The Little Prince: Chapter 5

With each passing day I would learn a bit more about the little prince’s planet, his departure from it and his journey. The facts came slowly and often unexpectedly. That is how I heard, on the third day, about the baobab crisis.

I had the sheep to thank for it, again. ‘Is it true that sheep eat shrubs?’ the little prince asked me suddenly.

‘Yes, this is true.’

‘Oh I am relieved!’

I couldn’t understand why it was good that sheep ate shrubs. But the little prince added: ‘That would mean they also eat baobabs?’

I explained to him that baobabs were not shrubs but massive trees, as big as castles, and that even if he took along a whole herd of elephants, they could not completely consume one single baobab.

The little prince laughed at the idea of the elephants. ‘They would have to be placed one on top of the other,’ he said. ‘But before the baobabs grow so big, they are quite little,’ he commented wisely.

‘That is true,’ I said. ‘But why would you want the sheep to eat the little baobabs?’

‘Oh come on!’ he said, as if it was the most obvious thing. And I was forced to search my own brain for an answer.

I learned in due course that the little prince’s planet, like planets everywhere, had good plants and bad plants. From these came good seeds and bad seeds. But seeds are invisible. They sleep deep in the soil until one among them begins to stir. The little seed stretches itself and cautiously pushes out a harmless little sprig upwards, facing the sun. If it is simply radish or a rose bush, it could be left to grow wherever it might wish. But a bad plant, once it has been identified, must be destroyed at once. Now, there were some terrible seeds on the little prince’s planet – the seeds of the baobab.

The soil of the planet was overrun with them. One could not let these baobabs grow freely. It would take over the entire planet and the roots would burrow their way down. And if it’s a small planet the baobabs would wreck it entirely.

‘It is all about discipline,’ the little prince explained to me. ‘When you’ve finished your washing and cleaning in the morning, it is time to take care of your planet. You must regularly pull out the baobabs the moment you can distinguish them from the rosebushes. The baobabs look just like rose bushes in their youth. It is tiring work, but very easy.’

Then he said to me, ‘You must make a beautiful drawing to inform the children on your planet about the baobabs. This would come in handy if they were to travel someday.’ He added, ‘Sometimes it is all right to put something off for a later day. But baobabs need to be uprooted at once, otherwise they would lead to a disaster. I once knew a layabout who neglected three little bushes on the planet that was his home …’

So, from the description that the little prince provided, I made a drawing of that planet.

I am not trying to preach, but the baobabs are a hazard that is not at all understood; especially those who might get lost on an asteroid must be told about them. Therefore, I quietly did what I was asked. I worked energetically on this drawing so that my friends could be informed of this serious danger. So I say: Children, watch out for the baobabs!

You might find it curious that there is no other drawing in the book as spectacular as that of the baobabs. I did try; I tried very hard, but without any success. With the baobabs, I think, I was compelled by the grave importance of the matter.