29 August 2015


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 124

"Es ist eine Frage der Disziplin," sagte mir spaeter der Kleine Prinz. "Wenn man seine Morgentoilette beendet hat, muss man sich ebenso sorfaeltig an die Toilette des Planeten machen . . ."

This meeting, let's discuss the little prince's home again. I say "again" because the first time we visited was for Locus Focus #89. We didn't really take a good around back then, and I mostly asked everyone about their own "home planets," so I'll make up for that now.

But before we get to Chapters V to IX, I want to announce that Locus Focus will be back for September. The theme will be Sightseeing in September, because there's nothing like all summer vacations being over for the year (New Zealand in February; the Philippines in June; Germany and Italy in September) that makes me want to travel . . . even if only through books. =)

Ich sage: Kinder, Achtung! Die Affenbrotbaueme!

The narrator doesn't learn how different the little prince's world is from his own until they get a bit confused about Baobab trees. Though not a problem for us at all, they are a huge issue for those who must live on a much smaller planet, because their full size on all planets is the same. The opposite seems to be true for the volcanoes, which are molehills instead of mountains in the little prince's world. He uses his two active volcanoes to cook his food and sweeps them out as regularly as we tend to our own ovens and fire pits. After you attend to your personal toilet, he says, you should see to the toilet of your planet. And I think many of us would like to do this for our own planet, but just feel too small to do anything worthwhile.

I've always felt that Antoine de Saint Exupery was not just talking about the ecology of the earth, but also the ecology of the mind. In the same way that there are certain species that we must deal with while they are still small enough to be an inconvenience rather than a crisis, there are certain ideas that we should not allow to take root in our minds.

Last meeting, when we talked about friendship, I totally neglected to make the connection to Victor Frankenstein, romantic protagonist-villain of a previous "Two or Three" Book Club pick. But it would be really remiss for me to miss the link between the Baobab trees and Michael Crichton's "ecology of thought" in State of Fear. Of course, now that I've done so, I raise the question of how we know which ideas are baobab trees. The follow-up to State of Fear was The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis de Montfort, which reminded me that there are many who would say that the Marian dogmas are the baobab trees of Christianity. Since that readalong, I've come to see that the real baobab tree is an aversion to Mary. Of course, we could go around in circles doing this . . .

Is there a sure, universally accepted way of knowing that something is a baobab tree? "By its fruits," sure--but don't some people seem to like some of those fruits? Which brings us to the second problem of how we convince someone that a baobab is a baobab when he doesn't think it is. Perhaps the man whose planet was taken over by the three baobabs is actually happy living that way. Then what can anyone do?

"Man darf die Blumen nicht zuhoeren, muss man sie anschauen und einatmen . . ."

More trouble than any Affenbrotbaum is the mysterious new Blume, who is more than just another plant. She talks back. =P

(Hey, did anyone else notice that the Wandschirm in the above drawing is in the wrong place for blocking the wind? LOL!)

We could also think of the rose as another sort of idea--and in this case Der Kleine Prinz gives us another simple instruction for dealing with her. Enjoy her beauty and her scent, but don't listen to her. Just because something makes the world a gentler, sweeter place to live, that doesn't mean it can tell us what we should do next. (Incidentally, this is exactly what State of Fear says about the benefits and limitations of science.)

For years, I've also taken for granted that the rose is based on a woman whom the author knew, and that she represents, in a way, all women. Which is not very flattering for us, is it? LOL!

Totally Optional Discussion Questions for Chapters V to IX:

1) What simple task for the toilet of the planet could we all add to our daily routine?
2) What do you think is the worst baobab tree of the mind?
3) What are we supposed to learn from the rose?

Image Sources: a) Der Planeten des Kleinen Prinzen, b) Die Affenbrotbaeume, c) Die Blume


Brandon said...

I think it's interesting that the little prince errs with the flower by naively taking her words at face value, rather than interpreting them in light of her actions: he fails to recognize that she is even more naive than he is. The things she said were not for his information; they were expressing that she desired to be cared for.

The whole situation also sets up a contrast: now that le petit prince has traveled a bit, he has matured enough to see the situation as it really is and how much more valuable the flower was than he realized, despite her silliness; the contrasts with the talk of les grandes personnes, who dismiss flowers altogether as not serious matters at all.

Enbrethiliel said...


So there are two ways to misunderstand the flower: by taking her more seriously than she should be taken and by taking her less seriously than she should be taken!