The story is told by a narrator. He begins his tale by recalling his desire as a child to become an artist. His first drawing was that of a boa constrictor that had eaten an elephant. Proud of his accomplishment, he showed his picture to the adults in his life. They thought it was a drawing of a hat.
He then drew a second picture. This one was an X-ray of the elephant inside the snake. The adults were disturbed by this and told him he wasn’t a very good artist and should concentrate on practical things like math and science. He grew up to become a pilot.
Whenever he met a new person, he’d show them his picture. If they claimed it was a hat, he would talk about dull things, such as politics. He longed to find someone who could decipher his drawing because they would also understand the things that really mattered in the world.
The narrator is forced to crash land in the Sahara desert. He is shocked when he is approached by a small blond boy who asks him to draw a sheep. Instead, the pilot draws him the “hat.” Frustrated, the boy tells him he doesn’t need an elephant inside a boa constrictor; he wants a sheep.
The pilot draws several, but the boy finds fault with all of them. Finally, the narrator draws a box and tells him it contains the perfect sheep. The boy is thrilled with the drawing. The pilot learns that the boy is from another planet that is very small, so small in fact, that his sheep won’t need to be penned, as the boy will always be able to see it.
The narrator learns that the boy is the prince and sole inhabitant of his planet. The pilot believes the prince actually lives on an asteroid. The prince explains that he spent the day on his planet taking care of its two active volcanoes and sweeping out the dormant one. He also had to be careful to dig up the sprouts of the baobab trees or they would overtake and destroy his planet.
Throughout the tail, the narrator pulls himself out of the story to comment on the difference between how he and the boy see the world, and how adults view it. The pilot admits that as the days progress, he becomes more focused on trying to fix his plane than the little prince. The boy’s continual questioning about what sheep eat and whether they eat flowers prompts the pilot to answer angrily that sheep will eat anything.
He demands the boy leave him alone so he can repair his plane. When the prince breaks down in tears, the pilot realizes nothing is more important than comforting him. He holds the boy, who then explains he doesn’t want the sheep to eat a flower on his planet. The pilot assures him he’ll draw a muzzle for the sheep.
Satisfied, the prince tells how one day a strange plant sprung up on his planet. He watched it carefully to see if it was a bad plant, but it grew into a beautiful rose. The boy tended it faithfully — watering it and covering it with a glass dome at night to protect it from the wind.
But he caught the rose in a lie one day, when it started to tell him about the place it came from. The prince knew the rose had never lived anywhere else. It hurt him to think of something he loved lying to him. That’s when he decided to leave his planet.
The little prince visited the other asteroid planets near his own. On the first, he discovered a king. The king was delighted to have someone to rule. His orders were always what a person wanted to do anyway, as when the prince yawned, the king commanded him to yawn. When the prince indicated he was ready to move on, the king said he’d make him the minister of justice, but as there was only an old rat to dispense justice to, the boy still wanted to leave. The king than ordered him to be his ambassador so that he may leave and still be under his command. The boy commented that adults are strange.
On other planets, he met a vain man who insisted the prince praise him, then a drunkard who drank because he was ashamed of his drinking. On the fourth planet, he encountered a businessman who claimed to own the stars. When the little prince asked what the man did with the stars, he said he counted them and put them in the bank. The boy dismissed this idea of ownership because an owner should take care of his property as the little prince has taken care of his three volcanoes and the rose on his planet.
On the fifth planet, the little prince met an exhausted lamplighter. His orders were to light the lamp at night and snuff it out at dawn. As his planet is so small and turns so fast, he was constantly lighting and snuffing the flame. Of all the people he’d met, the little prince thinks he could befriend the lamplighter because at least his job made sense. The planet was too small, however, for two people, so the boy left.
On the sixth planet, the little prince encountered a geographer. When the boy asked about the geography of the planet, the man explained that he knew nothing about it as his job was to make maps of other people’s discoveries. He told the boy about Earth. That’s when the little prince decided to journey to it next.
When the little prince arrived on Earth he landed in the desert. He wondered where all the people were and marveled at its size. A snake informed him that he was in Africa and that he could send the prince back to the sky with one bite, but he wouldn’t because he was too innocent.
The boy climbed a mountain in hopes of seeing the whole planet but saw only miles of rocks. His echo answered him when he shouted. He thought the men of Earth must be silly if they only repeat what you say. When he found a garden of roses, the little prince realized that his planet must be very small, indeed. The thought made him sad, and he laid down and cried.
A fox approached, and the little prince asked if they might play together. The fox explained that first the boy must tame him, but the little prince didn’t understand that word. The fox told him it means they form ties. The fox would come to associate the boy’s blond hair with the wheat fields so that when he sees the fields, he will think of the prince. They became friends, but the prince knew he must continue on his journey.
The fox was sad but told the boy to visit the garden again to learn why he misses his own rose so much. The boy saw all the roses and realized that his rose is special because he tamed it. He took care of it and talked to it. It is their relationship that makes it special.
He returned to say goodbye to the fox. The fox explained that only the heart can see the world clearly because the eye misses too much. He also agreed that it is the time that the prince took with the rose that made it special, and finally the fox said that the prince is now forever responsible for the rose.
Along his travels, the little prince met a railway switchman who explained that only children take the time to look out the window. The man also marveled at how they can form strong attachments to something as simple as a rag doll. If children lose the thing, they cry.
The prince also met a man who was making a pill to quench people’s thirst to save people time. They wouldn’t have to waste time finding water. The prince said that if he had a pill like that, he would use his extra time to walk slowly toward a fountain with cold water so he could take a drink.
The prince finishes the story of his travels as the pilot concludes that he cannot fix his plane. It has been eight days since they have had water. The two set off to try and find a well. The prince falls asleep, and the pilot carries him throughout the night. He finds a well in the morning. They both revel in the sweetness of this surprising gift of water.
Revived, the prince asks the pilot to draw a muzzle for his sheep. The narrator realizes the prince is making a secret plan to travel back to his planet. The pilot says he knows how the fox felt when the prince left, for he has also been tamed by the boy.
The following day, the pilot manages to fix his plane. He returns to the well to tell the prince, but he finds the boy talking to someone about poison. The narrator looks down to see the snake, which then slithers away. The little prince explains that he must go back to his planet to take care of his rose.
He cautions the pilot that it will look like he’s dying, but he is only going back to his home. His body is too heavy to take back. He tells the narrator that the stars will have a special meaning to him now, because he will think of the boy and his rose living among them. The little prince tries to sneak away at night, but the pilot follows him. He consoles the boy when he cries in fear. The snake bites the prince’s ankle, and he falls silently to the ground. In the morning, his body is gone.
The pilot flies home to his friends who are glad to see him. The stars are more special to him as he thinks about the little prince. He is sad, because he misses the one person who saw the world as he does. The narrator draws a final picture of the barren desert landscape and asks that the reader keep an eye out for that beautiful place. He hopes they will tell him if they ever see the little prince.