Le Petit Prince: A French Icon

Le Petit Prince: A French Icon

Le Petit Prince is a novella written and illustrated by Lyon-born Antoine de Saint- Exupéry, first published in the US in 1943. The story follows a young prince, and it addresses serious themes of loneliness, friendship, love and loss despite its style and genre as an illustrated children’s book.

The story’s narrator is an aircraft pilot who finds himself stranded in the desert, where he meets the prince who is from a small asteroid which he left in order to explore the rest of the universe. He visits six planets, each inhabited by an individual intended as an allegorical critique of an element of society such as materialism or vanity. One such adult is a king who demands obedience and servitude but has no servants, while another is an alcoholic who drinks to forget how ashamed he is of drinking.

These allegorical encounters are complemented by charming yet simple watercolour illustrations by the author himself, forming an allegorical comment on society in the form of a children’s book. Le Petit Prince has sold an estimated 200 million copies worldwide and has been translated into more than 300 languages and dialects, making it the most translated work in the world after the Bible and the Quran.

The Air and Space Museum of France in Le Bourget has a special exhibit honouring Saint- Exupéry, displaying many of his literary creations including early editions of Le Petit Prince. The museum also sadly has remnants of the aircraft in which the author disappeared over the Mediterranean during the Second World War only to be recovered 60 years later off the coast of Marseille in 2004.

Curious to discover more about France’s icons?

Read more about France’s famous cultural luminaries like the Michelin man and Coco Chanel, here.

Lead photo credit : Valery Rybakow/Shutterstock

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