The Little Prince: Part One

One of the joys of being bilingual is being able to read in another language and having access to an entire body of literature outside your own. I recently picked up a copy of Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) I had kept from my childhood and was delighted to re-immerse myself in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s magical realism. There is a good reason this tale has been translated into 180 languages and is one of the best selling kids books of all time.

I also think it has one of the most clever first pages I have ever read. De Saint-Exupéry immediately establishes the humorous, wry tone of the book, which is part of what makes it delightful for kids and adults alike.

Read the first few paragraphs below in French (also provided in English, scroll down) and then go dig your own copy out of storage! You wont regret it. Or just come back for my next installment. I’ll be blogging excerpts of Le Petit Prince for the next two weeks. Vive le Petit Prince! Someday your child will be able to read books in another language, and might teach you a thing or two while they are at it!

Le Petit Prince: Part One (en Français)


Lorsque j’avais six ans j’ai vu, une fois, une magnifique image, dans un livre sur la Forêt Vierge qui s’appelait “Histoires Vécues”. Ça représentait un serpent boa qui avalait un fauve. Voilà la copie du dessin.

On disait dans le livre: “Les serpents boas avalent leur proie tout entière, sans la mâcher. Ensuite ils ne peuvent plus bouger et ils dorment pendant les six mois de leur digestion”.

J’ai alors beaucoup réfléchi sur les aventures de la jungle et, à mon tour, j’ai réussi, avec un crayon de couleur, à tracer mon premier dessin. Mon dessin numéro 1. Il était comme ça:

J’ai montré mon chef d’œuvre aux grandes personnes et je leur ai demandé si mon dessin leur faisait peur.

Elles m’ont répondu: “Pourquoi un chapeau ferait-il peur?”

Mon dessin ne représentait pas un chapeau. Il représentait un serpent boa qui digérait un éléphant. J’ai alors dessiné l’intérieur du serpent boa, afin que les grandes personnes puissent comprendre. Elles ont toujours besoin d’explications. Mon dessin numéro 2 était comme ça:

Les grandes personnes m’ont conseillé de laisser de côté les dessins de serpents boas ouverts ou fermés, et de m’intéresser plutôt à la géographie, à l’histoire, au calcul et à la grammaire. C’est ainsi que j’ai abandonné, à l’âge de six ans, une magnifique carrière de peintre. J’avais été découragé par l’insuccès de mon dessin numéro 1 et de mon dessin numéro 2. Les grandes personnes ne comprennent jamais rien toutes seules, et c’est fatigant, pour les enfants, de toujours leur donner des explications.

The Little Prince: Part One (in English)

Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing.

In the book it said: “Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing it. After that they are not able to move, and they sleep through the six months that they need for digestion.”

I pondered deeply, then, over the adventures of the jungle. And after some work with a colored pencil I succeeded in making my first drawing. My Drawing Number One. It looked like this:

I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked them whether the drawing frightened them.

But they answered: “Frighten? Why should any one be frightened by a hat?”

My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I made another drawing: I drew the inside of the boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly. They always need to have things explained. My Drawing Number Two looked like this:

The grown-ups’ response, this time, was to advise me to lay aside my drawings of boa constrictors, whether from the inside or the outside, and devote myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic and grammar. That is why, at the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent career as a painter. I had been disheartened by the failure of my Drawing Number One and my Drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.