a little prince is born



I recently went to the Morgan Library’s exhibit on Le Petit Prince and its author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

nytimes.com. Saint-Exupéry in May 1944 in Sardinia. Collection of Andrea Cairone, NY; John & Annamaria Phillips Foundation

nytimes.com. Saint-Exupéry in May 1944 in Sardinia. Collection of Andrea Cairone, NY; John & Annamaria Phillips Foundation

Saint-Exupéry was a French aviator and writer who, during a short stay in New York, wrote the famed children’s book.

The exhibit was as charming as I had hoped, capturing much of the magic of the book. But I was already fascinated before entering the exhibition room, as just before the entrance, under a display glass, was his identification bracelet.


Saint-Exupéry’s i.d. bracelet ©wikipedia.com  

Saint-Exupéry had disappeared in July 1944 on an assigned reconnaissance mission over the Mediterranean and was presumed to have died at this time. In 1998, fishermen found his identity bracelet in their nets leading to the unraveling of his mysterious death (you can read more about it here: nytimes.com/saint-exupery)


Entering the exhibit, I saw, hung along the walls, drafts of the characters and drawings so many of us have come to love.


Estate of Saint-Exupéry. Morgan Library&Museum, New York


Each drawing was accompanied by a small description of how the characters (the prince himself, the sheep, etc.) came to be, how they evolved, or why they weren’t even included in the final work; along with images of the final version for comparison.

For example, we learn that his dog, Hannibal, a boxer, was the inspiration for both the tiger and the fox.  I love the fox and his long ears and it’s funny to think he was inspired by a boxer!




Saint-Exupéry often wrote and drew into the late evening hours, cigarette in mouth, coffee cup resting on the drawings themselves (as the many coffee rings and cigarette burns on the sketches can attest to. I quite liked this detail. It made it easier to imagine him, leaning over the paper thoughtfully, creating his world).

©wsj.com Estate of Saint-Exupéry. Morgan Library&Museum, New York

Sketch with coffee stain ©wsj.com Estate of Saint-Exupéry. Morgan Library&Museum, New York


There was so much that I loved about this exhibit: original manuscripts, a small reading circle with copies of the book for children to read, photographs of St. Exupéry’s time in New York City, but the real gem was seeing those preliminary sketches.

Seeing a prince born.





94 thoughts on “a little prince is born

  1. Wonderful. My memories of reading this as a child are still fresh. Thanks also for the NYT piece. I did not know this story. A tale in itself: in war, would you hesitate shooting the enemy if you knew the enemy was a great artist?

    • It’s such a fascinating story, right? And what a good question you ask, Ross. I suppose soldiers have to distance themselves from their enemy to a certain extent, not think of them as artists, fathers, sons, etc.

  2. I am so sad I missed this exhibit. I should check the Morgan’s website more often. Thanks for writing about this, I will go back and read the book!

  3. Beautiful post. I would love to see the exhibit. I first saw the 1974 film before reading the book, was totally enthralled by it (Gene Wilder as the fox). The little prince is ethereal in there. Now they are making a new adaptation, hopefully as soulful and charming as the old one and the book.

    • I remember hearing that his i.d. bracelet had been found but I didn’t know the entire story that followed. And seeing the i.d. bracelet with his name inscribed itself was quite fascinating in itself. Glad to hear it’s one of your favorite childhood books too!

  4. To be gifted in writing and illustrating a book amazes me. You are fortunate to be able to see this exhibit, Letizia. I knew nothing about the author and you have filled that in by providing the article. Answers and raises questions at the same time. I need to reread the book.

    • I agree, Lynne – being so gifted at drawing and writing is rare. That’s why I liked this exhibit so much – it highlighted the creative process itself, making the book even more magical for me. Enjoy your rereading of the book!

