Catastrophe of the baobabs in The Little Prince: Seeds of Fascism?

“You must see to it that you pull up regularly all the baobabs, at the very first moment when they can be distinguished from the rosebushes which they resemble so closely in their earliest youth. It is very tedious work,” the little prince added, “but very easy.”

Chapter 5, The Little Prince

A stunning novella by the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry , ‘The Little Prince’ is an evergreen tale for everyone regardless of their age. The story revolves around the journey of a young prince as he visits various planets in space, including the Earth where he meets the narrator. It beautifully depicts the themes of loneliness, friendship, love, and loss with astonishing simplicity, yet startling intricacy.

One of the many issues that the young prince touches upon is the danger of baobabs on his planet. He describes, with great solicitude, that they start off as tiny weeds. But if not uprooted when they are starting off, they firmly take root and can even cause the little planet to split in pieces. The prince describes the baobabs as ‘bad plants’, which should be destroyed as soon as one recognizes them.

Representational Image

What can these baobabs mean, on a metaphorical level?

Are they seeds of Nazism, or in a broader sense, Fascism- which ‘sleep deep under earth’s darkness, until some of them is seized with the desire to awaken’? The ones we ‘will never, never be able to get rid of if we attend it too late’?

‘The Little Prince’ was written during the summer and fall of 1942 when Exupéry was staying in the United States, after escaping from Germany Occupied France. At the onset of the Second World War, the intention for this visit was to persuade the American government to quickly enter the war against Nazi Germany and the Axis Forces. The book was banned in France until 1945 since the pro-Nazi Vichy Regime in France saw the author’s political views as ‘controversial’.

Added to the fact that the Nazis were rising to power when ‘Le Petit Prince’ was written , Exupéry dedicated the novella to Léon Werth, who was a Jewish anarchist and leftist Bolshevik supporter. Werth, a staunch critic of the growing Nazi movement, shared a close friendship with Saint-Exupéry until his death in 1944.

So, the terrible seeds of baobabs are likely to be seeds of Fascism, which have the potential of destroying the entire world with its strong roots if left unattended. They start out by ‘being little’ but eventually grasp our senses and actions entirely, leaving no room for repentance. Whenever they have been neglected, we have observed the ultimate catastrophe it has become.

‘The Little Prince’ thus is, and will be as relevant as ever; and the charming prince would be ever-present to remind us of our supreme duty –

“Children”, I say plainly, “watch out for the baobabs!”

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