The Little Prince - A Fairy Tale?

The question of the genre of the novella The Little Prince iby Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is a frequently discussed topic in literature classes. There is a widespread assumption that The Little Prince is a fairy tale for children.

In the fourth chapter of the work, the narrator states that before beginning the story he had considered starting it like a classic fairy tale: 

I should have liked to begin this story in the fashion of the fairy-tales. I should have like to say: 'Once upon a time there was a little prince who lived on a planet that was scarcely any bigger than himself, and who had need of a sheep ... ' (14%).

However, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry decided to start his story differently, thus rejecting the classification of the work as a fairy tale. In this way, he wants to prevent his work from being considered just a made-up story. He wants people to take his story seriously: "For I do not want any one to read my book carelessly." (14%). He wants the reader to draw lessons from the work.

Nevertheless, the work The Little Prince has some fairy-tale features, which are particularly evident in the use of symbols. In the following, the terms, folk tale, literary fairy tale, parable and fable will be explained and their assignment to the work The Little Prince will be examined.

Folktale or literary fairy tale

In a folk tale, the characters are usually presented in a simplified manner. The characters in a folk tale can be clearly divided into good and evil. Typical for the classic folk tales are also their formulary beginning as well as their formulary end

The plot in a folktale is usually linear and settings are only vaguely named. In most cases, the folk tale follows the sequence of departure and return. The protagonists of folk tales usually have a specific task to solve. The main characters are the only characters that go through development, the other characters are usually one-dimensional types that don't change or develop.

The motifs typical of a folk tale, such as departure and homecoming, can also be discovered in the story of the little prince. The little prince sets off on a journey, but the desire to return t...

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