The narrator, the pilot, crashes in the Sahara desert. He attempts to fix his engine, knowing that he only has a limited supply of water. As he begins to work on the engine, however, he hears a small voice asking him to draw a sheep. The narrator turns around to meet the little prince, and after making several attempts at drawing the sheep, he settles on sketching a box—he tells the little prince that the box contains a sheep, and to the pilot's astonishment, the little prince is delighted.
The pilot begins to learn more about the little prince, discovering that he comes from the asteroid known as B-612. Eventually, he begins to learn other details of the little prince's planet as well, including the fact that baobab trees are a major menace and that the object of the little prince's affection is a rose. This rose is very vain, however, and tells lies, making the little prince unhappy. He decides that he cannot trust her anymore and leaves his planet.
The little prince first encounters a king who claims to rule over everything, including the stars. He has no subjects on his own planet to rule, however, and the little prince grows bored and leaves. The second person the little prince meets is a conceited man who enjoys applause and admiration. The third is a tippler who says that he drinks to forget that he is ashamed of drinking. The fourth grownup is a businessman who is busy counting the stars so that he may own them.
At this point, the little prince finds all the grownups very strange, and he continues onto the planet of the lamplighter, who lights a lamp on his planet when night falls and puts it out again when the sun rises. The little prince finds the lamplighter to be the least ridiculous of all the grownups because he thinks of something other than himself.
The little prince then comes across a geographer who tells the little prince that his rose is "ephemeral," or in other words, "in danger of speedy disappearance." This alarms the little prince and makes him regret leaving his rose. Nevertheless, he continues on his journey to the planet Earth.
The little prince lands in the middle of the Sahara desert, where he encounters a snake. The snake speaks in riddles, hinting that he has a powerful poison that can take the little prince back to his planet. The little prince continues to travel on Earth, however, eventually discovering a bed of roses, all identical to his own rose on asteroid B-612, making him question his own rose's contention that it is unique.
He then meets a fox, who teaches the little prince what it means to tame—or to establish ties—with another. The little prince realizes that his rose has tamed him, making her unique in the universe, even if she's outwardly identical to all the other roses on Earth.
The little prince goes on to meet a railway switchman and a merchant before returning to the Sahara where he meets the pilot. By the end of his story, the little prince and the pilot are both very thirsty, and they decide to walk and find water. They discover a well around daybreak, and together they savor the drink as well as their time together.
The little prince explains that the next day is the anniversary of his descent to Earth. He sends the pilot away to fix his plane and tells him to come meet him at the same spot the following evening. The pilot fixes his engine and returns the next evening to find the little prince conversing with the poisonous snake. The little prince warns the pilot that he must return to his planet and that it will "look a little as if I were dying." The little prince allows the snake to poison him, and he falls gently to the sand. The narrator is reassured by the fact that the little prince's body is gone the following day and believes that it means he made it back to asteroid B-612. He worries, however, whether the sheep he drew will eat the prince's rose.