: Adulthood comes with 6 common ruts, but we can get out of them if we’re willing to take an honest look in the mirror.
While the pair tries to find water and fix the narrator’s plane, the little prince tells him his story. Originally hailing from a house-sized asteroid, where tended to three volcanoes, kept fast-growing baobab trees at bay, and cared for his single rose, the prince one day decided to visit other planets.
On six planets, he met six individuals, each of which represents a common trap for adults:
- A king without any followers, who only gives pointless orders, like telling the sun to set.
- A conceited man who prides himself on being the most admired person on his planet — because he’s the only one there.
- An alcoholic who drinks to not feel ashamed about his drinking.
- A manager who only counts the stars instead of looking at them.
- A lamplighter who turns the light (aka the sun) on his planet on and off every 30 seconds, blindly following his orders.
- A geographer who has never been to any of the places he catalogs.
Ego, vanity, bad habits, and mindless following — we all succumb to these challenges at times. The important part is snapping out of them when we realize what’s going on, and the prince’s encounters can be a great mirror for us to do so.
Don’t get lost in the hum-drum-ness of adult life. Stay humble, curious, and always think for yourself.
Lesson 3: The most important things in life aren’t things we can see or touch — and friendship is one of them.
After more encounters, one of them being a garden full of roses, showing the prince that his rose was not unique, he met a fox, who taught him about “taming” — friendship. The fox explained the prince’s rose was special because it was the one he chose to care for, not because there were no other roses. “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important,” he said.
The prince and the fox formed a bond over several days, and when it was time to leave, the fox cried. He also gifted the prince a secret: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Soon after that, the prince, too, crashed in the desert. On the eighth day, just before dying of thirst, the prince finds a well, saving himself and the narrator. The ending of the story, too, is something we can only see with our hearts: The prince lets a snake bite him to return to his planet without his body. Did he die or did he make it? That’s up to us to decide.
Life is only as good insofar as you bring your full self to it. Let other people in. Form connections. Ties make us vulnerable, but without them, we can’t fully appreciate life. If we have nothing to lose, we also have nothing to love.
Listen to your heart. What does it tell you? Who should you spend more time with? Who is making your life what you want it to be? Usually, what we believe is important is already written inside us. All we have to do is read it out loud and stand by it.
The Little Prince Review
The Little Prince is a lovely novella full of deep and hidden meanings. Children will enjoy it at face value, and adults can ruminate over it for days. Plus, it’s a short and easy read. If you haven’t read this one, don’t miss it.
Who would I recommend our The Little Prince summary to?
The 6-year-old who just learned to read, the 32-year-old young dad, who’s desperate for a bedtime story to read to his daughter, and anyone who loves planes, flying, and travel.
Last Updated on July 1, 2023