Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince is the only true children’s book on the list. It only took me fifteen minutes to read, but it was very enjoyable. I can understand why it is the eighth best-selling book of all-time, even though I was only vaguely familiar with it before Lost.
The Little Prince is the title of the fourth episode of season five. In this episode, Jack starts to rally the Oceanic Six together to return to the Island (they would do so a few episodes later). Kate is reluctant at first, but comes on board by the end of the episode after Ben Linus hires an attorney to show up on Kate’s doorstep to force her and Aaron to take a blood test. Ostensibly, then, the little prince refers to Aaron. Like the little prince, Aaron is a small, blond-haired boy.
The book is also referenced in one of the flashes through time back on the Island in the same episode. The time travelling castaways wind up in 1988, when Rosseau’s expedition team crash landed on the Island. Locke picks up a canister from the boat that has “bésixdouze” written on it. Bésixdouze is French for B612. B612 is the asteroid that the little prince came from.
The book opens with an unnamed narrator talking about his life. The narrator describes how he wanted to be an artist as a kid, but gave up that dream because adults do not appreciate art. Instead, he became a pilot (like Saint-Exupery himself). A few chapters into the story, the narrator crashes his plane in the middle of the Sahara Desert. He knows that he only has eight days worth of water, so he frantically works to salvage his plane.
After a day in the desert, he is stunned by the appearance of a small, blond-haired boy. The boy implores him to draw a picture of a sheep, but the narrator does not know how to draw a sheep. After several failed attempts, he eventually settles on drawing a box (maybe a magic box?) and tells the little prince that the sheep is inside the box. Finally the little prince is happy and begins to tell the pilot his story.
The little prince came from Asteroid B612, a tiny planet that has only one inhabitant, three volcanoes, and one rose that is the little prince’s only friend. After the rose frustrates the little prince one day, he decides to see what else is out there in the universe.
The prince lands on six planets before finally landing on Earth, all of which have only one inhabitant. He meets a king who claims he controls all of the stars in the universe as his subjects; an extremely busy business man who claims that he owns all the stars in the universe; a vain man; a drunkard; a lamp lighter on a planet where day and night last only a minute each; and a geographer who draws maps but doesn’t explore for himself. The prince can’t figure out adults and finds them all a bit preposterous.
On the geographer’s suggestion, the prince lands on Earth to meet people. He unfortunately lands in the barren Sahara and only meets a few sporadic animals without ever meeting a human. The prince tames a fox, and the two begin an interdependent relationship. The fox provides the biggest tidbit of wisdom of the book: “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” Ingenious. The fox makes the point that the little prince needs to go back and take care of his flower because, in a way, the prince tamed the flower.
The fox eventually leaves the little prince in a tearful goodbye. Not long after, the narrator crash lands in the desert. Finally, the little prince has a human friend: the very reason he came to Earth in the first place.
The narrator is glad that he has a friend out here to help him, but it doesn’t last. The little prince sadly tells the narrator that he needs to return to his home planet. The prince lets a poisonous snake bite him, saying that his body is too heavy to travel home with. The narrator pleads with him not to go, but wakes up to find the prince’s dead body. Like any good ending, it is ambiguous. The next day, the body is gone and the narrator reveals that this happened six years ago, and he is still looking for the prince.
There are a few superficial themes that show up in both The Little Prince and Lost. First, both works begin with a plane crash. Second, the French team’s boat is named after Asteroid B612 – an apt comparison, considering that the boat crash landed on a barren island, similar to how the little prince crash landed into the Sahara. That begs the question of why the team would name their boat in such a manner, but that is probably a discussion for a different time.
As I mentioned above, the little prince matches Aaron’s description. This makes sense; although this is a Kate-centric episode, Aaron is really the main character in it. Aaron is the one thing holding Kate back from returning to the Island. She reluctantly becomes aware of what she has to do, and drops the “little prince” off at Grandma Littleton’s house and shows up at Jack’s door with the intention of returning to the Island.
But beyond all these superficial comparisons, the little prince is clearly referring to John Locke. The little prince had to die to return to his home so he could take care of his flower. That sounds a lot like Locke’s journey back to the Island after the Oceanic Six left.
At this point, we know Locke is dead because we saw his body for the first time in the season four finale. Three episodes later, in The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham, we learn what happened to Locke after he turned the frozen donkey wheel and left the Island. He knew that he had to die to get the Oceanic Six to return to the Island. He had to die so they could come back to the Island. In short, he had to “take care” of the Island in the same way that the little prince had to take care of his flower back home.
Locke’s death directly set in motion the chain of events that would lead to Jacob’s death at the hands of the Man in Black, Jack then killing the Man in Black, and Hurley and Ben taking charge of the Island. Sure, Locke was merely being used as a pawn of the Man in Black…but he did save the Island. Without him rallying the Oceanic Six to come back, Jack never would have saved the Island and Hurley never would have taken over as the new man in charge.
In the end, Locke got the job done: he took care of his flower the best way he knew how.
For more book reviews, return to my Literature of Lost series.