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When I was a little boy I lived in an old house, and there was a legend that a treasure was buried in it somewhere. . . . But it cast a spell over the whole house.
By the time the little prince finishes the story of his travels, the pilot has been stranded in the desert for eight days and has run out of water. He is too worried that he will die of thirst to want to hear any more about the prince or the fox. The prince replies that it is still good to have a friend, even if one is about to die of thirst. The prince says he is also thirsty and proposes that they search for a well. Despite the absurdity of such an endeavor, the narrator agrees.
As they walk, the prince and the pilot talk about beauty. The prince explains that the desert is beautiful because somewhere it conceals a well. Remembering a boyhood home that was made special for him by rumors of buried treasure, the narrator is stunned to realize that the source of beauty is always something secret and invisible. The prince is happy that the narrator agrees with the fox’s lessons and drops off to sleep. The narrator continues to walk with the sleeping prince in his arms, stirred by the fragile beauty of the little prince who loves his rose so deeply. At daybreak, he finds the well for which they have been searching.
The narrator and the prince hoist the water from the well, which looks like a village well, unlike anything one would expect to find in a desert. As they drink, the narrator is struck by the sweetness of the water, which revives the heart like a good feast and which is made special by its setting in the same way that a Christmas present is made special by the celebration that surrounds it. He and the prince agree that men on Earth lose sight of those things for which they are looking. People on Earth raise five thousand roses when they could find what they really want in a single rose or drop of water. But people look with their eyes instead of their hearts, the prince remarks.
The prince reminds the narrator of his promise to draw a muzzle for the prince’s sheep. When the narrator takes out his drawings, the little prince good-naturedly laughs at their primitiveness but says that children will understand them. As the narrator gives the prince the drawing of the muzzle, he realizes that the prince has secret plans and guesses that they are related to the fact that the next day marks the anniversary of the prince’s arrival on Earth. The prince refuses to admit that he has plans, but the narrator can tell from the prince’s blushing that he has guessed correctly. Suddenly, the narrator feels very sad. He remembers the fox’s lesson that tears are the pain you risk by being tamed.
In Chapters XXIV and XXV, the narrator learns through experience the lessons that the prince learned while with the fox. The search for the well in the desert makes it clear to the narrator that people must discover the true meaning of things for themselves in order for those things to have value. The narrator finds the well while he is on his own, holding the sleeping little prince in his arms. Once the narrator has learned this lesson about how the process of discovery makes the results worthwhile, he takes it to heart and is able to apply it to the emotions and intuitions of his past, as he does when he reminisces over the mysterious house of his childhood. Even though the story shows us all of the prince’s discoveries and encounters, Saint-Exupéry is trying to inform us that we will not truly understand unless we search for meaning ourselves. Even the narrator, who is a firsthand witness to the prince’s story, needs to learn the fox’s lessons for himself through experience instead of simply being told them.
Before they search for the well, the prince tells the narrator about meeting a salesclerk who sold thirst-quenching pills. One might think that such pills are exactly what the narrator and prince need to survive in the desert, but they never once find themselves wishing for them. When the narrator drinks from the well, he receives more than simple physical nourishment. The water also revives his heart, and he finds it more like a Christmas present than anything else. He says that what makes the water taste so delightful is all the hard work that went into finding it, emphasizing that relationships, objects, and experiences are rewarding only when you invest time and effort in them.
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