Pillbox

Mon dessin ne représentait pas un chapeau

111 kings, 7,000 geographers, 900,000 businessmen, 7,500,000 tipplers, 311,000,000 conceited men; that is to say, about 2,000,000,000 grown-ups. The composition of the entire world, according to a little boy with curly blonde hair who, in the words of the Frenchman who wrote him, “refuses to answer any questions.”

We don’t know much about this boy except that he’s the prince of a small planet, far, far away, where he can see a sunset whenever he wants by just moving his chair: A planet he inhabits accompanied with a rose with a singular thorn, and, if our pilot’s art skills are up to muster, an unmuzzled goat. It’s a bizarre cast of characters, from a bizarre universe, that really doesn’t resemble our planet at all.

Doesn’t it?

The prince is well traveled. He’s talked to a king with no subjects, looking to lord over anything. He’s enjoyed — though that may be the wrong word for it — the company of a businessman bent on appraising every star and a geographer who has never laid eyes on the marvels that he writes about.

He meets a wall of roses, each as beautiful as his own back home. They’re well cared for. He meets a fox, and befriends it. He learns how to befriend it, I should say — with a large amount of help from the fox himself. And then, after making his first friend, he and the fox are separated, for who knows how long.

There’s a profound sadness in the book. A profound sense of loss. A fox, traveling a forest, returned to his monotony, with only the stories of a strange young boy with hair the color of wheat fields to accompany him.

He’s met adults. Plenty of them, who have forgotten how to make believe. He’s met people who would look at a picture and never for an instance think it could be anything but a hat.

If the hat's eyes haven’t given it away, it’s a snake eating an elephant. Very slowly, mind you, it’s rather hard for most snakes to eat elephants. Our snake, though, has planned it all out, with a schedule for when he’ll digest extra hard, and a schedule for when he’ll let his stomach rest. Maybe he’ll start talking to his food, and decide instead he rather enjoys having an elephant inside of his stomach, and decide not to digest him at all.

Sure, you can’t see that from the outside, but it’s just a leap of imagination that can bring out a story. It’ll bring out the beauty in the unremarkable. There are few things that are more interesting than a snake capable of eating an entire elephant. When we see one, perhaps we should stop and take it in fully.

The Little Prince was us, all of us, at one time. We were all that curly-haired ruler of our own world, with our rose we keep under glass to protect her. Some of us, we forget that. We rush into the great unknowns. We become the kings, the geographers, the businessmen. We’re the tipplers, and the conceited.

To some extent, we all become grown-ups.

St. Exupery made something amazing. He put more into that book than any of us can imagine, and certainly more than I could ever do justice in something I’m probably writing at some ungodly hour. (It’s 7:00 in the morning.)

At the end of it all, the prince wants a goat to keep him company. And try as he might, our pilot cannot draw a photorealistic goat. Hell, I can’t blame him, that’s a hard task to ask anyone, let alone someone who probably hasn’t drawn much in years. He keeps trying, coming up with different goats, with different shapes and sizes and proportions.

Each time, he’s rejected. He knows what a goat looks like. He has seen one. Just not the one that is needed.

He draws a box. A box? One containing a goat, of course. Why else would he create a box?

He hasn’t forgotten the snake. He thinks about the goat, and what it needs. Air holes! Of course! How could any goat breathe without some?

A pilot, in a desert, crashed. He spoke to a visitor from another planet. He gave that boy a goat. A goat with a story. Sure, that pilot grew up, it would be hard not to in a world rocked by conflict. One day, years from now, maybe he’ll grow up some more. He’ll look at a box and forget what could be inside of it. But in that moment, he hasn’t forgotten. He hasn’t grown all the way up. Where’s the fun in that?