Friday, 6 November 2009

Friendship - in which the fox instructs the little prince

This excerpt is from "The little prince". It is by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and was written in French in 1943, a year before the author's death. The translation is by Katherine Woods.
     The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.
     “Please – tame me!” he said.
     “I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand.”
    “One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me...”
     “What must I do, to tame you?” asked the little prince.
     “You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me – like that – in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day…"
     The next day the little prince came back.
     “It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If, for example, you came at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o'clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you... One must observe the proper rites..."
     So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near -
     "Ah," said the fox, "I shall cry."
     "It is your own fault," said the little prince. "I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you..."
     "Yes, that is so," said the fox.
     "But now you are going to cry!" said the little prince.
     "Yes, that is so," said the fox, "because of the colour of the wheat fields." And then he added:
     "Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me and I will make you a present of a secret."

     The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
    "You are not at all like my rose," he said. "As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world."
     And the roses were very much embarrassed.
    "You are beautiful, but you are empty," he went on. "One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passer-by would think that my rose looked just like you - the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered: because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose."

     And he went back to the fox.
     "Goodbye," he said.
     "Goodbye," said the fox. "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."
This charming book deserves to be better known!  It is still available.
If you go to this website you can read the rest of what the fox has to say on page 82.

Book shop link for interested NZ readers:
The Little Prince (Wordsworth Children's Classics)

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