Once, when I was six years old, I saw a magnificent picture in a book called “True Stories”, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor swallowing a wild beast. Here is a copy of the drawing.
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 1. It looked like this:
They answered me: “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. Then, 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 2 looked like this:
So then I chose another profession, and learned to pilot airplanes. I have flown a little over all parts of the world; and it is true that geography has been very useful to me. At a glance I can distinguish China from Arizona. Such knowledge is useful, if one gets lost in the night.
I have had, in the course of my life, many encounters with many people who have been concerned with matters of consequence. I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I have seen them intimately, close at hand. And that hasn’t much improved my opinion of them.
Whenever I met one of them who seemed to me at all clear-sighted, I tried the experiment of showing him my drawing number 1, which I have always kept. I would try to find out, so, if this was a person of true understanding. But, whoever it was, he, or she, would always say: “That is a hat.”
Then I would never talk to that person about boa constrictors, or primeval forests, or stars. I would bring myself down to his level. I would talk to him about bridge, and golf, and politics, and neckties. And the grown-up would be greatly pleased to have met such a sensible man.
The first night, then, I went to sleep on the sand, a thousand miles from any human habitation. I was more isolated than a shipwrecked sailor on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Thus you can imagine my surprise, at sunrise, when I was awakened by an odd little voice. It said:
– If you please…draw me a sheep !
– What !
– Draw me a sheep…
I jumped to my feet, if I had been thunderstricked. I blinked my eyes hard. I looked carefully. And I saw a most extraordinary small person, who was examining me with great seriousness. Here you may see the best potrait that, later, I was able to make of him.
But my drawing is certainly very much less charming than the model.
That, however, is not my fault. The grown-ups discouraged me in my painter’s career when I was six years old, and I never learned to draw anything, except boas from the outside and boas from the inside.
Now I stared at this sudden apparition with my eyes fairly starting out of my head in astonishment. Remember, I had crashed in the desert a thousand miles from any inhabited region. And yet my little man seemed neither to be straying uncertainly among the sands, nor to be fainting from fatigue or hunger or thirst or fear. Nothing about him gave any suggestion of a child lost in the middle of the desert, a thousand miles from any human habitation. When at last I was able to speak, I said to him:
– But… what are you doing here ?
And then he repeated, very slowly, as if he were speaking of a matter of great consequence:
– If you please… draw me a sheep…
When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey. Absurd as it might seem to me a thousand miles from any human habitation and in danger of death, I took out of my pocket a sheet of paper and a fountain-pen. But I remembered then I have studied above all geography, history, arithmetic, and grammar, and I told the little chap (a little crossly, too) that I did not know how to draw. He answered me:
– That doesn’t matter. Draw me a sheep…
But as I had never drawn a sheep, I drew for him one of the two pictures I had drawn so often. It was that of the boa constrictor from the outside. And I was astounded to hear the little fellow greet it with,
– No, no! I don’t want an elephant inside a boa constrictor. A boa constrictor is a very dangerous creature, and an elephant is very cumbersome. Where I live, everything is very small. What I need is a sheep. Draw me a sheep.
So then I made a drawing.
He looked at it carefully, then he said:
– No. This sheep is already very sickly. Make me another.
So I made another drawing:
My friend smiled gently and indulgenty:
– You see yourself… this is not a sheep, this is a ram. It has horns.
So then I did my drawing over once more:
But it was rejected too, just like the previous:
– This one is too old. I want a sheep that will live a long time.
By this time my patience was exhausted, because I was in a hurry to start taking my motor apart, so I tossed off this drawing:
And I threw out an explanation with it:
– This is the box. The sheep you asked for is inside.
I was very surprised to see a light break over the face of my young judge:
– That is exactly the way I wanted it! Do you think that this sheep will have to have a great deal of grass?
– Because where I live everything is very small…
– There will surely be enough grass for him, I said. I have given you a very small sheep.
He bent his head over the drawing:
– Not so small that… Look! He has gone to sleep…
And that is how I made the acquaintance of the little prince.