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8 Timeless Lessons From 'The Little Prince'

Wong Shu Lee  


  June 25, 2022

Have you ever read The Little Prince? It is a novella by French aristocrat, writer, and military aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, published in 1943. The story follows a young prince who visits various planets in space, including Earth, and addresses themes of loneliness, friendship, love, and loss. 


I first read the book when I was 9, only to understand that this story is not meant for children, despite its style as a children's book. The Little Prince makes observations about life, adults, and human nature. 


As I grow older, I re-read the book again, and it starts to make sense to me. This book taught me an important lesson: My lack of understanding about adulthood wasn't because I was unintelligent. It was because grown-ups are confusing and weird. Everything is not easy, be it work, relationships, parenting, or dealing with our inner self. 


Looking back, The Little Prince — its 80 pages of magic that have sold more than 140 million copies worldwide — was full of lessons that prepped us for adulthood. This book doesn’t just teach kids about being grown-ups, it teaches grown-ups about how to be better grown-ups. Read on for The Little Prince quotes and lessons that we can all carry with us. 


#1 Remember to look beyond the surface.


When the narrator draws a boa constrictor digesting an elephant, all the grown-ups around him see is a hat. Their interpretations are dull and lifeless; their imaginations have long gone. Feeling defeated, the narrator abandons a "magnificent career as an artist" — all because adults refused to see or feel.


Remember what is perhaps the most famous quote from The Little Prince: "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."


#2 Don't hide your true feelings; it will cost you everything that is important.


Once the little prince begins hinting at his plans to explore new planets, his rose — whom he has nurtured and cared for — claims not to need him and to be self-sufficient. And so, the little prince abandons her, even though he "ought to have realized the tenderness underlying her silly pretensions."


#3 Drinking to forget is a vicious and ultimately feeble endeavor.


On the third planet, the little prince met a drunkard who drinks to forget he is ashamed. The drunkard is ashamed because he drinks. To the little prince, it seems very strange for a man to spend his days in such a manner when he could be doing far more exciting things (like planting flowers). But to us grown-ups, it's a reminder of a vicious cycle and one that only ever ends in more sadness and despair.


#4 You should never take yourself too seriously.


On the 4th planet, the little prince meets a businessman who counts all the stars in the galaxy so that he can own them. "I manage them. I count them and then count them again. It's difficult work. But I'm a serious person." But being too serious has landed him a monotonous life, a lonely life, and a life in which he does not even appreciate the beauty of the stars he owns.


#5 Don't forget to enjoy your life — take a moment and take it all in.


It is the lamplighter of the 5th planet who gains the little prince's respect, for he follows his orders dutifully to switch the lamplight on and off through the day. But because his planet revolves once a minute, he never gets a moment of rest. A month goes by in a minute. And a lifetime in a few days.


#6 Trust in unusual characters — you might learn something.


Foxes are often depicted as tricksters or villains, but this fox simply needed companionship — friendship. And it is the fox who bestows upon the little prince three important life lessons:


"One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes."

"It's the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important."

"You become responsible for what you've tamed."


#7 Care for the things you have, for they cannot be replaced.


Even amidst a garden of beautiful roses, the little prince cannot escape thoughts of his own rose — he just can't replace her. "One couldn't die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she's the one I've watered."


#8 Sometimes you have to let those you love fly free.


Even though the narrator — a lonely and stranded pilot — has come to know and love the little prince; he knows that to keep him on Earth would be to hurt his friend. Before the little prince leaves, he tells the pilot, "In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing when you look at the night sky." Sometimes you have to let people go because to keep them would be to trap them. But letting them go can be the truest demonstration of love there is.


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