Once upon a time, there was a little girl who refused to go into her story. It lay open beneath her with colorful illustrations of far off lands, enchanted castles, and speaking frogs, but she refused to go in.
“I am a free spirit, and I will sit out here as long as I want.” Her feet stuck out in front of her, her arms folded across her chest, and her chin projected in a stubborn tilt.
The storyteller cajoled, threatened, warned, did everything possible; he finally started to write, but it was no use…she would not go in.
Inside, there was a very lonely frog. All about him were colorful trees, rivers, and skies, but in his heart, he was inconsolable. One day, as he hopped beside a stream, he saw words writing themselves in the sand.
“Dear enchanted prince,” said the words, “your girl will not go into your story. I’ve done everything I can, but it looks like you’ll have to remain a frog forever. My sincere apologies, Narrator.”
The frog read the words, puzzled. “I did not know I was a prince,” he thought to himself. “That is very interesting. I wonder why this girl will not come into the story? Perhaps she is the reason I am so lonely, and why the company of no female frog is stimulating. I always thought they had very little to say about anything. Perhaps,” a sudden thought occurred to him, “I will leave my story. If the girl will not come to me, I will go to her.”
It was night in the storyteller’s house, and the Narrator was fast asleep on his desk. The girl stood up on the paper and looked down at the colorful illustrations, spying them out in the faint candlelight. They were very pretty, but rather two-dimensional, so she picked up her short skirts and jumped off the book, off the table, and to the floor. Then she jumped up on the ornate chair leaning against the bookshelf, and onto the bookshelf itself.
On one of the shelves was a large volume, much larger than her own story. Curious, she reached up, and with great straining, she tugged it from its place and toppled it over. Then, with all her might, she pulled back the big front cover. On the inside leaf was a full-page image of a tiger. It was a book about Africa.
She sat up all night, turning page after page, and marveling at each image she saw. There was a mighty serpent, coiling larger than branches about the base of a gnarly tree. There was the slurping river sloshing muddy water up and down its banks, hiding crocodiles, water snakes, and bumbling hippopotamuses.. There were long giraffes with necks that stretched to the tops of trees. And finally, there was the noblest of beasts, the most frightening of creatures, the most beautiful of monsters – the massive elephant.
When she reached the back cover, she stood on top of the massive book and pulled down another. This was smaller, and the pages more crinkly; it was an old, old book. The stories inside told of flying, flying over the earth, flying into the sky, catching a flight of birds and flying to another planet1. She felt as if she were flying herself. Possessed of a mysterious mania, she pulled down book after book, devoured story after story, until finally, daylight edged between the windowpanes and the sputtering candle extinguished. The Narrator woke up.
“Why, little girl!” he cried, his eyes wide with awed wonder. “You’re not so little anymore!”
Indeed, she was not a little girl, nor even a little character: she was a full grown woman, as tall as him, with beautiful straight brown hair pulled into a practical ponytail, and wise brown eyes behind dark-rimmed spectacles. She was beautiful, intimidating, and magical.
“What will you do? You will never fit into my story now.”
“No indeed,” she smiled, and then laughed. “But then, I never wanted to go in there. I will go live my life now. Good bye.” She opened the door to the outside world and disappeared into it.
The Storyteller sat a moment flabbergasted, scratching his head and marveling that a thing he created could move away from him so easily.
“Ahem,” said a voice. “If you don’t mind, I’m looking for Narrator.”
The storyteller looked down, and what should he see but the frog sitting on top of the story in front of him.
“Well, what are you doing?” he cried. “You were already in the story.”
“And now I have come out. To look for the girl. Are you Narrator?”
“I’m not sure anymore. The stories don’t seem to need much narrating.”
“Well, if you don’t mind, I would like to find this girl.”
“I don’t mind, but I think I should warn you. She’s not a girl anymore, and I don’t think she can break your curse. This is the real world, you know, and she’s become a part of it now.”
“Ah, yes. I see. I suppose, then, I must become part of it as well. What must I do? What should I learn?”
The Narrator looked at the bookshelf where all the texts the girl had read still lay open. He squared his shoulders.
“We must read,” he said. “If I can not tell a new story, I will tell many that are old, and so give life and understanding to what is new.”
He pulled down the texts and the two got to work reading all the books in the storyteller’s home. After three days, they had read them all, so they went out and down the street to the booksellers. In the cluttered, dusty, wonderful shop, they continued to read and learn, and after three years, they had read all the books there. They were rather legendary in their town, the man and the frog who read aloud together, and many people came to see them over the years and listen to the stories. One day, the Narrator left his hat on the ground by accident, and by the end of the day, it had collected thirty dollars. So he always did it from then on, and though they were not rich, they did not starve.
One day, word came to a newspaper company in the big city that there was a man and a frog who read aloud in a little town. One of the reporters there, a girl with a brown pony-tail and dark-rimmed glasses, wondered at the story, and went there to listen and write a story.
They were reading The Little Prince, and the words stirred something long forgotten in her heart. She looked and saw that the Frog, companion to the man, was crying. With her article as an excuse, she asked him why.
“The Navigator has lost the prince, and the prince may have lost his rose. It reminds me of a girl I came here to find, and I may now have lost her forever.”
The woman’s heart went out to this poor creature, so apparently sensitive and intelligent. She forgot that he was a frog, but leaned in and kissed him tenderly on the top of his head.
Then the Narrator, closing the book and reaching for the next one, caught sight of the girl from the corner of his eye. He dropped both volumes, started up, and gave a great cry which made all the spectators startle in surprise.
“My friend!” he cried to the Frog. “This is she! The girl you came to this world to find.” He looked at his friend, but he was gone. In his place stood a tall, lanky, handsome young man with green eyes and a mop of dark blonde hair.
They were all joyously happy and embraced in rapture all around. Eventually, the Man and Woman married, moved in with the Narrator, and all three of them told stories together for the rest of their lives.
Antoine de St. Exupery. The Little Prince. (Picture taken by me from Scholastic Inc. 1943 edition)
Artwork courtesy of artpassions.net