The Little Prince: Character Profiles
The baobabs are the giant trees (the bad plants) that try to take over the little prince’s asteroid B-612. They represent those tendencies that will bear bad fruit or consequences and must be rooted out before they become big enough to destroy. They must be pulled out constantly in a disciplined way to keep one’s planet orderly.
The businessman is busy counting stars and trying to make money from them. He claims to own the stars. He thinks he is a serious man in a serious occupation, but the little prince thinks his repetitive counting of the stars is boring. He never looks up or has time for friendship. He feels superior to the king but is just as deluded, because as the little prince points out, no one can own the stars.
The drunkard is the example of a man who shirks responsibility and drinks to cover his shame at his weakness.
The fox is one of the main characters; he teaches the little prince the secret of life. The little prince is looking for friends but does not think the fox could be a friend. The fox explains friendship to him as a process of “taming” each other. They create ties and share life together, and that changes everything for each of them. He will not regret when the little prince leaves because he will still have the color of wheat reminding him of his friend’s blonde hair. The fox shows him that the essential nature of life is invisible and can only be experienced through the heart. Love creates a sense of responsibility.
The geographer is another “serious” grown-up who is busy writing books and has no time for looking at the world around him. He receives reports about the landscape from explorers, and if they are trustworthy and bring proof, then he records what they tell him about the way the world appears. He is not interested in seeing for himself if his planet has oceans or mountains. He does not think the prince’s flower is worthy of being recorded in his book because it is too temporary. This makes the little prince realize his flower is precious and vulnerable.
The king believes he reigns over everything, including the stars because he is an absolute monarch. He thinks he has a reasonable science of government in that he allows things to serve him through their own capabilities, but he does not think anyone else has a right to be independent of his rule. He wants the little prince to be a minister of justice and condemn others, but the little prince does not want power; he wants friends.
The lamplighter is unhappy because he has to work too hard and can get no rest. He is constantly lighting his lamp and putting it out, faster and faster, as the planet speeds up. He does it because of “orders.” The little prince likes the lamplighter because he has a sense of duty and thinks of something besides himself. The lamplighter is responsible.
The Little Prince
The little prince is the main character. He is a child who lives on Asteroid B-612 and falls to earth on his journey of discovery, after he visits a number of other planets looking for truth and friends. He is strong, fearless, courageous, imaginative, curious, truthful, and innocent. As the snake observes, he is special and otherworldly. He has a loving heart and responds to the friendship of the rose, the fox, and the pilot. He can detect the self-deceptions of others, especially the “grown-ups” who waste their lives on meaningless tasks instead of being truly useful and responsible. The little prince is the personification of all that is good and spiritual in life, and he is capable of appreciating the essence of things. He speaks directly and poetically to others, appealing to the heart. He shows up magically in the pilot’s life and transforms him, leading him to life-saving water in the desert. The little prince is willing to go through experience in an open way to grow as a human being and accepts death as part of life. He knows his spirit will not die, only the heavy body.
The pilot is the narrator of the story, an adult with a child-like heart. He remembers his own innocence when he befriends the little prince, a magical child he meets in the Sahara desert. Though he has to fix his wrecked plane before his water runs out, he takes time to help the little prince by drawing him a sheep he can take back to his planet to keep the weeds down. They become friends, and the pilot learns the secret of sharing and love and how to see the world poetically again. Though the pilot was discouraged from expressing himself through art when he was the little prince’s age, the little prince is charmed by his drawings and encourages the pilot to draw because children will understand. The pilot was lonely and solitary until he met the little prince, because he too, found grown-ups unimaginative and unfriendly.
The Railway Switchman
The railway switchman only sees people in bundles of one thousand as he switches trains to the left or right on the tracks. People keep traveling, he believes, because they are dissatisfied. He does not know what they are looking for.
The rose is the beloved of the little prince, the unique flower on his planet. She is fickle and complicated and vain, misleading the little prince with her demands. He tries hard to make her happy with a shield against the drafts and a glass cover to keep out the caterpillars, but she always wants more. Upset with her, he leaves the planet searching for something else, only to realize later he should not have listened to her words, because she lit up his life with her beauty. In her essence, she loved him as he loved her. They tamed one another, and he feels responsible for her. He worries about leaving her unprotected, with only her four thorns against the world.
The Rose Garden
The prince is shocked to find a rose garden on earth with hundreds of roses that look like his rose. His rose had persuaded him that she was unique, but now he thinks she was just a common rose. After he learns the secret of life from the fox, he understands the uniqueness of his rose again and tells the rose garden roses they are empty and mean nothing to him.
The salesclerk tries to sell the little prince a pill to get rid of thirst so he can save fifty-three minutes a week, but he realizes he would rather spend the time walking slowly to a well.
The snake is a personification of death in the story, offering to send the little prince home when he is ready to leave earth. The snake recognizes the innocence of the little prince and realizes he is too good for the earth. When the little prince’s star is directly overhead on the spot where he landed a year before, the snake bites him on the ankle, and the little prince falls on the sand. The snake does not speak directly, but the little prince is not fooled by his riddles. He knows what the snake can do. The snake boasts he is more powerful than a king.
The Vain Man
The vain man thinks all others are potential admirers. He orders the little prince to clap his hands, and then he bows to the applause.