The Little Prince

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Themes and Colors
Relationships Theme Icon
The True and the Essential Theme Icon
Exploration vs. Narrowmindedness Theme Icon
Childhood vs. Adulthood Theme Icon
Innocence Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Little Prince, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Relationships Theme Icon

Both the pilot's and the prince's stories revolve around their relationships. For the pilot, the entire purpose of writing the story and making his drawings is to remember his relationship with the little prince. The little prince, in turn, tells the story of his journey in terms of the characters he's met along the way. The chapter with the fox, in particular, emphasizes the importance of taking time to get to know someone. The fox uses the language of "taming," which emphasizes the gradual nature of building trust. The fox also helps the little prince realize that it was the time spent with his rose that made his rose unique from all the others he encountered on Earth—even if all the roses appeared alike from the outside.

The characters grow in the story through their relationships. For the little prince, the main lesson is about responsibility to those you've tamed, or befriended, and for the pilot, the main lesson is about "matters of consequence"—he learns that relationships are of the most consequence, even in a desert with a broken-down plane and limited water.

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Relationships Quotes in The Little Prince

Below you will find the important quotes in The Little Prince related to the theme of Relationships.
Chapter 4 Quotes

For I do not want any one to read my book carelessly. I have suffered too much grief in setting down these memories. Six years have already passed since my friend went away from me, with his sheep. If I try to describe him here, it is to make sure that I shall not forget him. To forget a friend is sad. Not every one has had a friend. And if I forget him, I may become like the grown−ups who are no longer interested in anything but figures...

Related Characters: The Pilot/Narrator (speaker), The Little Prince
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

The pilot has apologized for not beginning his book with "Once upon a time..." and states that although he looks down upon the obsession of grown-ups with precise facts and figures, he reluctantly decided to be as precise as possible at the beginning. His reason for doing so, however, is so as not to become like the adults he scorns. Part of what these grown-ups miss, according to the pilot, is the joy and beauty that comes from deep, meaningful relationships. This sort of relationship is something that the pilot has had with the little prince, and he recognizes that it is precious and rare enough that he should do all he can so as not to forget him.

The pilot/narrator thus seems to foretell a rather melancholy ending to the story, since it seems that it will end with the separation between the pilot and the little prince. What rescues the story from being a tragedy though, is, at the very least, the fact that the pilot has gained something essential through his relationship with the prince.


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Chapter 7 Quotes

"I know a planet where there is a certain red−faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: 'I am busy with matters of consequence!' And that makes him swell up with pride. But he is not a man—he is a mushroom!"

Related Characters: The Little Prince (speaker), The Businessman
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

The little prince is growing increasingly frustrated with the pilot, who is, in turn, frustrated with the prince for distracting him while he attempts to fix the motor of his plane. When the pilot finally exclaims that he is dealing with "matters of consequence," the prince is appalled: he has thought that the pilot was unlike the grown-ups he has seen, but now he realizes that the pilot reminds him of a particularly unsavory grown-up - the "red-faced gentleman" who does nothing but add up facts and figures. 

The prince has nothing but scorn for this gentleman, who believes that nothing in the world could be more important than his work. In reality, according to the prince, the man is so narrow-mindedly focused on his job (a job that, in the scheme of things, isn't actually all that important) that he is unable to see the fascinating, inviting world around him. Not only does the man remain fixated on the meaningless numbers before him, but he is also unable to develop true relationships with others, since these figures are all that concern him. The businessman is a reminder to the pilot, once again, of how perilously easy it is for him to slip out of the mentality of childhood and embrace the sorry, limited concerns of adulthood.

"If someone loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself, 'Somewhere, my flower is there...' But if the sheep eats the flower, in one moment all his stars will be darkened... And you think that is not important!"

Related Characters: The Little Prince (speaker), The Pilot/Narrator, The Rose/Flower
Related Symbols: Stars
Page Number: 29-30
Explanation and Analysis:

The prince objects to the hierarchy created by the pilot, forcing him to reconsider what he assumes to be more or less important. For the pilot, the most pressing task of the moment is the obvious problem with his plane's motor. Fanciful stories about far-away roses in danger simply do not seem relevant to him.

