Antoine de St. Exupery, The Little Prince (The Fox’s Secret)

“My life is monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens and men hunt me. All the chickens are the same, and all the men are the same. So I get a little bored. But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step different from all others. Other steps send me hurrying back back underground. Yours will call me out of my burrow, like music. And look there! Do you see the wheatfields? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. Those wheatfields remind me of nothing. And that is rather sad! But you have hair the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be when you have tamed me! The wheat, which is also golden, will remind me of you. And I shall love the sound of the wind in the wheat…”

The fox became silent and gazed for a long time at the little prince.

“Please – tame me!” he said.

“I want to, very much,” the little prince replied. “But I haven’t much time. I have friends to discover and a great many things to understand.”

“One can only understand the things one tames,” said the fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy ready-made things in the shops. But since there are no shops where you can buy friends, men no longer have any friends. If you want a friend, tame me!”

“What must I do?” asked the little prince.

“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me, like that, in the grass. I shall watch you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are a source of misunderstandings. But every day, you can sit a little closer to me…”

The next day the little prince returned.

“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox. “If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to feel happy. As the time passes I shall feel happier and happier. At four o’clock, I shall become agitated and start worrying; I shall discover the price of happiness! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know when I should prepare my heart to greet you… One must observe the proper rites.”

“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.

“It is something which is all too often neglected,” said the fox. “It is what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they go dancing with the village girls. So Thursday is a wonderful day for me! I can take a walk as far as the vineyards. But if the hunters danced at just any time, every day would be like any other day, and I would never a holiday.”

So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near: “Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”

“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I wished you no harm but you wanted me to tame you.”

“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.

“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.

“That is so,” said the fox.

“Then it has done you no good at all!”

“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheatfields.” Then he added: “Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me and I will tell you a secret as a gift.”

The little prince went off to look at the roses again.

“None of you is at all like my rose. As of yet you are nothing,” he said to them. “No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first saw him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”

And the roses were deeply embarrassed.

“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my very own rose looked just like you. But she in herself is more important than all of you because she is the one I watered. Because she is the one I put a glass dome. Because she is the one I sheltered behind a screen. Because it is for her that I killed the caterpillars (except for the two or three saved to become butterflies.) Because she is the one I have listened to, complaining or boasting or sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.”

And he went back to the fox.

“Goodbye,” he said.

“Goodbye,” said the fox. “Here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with the heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” the little prince repeated, to make sure he remembered.

“It is the time you have spent on your rose which makes your rose so important.”

“It is the time I have spent for my rose…” said the little prince, to make sure he remembered.

“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose…”

“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, to make sure he remembered.

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