When Alessandro and I started talking back in 2oo3, he told me that one of his
favorite books was "The Little Prince" by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry.
We agreed that it was a beautiful story, and that this passage was one of the most
beautiful in the book (indeed, one of the most beautiful passages ever written).
Early on, he read this to me over the phone.
It was then that the fox appeared.
"Good morning" said the fox.
"Good morning," the little prince responded politely although when he turned around he saw nothing.
"I am right here" the voice said, "under the apple tree..."
"Who are you?" asked the little prince. "You are very pretty..."
"I am a fox", said the fox .
"Come and play with me," suggested the little prince, "I am so terribly sad..."
"I cannot play with you," said the fox. "I am not tame."
"Oh, I'm so sorry," said the little prince. But after some thought, he asked: "What does 'tame' mean?"
"You do not live here," said the fox. "What is it you are looking for?"
"I am looking for men," said the little prince. "What does 'tame' mean?"
"Men,"said the fox, "they have guns, and they hunt. It is a real nuisance. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests. Are you looking for chickens?"
"No," said the little prince. "I am looking for friends. What does 'tame' mean?"
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties..."
"To establish ties?"
"That's right," said the fox. "To me, you are still just a little boy like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. To you I am just a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique. And I shall be unique to you."
"I am beginning to understand," said the little prince. "There is a flower. . .I think she has tamed me. . ."
"It is possible," said the fox. "One sees all sorts of things on Earth ."
"Oh! But this is not on the Earth!" said the little prince.
The fox seemed perplexed.
"On another planet?"
"Are there any hunters on that planet?"
"Ah, that's interesting! Are there chickens?"
"Nowhere is perfect," sighed the fox. Presently he returned to his theme. "My life is monotonous. I hunt chickens and men hunt me. All chickens are alike and all men are alike. So I get a little bored. But if you tame me, my life will be full of sunshine. I shall recognize the sound of a step different from all others. The other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me out of my burrow like the sound of music. And look yonder! Do you see the wheat fields? I do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And I find that rather sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful it will be when you have tamed me! The grain, 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. "I beg of you - tame me!" he said.
"I want to, very much," the little prince replied. "But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand."
"One only understands the things that one tames," said the fox. "Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me!"
"What must I do, to tame you?" 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 look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day..."
The next day the little prince came back.
"It would have been better to come back at the same hour," said the fox. "If for example, you came at four o'clock in the afternoon, then at three o'clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o'clock, I shall be worrying and jumping about. I shall discover the price of happiness. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is ready 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 forgotten," said the fox. "It is what makes one day different from other days, one hour different from other hours. There is a rite, for example, among my hunters. Every Thursday they dance 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 every other day, and I would never have 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 never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you."
"Yes, indeed", 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 wheat fields." And 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 make you a present of a secret."
The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
"You are not at all like my rose," he said. "As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made a friend, and now he is unique in all the world."
And the roses were very much 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 rose looked just like you - the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is far more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is MY rose."
And he went back to meet the fox.
"Goodbye" he said.
"Goodbye," said the fox. "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
"What is essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
"It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."
"It is the time I have wasted for my rose -" said the little prince so he would be sure to remember.
"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, so that he would be sure to remember.
From the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
When Alessandro arrived in the US for the first time, just a few months after we'd started speaking, I gave him this little guy:
After all, it was pretty evident that he'd already tamed me.