The narrator comes back onto the stage and says that he has just finished his last drop of water when the Little Prince finishes his story about the sales clerk. Now the narrator is again concerned about his life, but the Little Prince apparently has a different set of priorities. When the narrator says they are likely to die of thirst, the Little Prince responds,
It’s good to have had a friend, even if you’re going to die.
The narrator thinks to himself that the Little Prince doesn’t comprehend the danger – then something strange happens: the Little Prince looks at him and answers his thought: “I’m thirsty, too … Let’s find a well.”
I call it strange because it reminds me of Jesus, who on more than one occasion “answered” people’s thoughts. I don’t know whether Saint-Exupery intended this parallel or it was accidental; but when I add that the story is about thirst and water and what we are really thirsty for and what really quenches that thirst, I can’t help but think that Saint Exupery had somewhere in the back of his mind the story of Jesus and the woman at the well.
Whether he had Jesus in mind or not, this prophetic or seer-like quality of the Little Prince adds to his mysterious character and makes us hang on his every word. And as I think about his comment that it’s good to have had a friend, even if you’re going to die, I wonder about people who have no friends, or who feel they have no friends. What kind of life must they live? And then, when it comes to the end, what kind of death must they die – alone?
In this chapter the narrator comes to understand the secret that the Little Prince learned from the fox – that anything essential cannot be seen with the eyes. His moment of understanding reminds him of something from his childhood (of course, since grown-ups can’t understand these things):
When I was a little boy I lived in an old house, and there was a legend that a treasure was buried in it somewhere. Of course, no one was ever able to find the treasure, perhaps no one ever searched. But it cast a spell over that whole house. My house hid a secret in the depths of its heart….
What about you? If you have a friend, there is a treasure buried somewhere inside him that casts a spell on you. Do you know what it is? Have you even looked for it? And is there some image or memory of yours that helps you to understand the fox’s secret?
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A side note for those interested: the narrator makes reference to being “somewhat feverish” because of his thirst. Saint-Exupery was himself stranded in the Sahara without water for many days, and knew first-hand what happens to the body and the mind when it is deprived of water. You can read the incredible story in chapter 8 of Wind, Sand, and Stars, which is a book you should read anyway.