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Little Liked The Little Prince

Perhaps there is a parallel in the Little Prince’s Asteroid 325 and Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus’ heliocentrism illustrated here in 1661 by Andreas Cellarius.
Andreas Cellarius, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Perhaps there is a parallel in the Little Prince’s Asteroid 325 and Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus’ heliocentrism illustrated here in 1661 by Andreas Cellarius.

Hello, Radio Readers; this is Kim Perez, and I am coming to you from Hays with a few thoughts about the book The Little Prince for the spring 2023 Radio Readers Book Club.

I selected this book because I love children’s literature. I enjoy the simplicity of the stories, but I also enjoy the deeper meanings and parables that are often a part of these tales. I believe children’s literature can be enjoyed by children of all ages. In particular, I love reading children’s books with an environmental message. Among my favorite books are The Lorax, Brother Eagle, Sister Sky, and Willa of the Woods. I heard that The Little Prince had an environmental message and the reviews for the book are glowing, so I enthusiastically dug right in….

When I was a student, a friend and I would open the dictionary, pick a word, and challenge each other to fit that word into our essays. On one occasion, I was tasked with including “pergola” in a paper, and she had to somehow include the word “muskrat.” As I was reading The Little Prince, I felt like the author opened the dictionary and selected random words and challenged himself to create a story. Here is what I imagined he thought as he conceived the book: “Prince, check. Pilot, okay. Rose, no problem. Boabab, I can make that work. Asteroid, that is going to take a little more creativity. Hmmm, now to weave this all into a coherent story!”

I know! I know! Mine is an unpopular opinion, and I am sure I will get a lot of grief for this assessment, but I just didn’t find a coherent story in the book. So, I went on my own quest to make sense of it, but every assessment I read of the book offered a different central message, so I think other readers were left as confused as I am. Perhaps, (and it pains me to admit this) I am guilty of the very thing that the little prince sought to expose: the narrow-mindedness of adulthood.

There is one small, obscure section of the book that did speak to me though and brought to mind an interesting parallel. Early in the book, the little prince tells us that the asteroid that he is from, Asteroid 325, was first discovered by a Turkish astronomer, but his discovery was not believed because of how he was dressed. When the Turkish dictator demanded that everyone wear western clothes and the astronomer presented his findings again, he was instantly believed because of what he was wearing.

This reminded me of the accounts of one of the central discoveries of the Scientific Revolution, the heliocentric model of the universe. Early accounts of the Scientific Revolution tell the triumphal story of Polish astronomer Nicholas Copernicus and how he worked out heliocentrism through a mathematical model but hesitated to publish his findings because they challenged geocentrism and the official view of the church. But later research by Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei provided physical proof of his model and ushered in the Copernican Revolution. This narrative lasted for hundreds of years until it was challenged by historians in the last fifty years. Historians now understand that Copernicus was not the first to challenge the traditional model and undoubtedly benefitted from the mathematical work of medieval Islamic astronomers such as Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, ibn al Shatir, and several others. Historians more readily accept historical narratives that are western in origin and demonstrate the preeminence of western science. Through the story of the Turkish astronomer and the discovery of Asteroid 325, the author confirms that western bias.

Before I sign off, I will promise to continue my quest to understand this beloved story before our on-air discussion on Sunday, May 7….but I make no promises.

Thanks for listening. This is Kim Perez, and you are listening to the High Plains Public Radio Reader’s Book Club.

Spring Read 2023: In Touch with the World 2023 Spring ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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