The iconic Little Prince and his author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, are brought vividly to life through the illustrations in this faithful textual adaptation by Joann Sfar and through the eloquent translation from the French by Sarah Ardizzone. Sfar’s adaption does not wander too far from the original source in his imaging of the prince and the landscapes, but the visual addition of the narrator, who had not been depicted previously, renders it an innovative and successful undertaking. The narrator, closely resembling de Saint-Exupéry, plays a much more active role in this comic book version.
Originally published in 1943 as an illustrated novella, The Little Prince is a reflective allegory exploring themes of friendship, belonging, loneliness, and the imposed pressures of adulthood. Critically revered, the novella is thought to be based on the author’s own experiences as an aviator being stranded in the Sahara desert in 1935. de Saint-Exupéry illustrated the tale in watercolors for the childhood book market, but its classic status is more likely based on the profound observations and idealistic pronouncements that are an essential element of the storyline. Sfar has successfully included and visually embellished these elements for a contemporary generation of readers. While most of this version faithfully follows the original storyline, Sfar incorporates several additional whims of fancy such as the prince blissfully somersaulting from the top of the plane to the delight of the narrator. The prince, with his familiar flowing scarf, golden hair and expressive eyes relates, to the narrator and the reader, his reminiscences of his previous solitary existence, his travels from his home asteroid to earth, his experiences with the six asteroids and their eccentric and exasperating residents on his way to earth, and his adventures once landing in the desert up to his meeting with the narrator. The developing friendship between the little prince and the narrator is natural, realistic and, as a result, extremely poignant when the prince chooses to return home.
The illustrations are a uniform six panels to a page, with the loosely flowing drawings rendered in vibrant colors, complemented by the necessary but rather heavy text in places. Sfar’s recognizable illustrative style effectively imbues all of the characters with distinctive and expressive personalities. Both the prince and the narrator are equal participants in telling and activating the tale. However, my favourite character is the fox, who is eloquent, playful, and desiring of being tamed and loved.