The Little Prince was born into the oncoming turmoil of World War Two, yet the tender fable has become a revered artifact of wisdom, truth, and a gentle search for social justice. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry may not have lived to witness the extraordinary fate of his prized literary brilliance, but as 6 April 2013 marks the 70th anniversary of one of literature’s most important debuts, we celebrate the charming beauty and delicate insights of The Little Prince.



What makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere it hides a well…

Saint-Exupéry wrote his novella during a two year self-exile in the States after Nazi Germany conquered France. His yearning to return home and the consequential childhood nostalgia that followed inspired the story of The Little Prince: a young boy who falls into the foreign lands of Earth from an asteroid. Although the story was inspired by Saint-Exupéry’s loneliness and despair, the author’s publisher played a key role in the creation of the novella. He belonged to Reynal & Hitchcock publishing firm in America, and Eugene and Elisabeth Reynal are said to have had a profound influence on the fable’s origins. There are numerous conversations which try to explain the history of The Little Prince but many agree that either Elisabeth Reynal suggested children’s literature as a soothing distraction to calm Saint-Exupéry’s struggles, or Saint-Exupéry planned to write the fable after doodling a little boy on a table cloth while visiting Eugene Reynal. It was a difficult time for the French writer due to the aggressive criticism his country lashed out against him – Saint-Exupéry’s previous works allegorised his condemnation of the war, allowing his people to brand him a traitor. His battle to find a home and overcome his isolation is evoked through the character of the little prince. Just as Saint-Exupéry fantasised a return to France, the little prince longed to return to Asteroid B-612, illustrating that the themes of the story strongly mimic Saint-Exupéry’s personal experiences. Eventually, both the little prince and his real life creator found their way home, but Saint-Exupéry would return to France as an aviator in World War Two, while his prince would suffer a snake bite in an effort to revisit his asteroid.

Published in 1943 in America, the pages of the The Little Prince were turned a year before Saint-Exupéry went missing during a flight operation to retrieve information on the Nazi’s movements. The novella was first published in France by Éditions Gallimard two years after Saint-Exupéry’s death. Despite the harrowing circumstances in which it was conceived, the fable retains a child-like innocence that questions the adult world, its behaviour and its activities. The success of the novella was initially curbed by critics claiming the story was too adult for children but too childish for adults leaving it as homeless in the literary world as its protagonist and creator were in their own worlds. However, since its release, The Little Prince has been translated into more than 250 languages (including Braille) and has sold over 140 million copies worldwide, making it a champion of global literature.

We show our love for The Little Prince by sharing some of the quotes that narrate how this remarkable tale came to be one of the most beloved fables in literary history.

‘It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.’


‘I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He had never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures.’

‘Sire–over what do you rule?’
‘Over everything,’ said the king, with magnificent simplicity.
‘Over everything?’
The king made a gestuer, which took in his planet, the other planets, and all the stars.
‘Over all that?’ asked the little prince.
‘Over all that,’ the king answered.

‘To conceited men, all other men are admirers.’

But the conceited man did not hear him. Conceited people never hear anything but praise.

‘Why are you drinking?’ demanded the little prince.
‘So that I may forget,’ replied the tippler.
‘Forget what?’ inquired the little prince, who already felt sorry for him.
‘Forget that I am ashamed,’ the tippler confessed, hanging his head.
‘Ashamed of what?’ insisted the little prince, who wanted to help him.
‘Ashamed of drinking!’


‘I thought that I was rich, with a flower that was unique in all the world; and all I had was a common rose. A common rose, and three volcanoes that come up to my knees–and one of them perhaps extinct forever… That doesn’t make me a very great prince…’
And he lay down in the grass and cried.

‘If you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life.’

You are beautiful, but you are empty,’ he went on. ‘One could not die for you…

…To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you–the rose that belongs to me.’

‘Well, I must endure the presence of two or three caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies. It seems that they are very beautiful.’


‘Only the children know what they are looking for,’ said the little prince. ‘They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them; and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry…’
‘They are lucky,’ the switchman said.

What the little prince did not dare confess was that he was sorry most of all to leave this planet, because it was blest every day with 1440 sunsets!



Words: Ra’eesa Pather
Quotes from The Little Prince: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry