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A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick Few stories are as widely read and as universally cherished by children and adults alike as The Little Prince. Richard Howard's translation of the beloved classic beautifully reflects Saint-Exupéry's unique and gifted style. Howard, an acclaimed poet and one of the preeminent translators of our time, has excelled in bringing the English text as close as possible to the French, in language, style, and most important, spirit. The artwork in this edition has been restored to match in detail and in color Saint-Exupéry's original artwork. Combining Richard Howard's translation with restored original art, this definitive English-language edition of The Little Prince will capture the hearts of readers of all ages.
This title has been selected as a Common Core Text Exemplar (Grades 4-5, Stories).
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About the Author
Richard Howard is the author of eleven books of poetry, including Untitled Subjects, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970, and Trappings. He is the translator of more than 150 works from the French and lives in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
Once when I was six I saw a magnificent picture in a book about the jungle, called True Stories. It showed a boa constrictor swallowing a wild beast. Here is a copy of the picture.
In the book it said: “Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing. Afterwards they are no longer able to move, and they sleep during the six months of their digestion.”
In those days I thought a lot about jungle adventures, and eventually managed to make my first drawing, using a coloured pencil. My drawing Number One looked like this:
I showed the grown-ups my masterpiece, and I asked them if my drawing scared them.
They answered, “Why be scared of a hat?”
My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. Then I drew the inside of the boa constrictor, so the grown-ups could understand. They always need explanations. My drawing Number Two looked like this:
The grown-ups advised me to put away my drawings of boa constrictors, outside or inside, and apply myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic, and grammar.
That is why I abandoned, at the age of six, a magnificent career as an artist. I had been discouraged by the failure of my drawing Number One and of my drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is exhausting for children to have to provide explanations over and over again.
So then I had to choose another career, and I learned to pilot aeroplanes. I have flown almost everywhere in the world. And, as a matter of fact, geography has been a big help to me. I could tell China from Arizona at first glance, which is very useful if you get lost during the night.
So I have had, in the course of my life, lots of encounters with lots of serious people. I have spent lots of time with grown-ups. I have seen them at close range … which hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.
Whenever I encountered a grown-up who seemed to me at all enlightened, I would experiment on him with my drawing Number One, which I have always kept. I wanted to see if he really understood anything. But he would always answer, “That’s a hat.” Then I wouldn’t talk about boa constrictors or jungles or stars. I would put myself on his level and talk about bridge and golf and politics and neckties. And my grown-up was glad to know such a reasonable person.
So I lived all alone, without anyone I could really talk to, until I had to make a crash landing in the Sahara Desert six years ago. Something in my plane’s engine had broken, and since I had neither a mechanic nor passengers in the plane with me, I was preparing to undertake the difficult repair job by myself. For me it was a matter of life or death: I had only enough drinking water for eight days.
The first night, then, I went to sleep on the sand a thousand miles from any inhabited country. I was more isolated than a man shipwrecked on a raft in the middle of the ocean. So you can imagine my surprise when I was awakened at daybreak by a funny little voice saying, “Please … draw me a sheep …”
“Draw me a sheep …”
I leaped up as if I had been struck by lightning. I rubbed my eyes hard. I stared. And I saw an extraordinary little fellow staring back at me very seriously. Here is the best portrait I managed to make of him, later on. But of course my drawing is much less attractive than my model. This is not my fault. My career as a painter was discouraged at the age of six by the grown-ups, and I had never learned to draw anything except boa constrictors, outside and inside.
So I stared wide-eyed at this apparition. Don’t forget that I was a thousand miles from any inhabited territory. Yet this little fellow seemed to be neither lost nor dying of exhaustion, hunger, or thirst; nor did he seem scared to death. There was nothing in his appearance that suggested a child lost in the middle of the desert a thousand miles from any inhabited territory. When I finally managed to speak, I asked him, “But … what are you doing here?”
And then he repeated, very slowly and very seriously,“Please … draw me a sheep …”
In the face of an overpowering mystery, you don’t dare disobey. Absurd as it seemed, a thousand miles from all inhabited regions and in danger of death, I took a scrap of paper and a pen out of my pocket. But then I remembered that I had mostly studied geography, history, arithmetic, and grammar, and I told the little fellow (rather crossly) that I didn’t know how to draw.
He replied, “That doesn’t matter. Draw me a sheep.”
Since I had never drawn a sheep, I made him one of the only two drawings I knew how to make—the one of the boa constrictor from outside. And I was astounded to hear the little fellow answer:
“No! No! I don’t want an elephant inside a boa constrictor. A boa constrictor is very dangerous, and an elephant would get in the way. Where I live, everything is very small. I need a sheep. Draw me a sheep.”
So then I made a drawing. He looked at it carefully, and then said, “No. This one is already quite sick. Make another.”
I made another drawing. My friend gave me a kind, indulgent smile: “You can see for yourself … that’s not a sheep, it’s a ram. It has horns …”
So I made my third drawing, but it was rejected, like the others: “This one’s too old. I want a sheep that will live a long time.”
So then, impatiently, since I was in a hurry to start work on my engine, I scribbled this drawing, and added, “This is just the crate. The sheep you want is inside.”
But I was amazed to see my young critic’s face light up. “That’s just the kind I wanted! Do you think this sheep will need a lot of grass?”
“Because where I live, everything is very small …”
“There’s sure to be enough. I’ve given you a very small sheep.”
He bent over the drawing. “Not so small as all that … Look! He’s gone to sleep …”
And that’s how I made the acquaintance of the little prince.