Here is our analysis of The Little Prince, the story for children which makes everybody cry and has sold at 175 million copies around the world.
The Little Prince – Story analysis – Chapter II – “Draw me a sheep” – The airman meets the little prince
The narrator tells: “So I lived my life alone, without anyone that I could really talk to, until I had an accident with my plane in the Desert of Sahara, six years ago.” With a broken engine and little water to drink, he had to repair his engine as soon as possible.
Structure: this first paragraph makes the exposition (the narrator was airman), the catalyst (he had to land in the desert after a breakdown) and the other dramatic data of a new plot, which contrasts by its serious matter – life or death – with the previous plots which sounded funny and light. In this new plot : the Hero is the narrator-airman, the Antagonist is the breakdown of his engine, and the goal is to fix it before dying of thirst.
Drama effect: this condition of the goal – to fix the engine in emergency – sets up a time lock, which is a type of scenario effect we often use to dramatize action. Without emergency, there would be much less dramatic tension.
Genre: the text does not insist on the autobiographical aspect of the event, but Saint-Exupéry really survived an accident of this kind: end december 1935, while he was trying to beat a speed record between Paris and Saïgon, he was forced to land in distress in the desert of Egypt, and stayed 4 days without water or food before being miraculously rescued…
The airman then fell asleep in the desert, under the beautiful starry sky, and was awaken by a voice that was asking him: “If you please– draw me a sheep!”
Structure: this unexpected encounter makes the catalyst of a new plot, included in the previous one.
Stunned, the airman discovers in front of him “a most extraordinary small person” – he drew a picture of him later. This child does not seem to be lost or lacking anything, he only asks for one thing: that the airman would draw a sheep for him. The airman, traumatized by this school that made him forget his instincts, pretends he does not know how to draw any more, but the child insists. The airman then draws his old picture of elephant in a boa. But while being the only person having instantly acknowledged the picture for what it is – an elephant in a boa! -, the child refuses this pictures and insists to obtain a sheep. He gives this troubling detail: “Where I live, everything is very small.”, which allows us to understand that he wishes to bring the sheep – or rather the picture of sheep – by his place, without us knowing exactly where he lives.
This charming scene develops the Act II of this included plot, and confirms its data: Hero, the child who wants a picture of sheep, and Helper of the Hero, the airman. Since the airman shows a bit reluctant in the beginning, he can temporarily stand as an Antagonist who contradicts the goal of the Hero, but this hypothesis about the structure of the actantial roles will soon prove wrong.
The airman then draws 3 pictures of sheeps, that the child refuses one after the other, finding the first one very sick, the second one looking like a ram, and the third one too old. Running out of patience and willing to fix his engine in priority (thus coming back to the plot in which his own life is at stake), the airman draws a box with holes, asserting that the ideal sheep is inside. This time, the child sounds happy with his sheep, but worries about its need for grass. “Because where I live everything is very small…” He then notices that the sheep… has fallen asleep!
Structure: this scene was the crisis, after three failures the goal is finally reached, even beyond the reader’s expectations, since the child was able to imagine the sheep through the picture of the box.
This last fact – the clairvoyance of the little prince – matches wonderfully well with the tale‘s main philosophical message, which will be revealed only in the end: true beauty is invisible, it can be seen only with the heart, beyond the appearences…
Pattern repetition and themes: the small size of the little prince’s home represents a new form of complicity between the narrator and the reader: the narrator has adapted the size of the fictitious world to the size of his main character – aged more or less the same than his reader – to ease and thus seduce the latter… By contrast, the world of the narrator – the desert – has the scary and over-dimensioned size of the adult world. This size topic will come back later in the series of plots which will take place on planets too small for their residents, then on earth, too big for the little prince…
The narrator concludes: “And that is how I made the acquaintance of the little prince.”
Structure: we thus understand that all of this chapter was forming the exposition and catalyst of what is going to be the overall, framing plot of the story, whose previous plots were only the prologue. The little prince will obviously be the Hero of this framing plot.
Remark: if the little prince is a prince, where is his principality? A prince usually is the heir of a King, yet here no king or father can be found. This will never get explained. The little prince seems to bear his title only as honorary, so as to powerfully connote the nobility of his young soul. Obviously, the fact that the Hero of a tale is a young prince comes from the oldest tradition – and to feed our antisexist commentary, we can notice that in this tradition, the Hero-princes would engage in plots of discovery or even conquest of the world – as it is the case in The little prince -, when most of the time the princesses as Heroes would only wait for a “charming prince” to marry (which is the case of the character of the Rose, who will quietly stay on her home planet, waiting for the little prince to come back)… Exploration and adventure for boys, marriage and the status of housewife for girls…
Read our full analysis of The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and improve your writing skills