"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 125
Intergalactic travel begins in earnest! But I forget that today's chapters are flashbacks . . .
The narrator must have finally learned to communicate with the little prince on the latter's level, to have heard full accounts of the latter's visit to six different asteroids. =) And given what the little prince has had to say about the first six people he has met, I'd be fascinated to learn what he really thought of his companion during their first encounter. Did our three-dimensional narrator also initially come off as a caricature? And if so, does that mean there are depths to all the others that the little prince doesn't give them credit for?
Folge X - Folge XV
The little prince's encounter with the Koenig was the hardest chapter for me to read so far. There were so many words I didn't know--and when several at a time popped up in a single sentence or exchange, I couldn't just let context carry me over. Unsurprisingly, they are all abstract political or judicial concepts. The new verb-gems in my vocabulary include . . .
ausfuehren -- to carry out
befahlenbefehlen -- to command *
dulden -- to tolerate
fordern -- to demand
herrschen (ueber) -- to rule (over)
horchengehorchen -- to obey *
richten -- to judge
verurteilen -- to sentence
* Danke fuer die Korrekturen, Zagorka!
You'd think that a Koenig and a Prinz would get along, wouldn't you? But the king is just too "big" here--one of the grosse Leute--and can't relate to our kleiner Prinz. To Koenige, the text tells us, everyone is an Untertan . . . and so no one is really a Freund.
Bigness and littleness are major themes in Der Kleine Prinz, and they get the most interesting treatment so far in the encounter on Asteroid B-325. The big king seems very little himself, doesn't he? For someone who claims to be the ruler of the whole universe, he's awfully underwhelming! While he is right that all a ruler's commands should be subject to reason, including his own, it's suspicious that he doesn't do anything to prove he is who he says he is. And yet, my less cynical side argues, we must note that: a) he's not the first real king who refused to stoop to signs and wonders just to be impressive; and b) he is also the most benevolent monarch besides the Former whom we may ever meet in real life or in fiction . . . and it doesn't say much about us that we're disappointed he isn't a tad more despotic!
* * * * *
You see, I didn't remember what word the inhabitant of Asteroid 326 is called in my first two languages. This meant I had no direct analogue for his "name" in German, Eitlen. Nor did I have any words in my still-growing German vocabulary that were related to it. And I found that this put me in the odd position of having to learn a new word entirely through its context--something I don't mind doing during the rare times it happens for me in English or Filipino, but also something I don't think I've ever done in German (or Italian, for that matter . . . or you know, French). That is, I've always either grabbed a dictionary or asked someone else for a definition. It's nice to realise that something that was necessary when I was starting out is now a secondary option. =)
In contrast to the Eitlen, the Saeufer was easy. Though this specific word was also new to me, I was already familiar with the verb "saufen", thanks to discovering Germany's 1979 Eurovision entry Dschinghis Khan earlier this year. ("Auf, Brueder! Sauft, Brueder! Rauft, Brueder! Immer wieder!" Up, brother! Chug, brother! Brawl, brother! On forever! . . . My own humble translation, of course--fit only for singing in the shower when I can't remember the German . . . which happens less and less often these days!) At the time, I didn't think any of the verbs from a story about a Mongol warrior (I mean, how random is that?!?!) would turn out to be useful . . . and they've been popping up unexpectedly ever since!
* * * * *
Heck, the Lanternenanzuender can't even be a good friend to himself!
Here we have another look at bigness and littleness: the bigness of the Lanternenanzuenders dedication to something outside himself and the littleness of the task he is totally dedicated to.
It occurs to me now that although the text valiantly avoids throwing shade on the little prince, it tells us that he was also recently in his own very little world. And had he waited a while longer at home, another intergalactic traveler might have dropped by Asteroid B-612 and been a little disappointed by its sole inhabitant. We never really know how others see us until they tell us. Perhaps we are all caricatures until someone takes the time to know us better.
Another way to look at it, which the text also supports, is that we are all caricatures until we do something to expand ourselves. Maybe the little prince, who is so beloved all over the world, wouldn't be half as interesting to us if he had always stayed home and interacted only with his rose--not because interacting with only a rose makes a boring story (for it doesn't have to), but because interacting with only a rose makes a boring person.
Totally Optional Discussion Questions for Chapters X to XV:
1) Which of the people whom the little prince meets did you find most memorable?
2) Can you think of other ways that people can shrink their worlds without realising it?
3) What is the best way to become "bigger"?
4) Have you set any rules for your reading?
Image Sources: a) Der Koenig, b) Der Eitle, c) Der Anzuender