Why The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery Isn’t a Children’s Book

The Little Prince is still labeled by many as a children’s book, which is quite unfortunate, because this way the true target audience of the book will probably miss it. I remember the first time I have heard this story as a child – the only thing I was left with was a deep sense of solitude and sadness. I felt it’s beauty but understood nothing of it’s tru message. We had an old and frail disc player, and I never wanted to listen to anything from it again.

So why exactly is The Little Prince for adults?

1. The message is covertly but starkly for grown-ups.

It had a brilliant but often misunderstood point of view – tries to reach the adult through a story disguised as a bedtime-story.

The not even subtle criticism of alcoholism, greed, lust for power, self-centred science, social loneliness, lack of connection and living with presence, the constant rush and cruel inattentiveness of society make this work a masterpiece of adult literature.

Since the message is for adults, children may read it, but the book may lose the majority of it’s power in their reading. It might be, as a maximum, a cautionary tale not to become a “bad” adult.

2. The child – the Little Prince – isn’t just any child – it is the representation of the purity and honesty of the heart, that everybody should (does?) strive for.

I’m not saying that the Prince is merely that – a symbol for something else, but it is a symbol nonetheless. And it is a symbol meant for the grown-up, not for the child. It is a prince, it comes from a star, and has a genuine curiosity and naivity that a grown-up might wish to be like. He lacks all the annoying qualities of a child and has even among good people an almost perfect character – caring, gentle, self-devoted, altruistic, honest, fragile, always respectable and polite, patient an so on. It is indeed magical – something to be persued not by children (they might be irritated by him), but by grown-ups.

3. The true meaning is hidden from the child but very self-explanatory to the grown-up.

To take a moment to marvel at things, to enjoy the taste of the water and the work of one’s hands… To take the time to build relationships… To take up the responsibility of other loved ones well-being… To make the necessary sacrifice to protect something that’s precious… To be patient in making friends… To be able to value people and objects… To enjoy life for life’s sake… To live…

4. The seemingly simplistic language of the work is deceiving.

It’s simplicity is what makes it so magical and powerful, but you can say big things with simple words.

5. The drawings in the book are also for grown-ups, because their true impact lies in the adult beholder.

The hat vs. elephant in a snake’s belly picture is something only a grown-up can truly understand.

The various lambs as well – the simpler it is the more it praises the power of imagination and the more it sheds light on the importance of it and the sadness of the lack of it in the lives of grown-ups.

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