The Little Prince: Novel Summary :Section 2-5
Summary of Section II
The narrator says the result of his experience of the world made him live alone “without anyone I could really talk to” until he crashed his plane in the Sahara Desert six years ago (p. 3). He had to make the repairs to the engine by himself, and he had only enough drinking water for eight days. He slept on the sand a thousand miles from any habitation. Then, a strange thing happened. He was awakened at daybreak by a little voice saying, “Please . . . draw me a sheep” (p. 3).
The narrator draws a picture of the child he meets in the desert, a little prince in full regalia. He apologizes that it is not a perfect likeness, but he had been discouraged from pursuing art. The little boy does not seem to be dying or worried about being in the middle of a desert. It is such a strange request he makes of the narrator that he obeys, explaining to the boy he really doesn’t know how to draw a sheep. The little prince says it doesn’t matter, so the narrator shows him the only drawing he knows, the boa constrictor. The prince replies that he doesn’t want a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant; he wants a sheep because where he lives it is very small. The pilot tries to draw several sheep, which the reader sees on the page, but the prince shakes his head. No, this sheep is too weak or sick or it’s a ram with horns. Finally, the pilot draws a crate with airholes and says the sheep he wants is inside. The little prince is pleased and replies that the sheep has gone to sleep.
Commentary on Section II
The narrator proves he is still child-like in his response to the little prince, who has appeared magically from nowhere. They do not go through any adult protocol about identifying themselves or explaining anything, nor do they speak realistically about being lost in the desert or without water. They speak directly to one another without masks. The little prince is perfectly calm and seems confident the narrator can help him. The narrator does not reason with him that a drawing of a sheep is not the same as a real sheep. The prince accepts the drawing as absolutely real. He knows that the boa constrictor has an elephant in it, and he knows there is a sheep in the crate. The narrator and prince speak each other’s language. Their speech is like the difference between poetry and a newspaper. The things they speak of are the essential things of the heart. They are invisible. The little prince’s planet, his flower, his experience, cannot be seen, but the narrator believes in them just the same. And the little prince believes in the narrator’s drawings.
Though the narrator apologizes over and over for his clumsy drawings, they are perfect. They are like a child’s drawings, very suggestive and innocent. It is perhaps a blessing, after all, that he was not allowed to study art, for he has to draw from his heart.
Summary of Section III
The narrator says it took him a long time to understand where the little prince came from because he asked so many questions and never answered any. Bit by bit he got his story. When the prince sees the airplane, he wants to know what it is, so the narrator tells him he can fly. The little prince thinks the pilot fell out of the sky as he did and wants to know what planet he is from. The pilot begins to be intrigued about the prince coming from another planet. The boy contemplates the drawing of the sheep as though it is a great treasure and decides the crate could also be the sheep’s house. The pilot says he will draw a rope for the sheep to be tied up so it won’t run away. The little prince thinks this is very funny and laughs, because there is nowhere a sheep could run away to on his planet.
Commentary on Section III
The narrator does not launch into the little prince’s narrative right away, but brings up the intriguing idea that he is magical and from another planet. There is not any rational explanation for how he comes to be in the desert and why he is not afraid. At this point there could still be a possible realistic solution to this mystery. We might assume the pilot is having hallucinations in the desert, but as the story unfolds, the reader never tries to think realistically about why the pilot finds a prince in the desert, any more than the prince questions the fact there is a sheep in the crate. We accept the premise of the story as a fairytale almost immediately because of the enchantment created by the presence of the little prince. Perhaps the grown-ups did not believe in Saint-Exupéry’s ability to draw a boa constrictor, but we believe in the little prince from the beginning, and a large part of that has to do with the author’s drawings. The little prince and his asteroid are known icons around the world. He exists for us, just as the sheep exists for the little prince.
At first the narrator is annoyed by the little prince’s laugh when he learns the pilot fell out of the sky in his airplane. The pilot is viewing his dangerous situation as an adult and wants his misfortune to be taken “seriously.” Later, the little prince’s otherworldly perspective and his laugh will become most precious to the narrator.
Summary of Section IV
From random conversation, the pilot learns the little prince comes from a planet no bigger than a house. The pilot says that although there are giant planets like Jupiter and Earth, he knows there are many small planets in the universe, and they are so numerous they are given numbers instead of names. The little prince came from Asteroid B-612, sighted only once by a Turkish astronomer in 1909, but his discovery was not accepted as fact until he made the presentation to fellow scientists in European clothes in 1920. The narrator comments that grown-ups like numbers and only want to know how old someone is, how much it costs, or the dimensions. Those who really understand life don’t care about numbers. He should have begun the story like a fairytale, “Once upon a time there was a little prince . . . who needed a friend” (p. 12).
The narrator does not want his story to be taken lightly because it has been six years now since his little friend went away, and the memories are painful for him. He feels lucky to have had a friend at all. This keeps him from being like grown-ups who only care for numbers. He has gone back to making drawings, because he wants to capture his little friend’s likeness. He tries to remember him as best he can.
Commentary on Section IV
There is social satire here on the idea that western civilization only accepts numerical descriptions as truth, and only by someone of the same culture. The astronomer was not believed while he looked Turkish. When he gave a presentation in western clothes, his discovery of B-612 was accepted. Likewise, the narrator says, if he tried to give some proof of the little prince’s existence by saying he had a delightful laugh, he would be ignored. If he says the little prince came from asteroid B-612 he might be heard.
He wants his story to be taken seriously. His way of being serious would be to tell the tale as a fairytale because that is actually truer than a newspaper account. He has returned to drawing because it will help him prove the little prince’s existence. The narrator situates himself as a bridge between the adult world and the world of the little prince. He says unfortunately, he is still like other grown-ups to some extent because he cannot see a sheep through the sides of a crate. The fact that the narrator is not as innocent as the little prince because of all his years in the world leaves him open to transformation and change. He is different by the end of the story.
Summary of Section V
Every day the narrator learns something new about the little prince’s planet and how he came to leave there. He learns about the problem of the baobabs on the third day. The little prince wants the sheep to eat the baobabs that are taking over his planet. The pilot tells him baobabs grow so big that even a herd of elephants couldn’t keep them down. This makes the little prince laugh at the idea of a herd of elephants on so small a space, and the author draws us this joke showing elephants stacked on one another on a small ball.
The prince remarks that the baobabs were once small; that’s the time to root them out. The narrator comments that every planet has good and bad plants from good and bad seeds. Unfortunately, you can’t tell what kind of seeds are there while they are “in the secrecy of the ground” (p. 14). If it comes up a radish or rose, you are fine. If it’s a baobab, you’d better get it right away, or it will tear your planet to pieces with its piercing roots.
The little prince tells the pilot to draw a picture of this for children, so they know they cannot postpone the work of pulling out the baobabs. The author makes a drawing of a child on a planet with three giant baobabs that have taken over. The child’s shovel can do nothing at that point to get rid of them.
Commentary on Section V
There is both humor and seriousness in this discussion of the baobabs. A baobab (Adansonia) is a huge tree that grows in Africa, measuring up to 98 feet tall and 36 feet around. They can be a thousand years old. The trunk stores up to 32, 0000 gallons of water since it is a desert tree. The seeds, fruit and leaves are used for food in Africa; it is only the size that makes it a menace for the prince’s asteroid.
The narrator comments on his own method of storytelling in this tale. For instance, he makes the drawing of the menace of the baobabs at the prince’s request but says, “I don’t much like assuming the tone of a moralist” (p. 16). He draws the baobabs from “a sense of urgency” (p. 16). This is the realm of fable or fairytale where the story tells a symbolic moral. We must all pull up the bad plants before they destroy our world. What are the bad plants?
If the story is taken as an allegory, he might be referring to World War II, with the totalitarian governments of Germany and Italy trying to conquer the world. The Allied powers tried to pacify German leader Adolf Hitler at first, instead of dealing with him before he got too powerful. On the other hand, as a moral fable, the story tells all of us, including children, to get rid of bad habits or other things that could destroy us. We are responsible for keeping our lives in order. But the narrator admits that sometimes you can’t tell a baobab from a rose bush when it’s young. Something may appear to be harmless, and it isn’t recognized as dangerous until too late. The little prince mentions, “It’s a question of discipline” to be alert every day and weed your planet (p. 15).