The Little Prince: the Beloved Story Inspired by a Plane Crash
The Little Prince is one of the very first books I clearly remember reading in my life. And one of the very few I have kept reading again and again for more than twenty years. I belong to the category of people that deny to call The Little Prince a children's book and only. I think it should be considered a story for people of age; or, to be more accurate, a story for children of all ages.
The Little Prince has had a similar effect on millions of other people, I suppose. So, it's worth taking a deeper look in what inspired that bright mind, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, to write the story that gave as some truly beautiful and moving moments. Once again - I've been saying this a lot, I know - I suppose you all know what The Little Prince is about. Nonetheless, let's take a brief look.
The leading hero, The Little Prince, departs from his tiny planet after his beloved rose's greedy attitude breaks his heart. He wanders about other small planets and meets several peculiar people. He finally reaches earth, where his acquaintance with several characters forms his decisions on his relationship with his rose.
The Little Prince was first published in 1943, during Antoine de Saint-Exupery's participation in World War II with the Free French Air Force in North Africa. One year later, in 1944, he disappeared while flying his reconnaissance plane over the Mediterranean. His plane was found almost six decades later, but his body never.
So, the story behind the inspiration for The Little Prince starts a few years before these events, in the 1930's. The horrors of World War II didn't cross human minds yet. Antoine de Saint-Exupery was working as a commercial aviation pilot, but also flying as a race pilot. So, while trying to hit a new Paris to Saigon record, his plane crashed in the Sahara desert, in Lybia. The French writer and pilot along with his navigator wandered in the desert for quite a few days with minimum supplies before meeting a Bedouin, who rescued them and drove them safely to a more human-friendly location. And it is known - and absolutely makes sense - that the two men suffered the overwhelming effects of the extreme heat and dehydration. Delusions were one of them.
Could de Saint-Exupery have perceived seeing his Little Prince approaching him with tiny, soft steps on the sand while wandering and waiting to be rescued in the desert? Could be! Shortly after that, in 1939, the writer published his book Wind, Sand and Stars: a significant work, albeit overshadowed by the iconic Little Prince It has been broadly admitted that Wind, Sand and Stars is the harbinger of The Little Prince. De Saint-Exupery speaks about his delusions and mirages while in the desert, but also about the understanding of the human sould and relationships he arrived at through his experience in the Sahara desert. All of this happened on the desert, where he supposedly meets The Little Prince in the book as the narrator of the story, when he tries to fix his plane after it has crashed. And this is also where the story is completed.
So, a plane crash gave a whole new understanding to Antoine de Saint-Exupery and also gave ground for his iconic, masterpiece, dreamy work. De Saint-Exupery describes his separation with The Little Prince as something that happened in the night, without him understanding the moment he left for his planet. He realizes what has happened when he doesn't find him by his side the next morning. And that's how he disappeared from the surface of earth as well. Everyone figured he was gone once and for all when they saw he was nowhere around. His last sentence in the book is a tender plead to the reader to notify him do they see The Little Prince again. He might have visited his little friend's planet instead.