But the little prince's speech implies that there may be a better way to think about what is important than simply equating it with what is immediate, present, and materially urgent. Instead, importance for the prince rests on the significance of relationships – even when there is no physical presence to bear witness to a certain relationship. As the prince looks out towards the stars, he can derive joy from knowing that the rose he loves is there, somewhere, even if he cannot see her. This distance, however, makes the relationship perilously fragile, even as it underlines how essential the rose is to the prince.

Chapter 13 Quotes

"I myself own a flower," he continued his conversation with the businessman, "which I water every day. I own three volcanoes, which I clean out every week (for I also clean out the one that is extinct; one never knows). It is of some use to my volcanoes, and it is of some use to my flower, that I own them. But you are of no use to the stars..."

Related Characters: The Little Prince (speaker), The Businessman
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

The prince is attempting to continue his conversation with the businessman, and as he does so he tries to understand what the businessman is saying by making some kind of a connection to his own experience. The businessman has told him that it is important that he own the stars because, even if he cannot take them with him, he can put them in his bank - or at least put the record of them in his bank. The prince finds this incomprehensible, because for him something is valuable if it can be of use to someone: for instance, owning the volcanoes allows him to take care of them as well as to protect his rose.

Ownership, then, for the prince, has more to do with caretaking, protection, and the development of relationships than it has to do with pure numbers and figures. Once again, an adult seems to have lost all sense of what it really means, or should mean, to own something.

Chapter 15 Quotes

"My flower is ephemeral," the little prince said to himself, "and she has only four thorns to defend herself against the world. And I have left her on my planet, all alone!"

Related Characters: The Little Prince (speaker), The Rose/Flower
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

As the geographer asks the prince about the qualities of the prince's planet, he soon brushes off the prince's description of his flower by saying that he does not deal with "ephemeral" things - that is, qualities of a place or landscape that can easily disappear.

For the geographer, a flower can easily wilt or be trampled, making it unimportant relative to the mountains, forests, and seas that he deems significant enough to study. But for the prince, of course, that very fragility is frightening, since he thinks of the rose not as a key to his own map but rather as an innocent being that needs his help and care, as something that he loves. When the geographer describes the rose as ephemeral it is an insult, a dismissal. But for the prince, the rose's very ephemerality, the fact that it can be lost or destroyed, is part of what binds him to it and makes him love and want to care for it.

Chapter 20 Quotes

And he was overcome with sadness. His flower had told him that she was the only one of her kind in all the universe. And here were five thousand of them, all alike, in one single garden!

Related Characters: The Pilot/Narrator (speaker), The Little Prince, The Rose/Flower
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

In wandering around the planet Earth, the prince has stumbled upon a garden with thousands and thousands of roses. Although this garden is beautiful, the prince is horrified. He had believed his own rose when she had claimed she was unique in the universe: indeed, he had taken such good care of her in large part because he believed that she was irreplaceable. Now, the prince must grapple with the difficult realization that the flower that he loves, that he has tended to with such care, is literally one among thousands. 

At the moment, the prince cannot do anything other than cry. He is too distraught to fully come to terms with what this realization means. This scene, however, can be thought of as a turning point, in that the prince must now think about how to value what he loves for reasons other than that the object of his love is unique. Indeed, what it means to be unique, beyond simply one-of-a-kind in the universe, will be a question that he will return to.

Chapter 21 Quotes

"To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world..."

"I am beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower... I think that she has tamed me..."

Related Characters: The Little Prince (speaker), The Fox (speaker)
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

Still recovering from the painful realization about the roses, the little prince nonetheless is granted a chance to learn how he can reconsider what it means to value and love something as unique. The fox helps the little prince along in this understanding by explaining to him what "taming" means: by choosing one fox out of thousands to teach and to relate to, the prince chooses to treat it as unique in the universe, even though it may not be literally unique.

This is thus a more complex view of the value of relationships than the one the prince originally had. People choose to love and respect each other not necessarily because they cannot imagine finding anyone else similar to or even better than them, but because there is value in the choice itself. In some ways, this is another example of the point that the book has been making about the importance of valuing something in and of itself, rather than based on what it can do for you. 