  5. I found the story behind Antoine de Saint-Exupéry absolutely fascinating Letizia, having never heard of him (I read the link, incredible!) nor of Le Petit Prince, to my shame. What a delightful book it must be…
    The exhibit must have been wonderful for you
    Thank you so much for sharing this, I’ve learnt so much from this post and I love it when that happens! 🙂

    • His life and death is so interesting, Sherri, isn’t it? There is such a small chance that the fisherman would find the i.d. bracelet and then even recognize the name on it. Really incredible! Sorry it took me a while to respond to your comment (it went into my Spam file for some reason!).

      • Very interesting indeed! I was amazed and entranced by the story, from start to finish! No worries Letizia, I’ve been having problems with commenting and some of mine going to spam for no good reason. I’ve asked WP to look into it but so far no response. It’s been really annoying and I’m getting a bit fed up with it. Hope it gets sorted out soon 😦

  6. What an wonderful post Letizia, I find this absolutely fascinating. I’ve never heard of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry nor of Le Petit Prince, to my shame, but what a delightful book it must be…
    The exhibit must have been wonderful for you…
    Thank you so much for sharing this, I’ve learnt a lot and I love it when that happens 🙂

    • It’s always interesting to see how a book can be curated into a museum exhibit; a great challenge for any curator, I think. And perhaps a children’s book is even a greater challenge because we have such high expectations, with so many emotions and memories attached!

  7. Thanks for sharing so many details of this exhibit since it’s something I probably won’t see for myself. I don’t know which fascinated me more: the sketches, or the mystery and id bracelet.

  8. This was such an unusual exhibit….dream and reality mixed…. The world of the Petit Prince and the details of what really happenned. The different phases of the creation, the first drawings of the Little Prince are sooo different than the final Little Prince. The story of his dog and the Fox… I had forgotten about that. And of course the bracelet found “par miracle” by a fisherman who, of course, knew the name Antoine de St Exupery….!
    A great and unusual exhibit
    It was so nice to read about it in your blog

    • You’re so right, it was a bit like a mix of a dream and a reality. Stepping into a book, into our imagination.

      And, of course, you’re make such a good point! That the fisherman recognized the name of S. Exupery makes such a big difference in the whole story!

    • I love knowing that this is one of your favorite books too! You would have loved this little exhibit too then. There were some original manuscripts which were interesting to look at as well.

  9. Pingback: Sunshine, Clematis and Peace Knitting | mybeautfulthings

    • So glad you liked this story and exhibit, Dannie (and thanks for the tweet!). I’m always fascinated to see how museums are able to curate exhibits on books, how they can bring them to life – and this one was especially well done.

  10. “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Airman’s Odyssey

    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,understood the essence of connection, of knowing another without being imprisoned by false sentiment. How lucky we are that he lived and chose to share his thoughts through the powerful force of storytelling.

    A wonderful post, as usual. I have The Prince on my “Kindle.” We are celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday this long weekend in Canada. So guess what I’ll be reading. (Yes, I know – I have a 2014 reading program – but sometimes it is go to segue!)

    • What a lovely way to spend the holiday weekend! That S. Exupery quotation is one of my favorites. You’re right, he understood the nature of connection.

  11. Thank you for sharing this. While Sydney is gorgeous, it’s nice to feel like I haven’t missed out on this amazing exhibit in NYC. My son just turned 4 and his 94 year old great-grandma bought him the pop-up version of the Little Prince for his birthday. I was sure he was too young for it, but he proved me wrong and reminded me of how much I think like a grown-up!

    • What a beautiful gift to receive from his great grandmother! And I love hearing that he was able to appreciate the story already. You must have been delighted to revisit it with him. A pop-up version sounds adorable too.

  12. Really a legend and amazing that the mystery of his disappearance took so long to surface and remains somewhat shrouded in controversy. Such a popular author here, they keep reissuing this book in multiple forms for all ages of reader, it is such an inspiration. Thanks for sharing and for all the links.

    • He’s so iconic in France, it’s true (and throughout the world, but even more so in France, I agree). It’s amazing that his bracelet was even found and that his death is still discussed, adding to the iconic status, no doubt. So glad you enjoyed the post – as always, thanks for dropping by!

