I was thus able to learn a second important fact: that the planet the little prince came from was as small as a house!
But I don’t know why I was so surprised. I was aware that besides the great planets, the ones we have named Earth, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, there are also many, many others, some of which are so tiny that it is difficult to spot them even through the telescope. When an astronomer discovers a new planet he gives it a number instead of a name. Something like ‘Asteroid 325’.
I strongly believe that the little prince’s planet is the asteroid known as B-612. This asteroid has only been seen once through a telescope, by a Turkish astronomer, in 1909.
This astronomer presented his discovery at the International Astronomical Congress, but he was completely ignored because of his Turkish dress. Grownups can often be like that.
Thankfully for the Asteroid B-612, a Turkish dictator decreed that his subjects must dress in European clothes or face death. So the astronomer made his presentation again in 1920, this time dressed in a handsome suit. He was able to convince everyone.
I have given you these details about the asteroid, because of the grown-ups – they seem to love numbers. When they hear that you have made a new friend, they ask the most unimportant questions. They never say, ‘What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?’ Instead, they ask: ‘How old is he? How many brothers has he? What is his weight? Does his father make much money?’ From these numbers alone they think they have learned everything about him. For instance, if you were to say to the grown-ups: ‘I saw a beautiful brick house with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof,’ they would be confused. But if you say, ‘I saw a house worth a million dollars,’ they would remark, ‘What a pretty house!’
So, if you say to them, ‘The little prince exists! He was so very nice and charming. He laughed and he asked for a sheep. Only a real person wants a sheep,’ the grownups would only shrug their shoulders and think you were being childish. However, if you were to say, ‘He came from Asteroid B-612,’ they would be convinced, and would leave you in peace. That is how they are! You must not hold it against them. Children need to be very patient with grown-ups.
For those of us who understand life, numbers are not so critical. If only I could begin this story like a fairy tale. Then I would say, ‘Once upon a time there was a little prince, who lived on a planet barely bigger than himself. He was in search of a friend …’
I do not want anyone to read my book carelessly. Reliving these memories has made me sad. It has been six years since my friend departed, along with his sheep. I must try to describe him here, to make sure that I don’t ever forget him. To forget a friend is terrible. Not everyone has had a friend.
I do not want to be like the grown-ups who are only interested in numbers. So, I have bought a box of paints and some pencils. It is so hard to return to drawing at my age, when all I have ever produced are two pictures of a boa constrictor, from the outside and the inside, at the age of six. I will certainly try to make my portraits as realistic as possible. But I don’t know if I will succeed. One drawing looks fine, but the other looks nothing like him. I don’t seem to get the little prince’s height right either. He is too tall in one and too small in another. Neither am I sure about the colour of his clothes. So I try as best as I can – sometimes getting it right, sometimes not. You must excuse my mistakes. It is not my fault. My friend never gave me any explanations. He thought, perhaps, that I was like him. But, alas, I cannot see sheep through the walls of boxes. Maybe I am a bit like the grown-ups. Maybe I have grown old.