"Goodbye," said the fox. "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

"What is essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

Related Characters: The Fox (speaker), The Little Prince
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

The fox has wanted the little prince to tame him, but now it has become clear to him that the prince will leave him to go on to other places. Before he leaves, the fox gives him one last piece of advice – advice, however, that he has been preparing the prince for all throughout their time spent together. The lesson of taming has introduced the prince to the idea that value and uniqueness might have less to do with the external qualities of the loved thing or being, and more with the act of loving – of attempting to see through the external and superficial to what is essential.

By making this lesson explicit, the fox reminds the prince to continue to ponder this difficult lesson – difficult especially since the rose, whom the prince loves, is indeed externally beautiful. But rather than fixating either on her outer beauty or on her superficial weaknesses, like vanity or a propensity to lie, the prince must learn to look with his heart and not his eye.

Chapter 22 Quotes

"Only the children know what they are looking for," said the little prince. "They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them; and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry..."

"They are lucky," the switchman said.

Related Characters: The Little Prince (speaker), The Railway Switchman (speaker)
Page Number: 89
Explanation and Analysis:

The little prince is speaking with a railway switchman, who tells him that the adults on the train journeys are usually bored and restless, their reasons for travel seeming pointless, while the children are fascinated by what is outside their windows. The prince mulls over this difference. For him, it is yet another example of what grown-ups are missing: as they focus on the destination, even if that destination is of questionable importance, they miss the beauty of what lies between two points, and they miss out on the opportunity to be struck with admiration or awe.

Still, the prince doesn't make a contrast between goal-driven adults and aimless children: instead, he argues that children are more likely to know what they are looking for, because they focus on what is important rather than growing obsessed with irrelevant, even random goals. The switchman seems to acknowledge that adults have lost something wonderful, even as he hears the story of children crying when a rag doll is taken away from them: he seems to imply that choosing to cherish something freely and lovingly is a gift in itself, even if it may risk being taken away.

Chapter 24 Quotes

I said to myself, again: "What moves me so deeply, about this little prince who is sleeping here, is his loyalty to a flower—the image of a rose that shines through his whole being like the flame of a lamp, even when he is asleep..." And I felt him to be more fragile still. I felt the need of protecting him, as if he himself were a flame that might be extinguished by a little puff of wind...

Related Characters: The Pilot/Narrator (speaker), The Little Prince, The Rose/Flower
Page Number: 93-94
Explanation and Analysis:
As the pilot watches the little prince sleep, he too begins to learn a valuable lesson about friendship and love. Just as the prince has chosen to love a rose and take care of her as best he can, making her unique in the world as his chosen object of love (if not as the only rose in the world), the pilot has developed a true friendship with the prince. As a result, he too feels the need to protect the prince and to keep him innocent, free from the corruption of the world and the schemes of the adults who have lost their sense of wonder and compassion. At the same time as the prince is learning more about what it means to seek out the essential beyond the superficial, the pilot too is learning to modify his adult understanding of the world.
Chapter 27 Quotes

Here, then, is a great mystery. For you who also love the little prince, and for me, nothing in the universe can be the same if somewhere, we do not know where, a sheep that we never saw has—yes or no?—eaten a rose...

Look up at the sky. Ask yourselves: is it yes or no? Has the sheep eaten the flower? And you will see how everything changes...

And no grown−up will ever understand that this is a matter of so much importance!

Related Characters: The Pilot/Narrator (speaker), The Little Prince, The Rose/Flower
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

As the narrator comes to the end of his story, he directly addresses the reader, asking us to align ourselves with the world view that he has developed through his relationship with the little prince. Throughout The Little Prince, we have seen a contrast between two ways of thinking: there is the grown-up way of thinking, which chooses what to value based on strange, distanced, and close-minded calculations; and there is the child's way of thinking, which chooses what to cherish based on essential, real values. Children do not need to think about whether what they love is "valuable" in economic or political terms: instead, their very act of choosing to love is what creates value. 

If the sheep has eaten the flower, this will undeniably be a great, painful loss for the prince, and the fact that even one person has loved the flower should make it a loss for us too. As he closes, then, the narrator challenges us to think about what is essential and what is truly valuable, and to break out of the way of thinking that most adults are condemned to follow.