  13. So glad you can visit the Morgan Library and bring us stories of the wonderful exhibits there. The story of the identity bracelet seems made for a movie. 🙂

  14. An interesting post, Letizia. You are so lucky to be near such interesting exhibits. If you haven’t read his “Wind, Sand and Stars” or his “Flight to Arras” yet, they are worth reading. They give another glimpse into the man who invented the Prince.

    • I haven’t read them yet so I will add them to my list – thanks, Tom! I’ve always loved The Little Prince and the exhibit has made me want to learn more about S. Exupery.

  15. As always, you teach me something new about the beauty of stories. This is such a neat exhibit. I can’t believe that they found his bracelet! And I absolutely love the coffee and cigarette stains. Also, I found the NY Times story fascinating. Another reason why war is so tragic, when a creative soul is sacrificed to violence.

    • Aren’t the coffee and cigarette stains funny? I like that he played with the coffee stain, incorporating it into his sketch.

      This story really does highlight the tragedy of war, I agree.

    • It’s one of the reasons I loved this exhibit (you would have loved it too!) – he came to life through it, coffee stains and cigarette smoke and all!

  16. What a Wonderful post, dear Letizia…
    “The Little Prince” is such a meaningful book, full of metaphors and deep messages.
    That’ s why I think It is not exclusively for kids.
    The illustrations add extra value to this “classic”.
    I enjoyed the post very much… thanks also for adding a brief biography of Saint Exupery.
    In this sense, another worthwhile book by him that tell us about his experiences as an aviator is “Vol de Nuit”…
    Best wishes, Aquileana 🙂

  17. Oh, thank you so much for writing this. I didn’t know about the author’s demise. How tragic. But, we can be happy that his legend lives on in the book and museum and posts like yours.

    • His death is so tragic but, as you point out, at least his talent lives on in his beautiful words and drawings. And in the imagination of all little children (and adults!) around the world.

  18. I love the details of coffee cup rings and cigarette burns, that’s how to create work! Fascinating post and a book I must have…some times it is good to celebrate this capitalist way of life. Solving a mystery is always fascinating as well, wonderful all round.

  19. Must have been great exhibit. I have to say that I have not read this book, but of course I have heard its name many, many times. I am glad that You made this post which is really interesting. Thank You.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I think you would have enjoyed the exhibit even if you had not read the book – it was done in a way so that everyone could enjoy it.

  20. I have a confession. This is one of those books which I did not ‘get’ as a child. I can remember feeling that I was supposed to find something in it other than a story but could not work out what and that put me off. I’m not sure how old I would have been, but you must forgive me for this lack of early tenacity! Your lovely post has inspired me to have another go…. 🙂

    • ‘This lack of early tenacity’- oh how you had me laughing at this! You are so funny! The Little Prince is an odd little story, it’s true, perhaps only for the very young or the older child. I can see that there would be an age when it might be hard to connect with it. I wonder if you would enjoy it now (or perhaps your first reading will have scarred the experience- that happens to me with some books).

      • Yes, first impressions have such a big impact, don’t they. But one’s memories can be overturned. I am in later years a fan of several books which I came to hate because they were set books for study at school. When I gave them another chance in adulthood, it was a different matter. Having said that, I must put it on record that I think Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider with Rosie’ is utterly irredeemable, whatever age you are!

  21. I’m so glad you enjoyed the exhibition I curated, Letizia, and I’m particularly happy to see all the comment and interaction you stimulated with your post! After all, that’s one of the keys to this book–that it reminds us of the importance of meaningful connection with others. All best from Christine Nelson

    • I loved the way you curated the exhibit, Christine: highlighting the creative process, encouraging interaction with the drawings, and allowing us to enter into the world of the text (quite literally, as I smiled with delight when I walked in and saw the exhibition walls and felt like I was in the book!).

      Thank you so much for reading and stopping by – all the best!

  22. what a wonderful post
    I love stories behind children’s books, what a great exhibit
    one of my favorite children books right next to the velveteen rabbit, both so good

Comments are always welcome!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s