43. wheat


From Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince:

* * *

IT WAS THEN that the fox appeared.

“Good morning,” said the fox.

“Good morning,” the little prince answered politely, though when he turned he saw nothing.

“I’m here,” the voice said, “under the apple tree.”

“Who are you?” the little prince asked. “You’re very pretty . . .”

“I’m a fox,” the fox said.

“Come and play with me,” the little prince proposed. “I’m feeling so sad.”

“I can’t play with you,” the fox said. “I’m not tamed.”

“Ah! Excuse me,” said the little prince. But upon reflection he added, “What does tamed mean?”

“It means something that’s been too often neglected. It means, ‘to create ties’ . . .”

“To create ties?”

“That’s right,” the fox said. “For me you’re only a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. For you I’m only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, we’ll need each other. You’ll be the only boy in the world for me. I’ll be the only fox in the world for you . . .

“My life is monotonous. I hunt chickens; people hunt me. All chickens are just alive, and all men are just alike. So I’m rather bored. But if you tame me, my life will be filled with sunshine. I’ll know the sound of footsteps that will be different from all the rest. Other footsteps send me back underground. Yours will call me out of my burrow like music. And then, look! You see the wheat fields over there? I don’t eat bread. For me wheat is of no use whatsoever. Wheat fields say nothing to me. Which is sad. But you have hair the colour of gold. So it will be wonderful once you’ve tamed me! The wheat, which is golden, will remind me of you. And I’ll love the sound of the wind in the wheat . . .”

The fox fell silent and stared at the little prince for a long while. “Please . . . tame me!” he said.

“What do I have to do?” asked the little prince.

“You have to be very patient,” the fox answered. “First you’ll sit down a little ways away from me, over there, in the grass. I’ll watch you out of the corner of my eye, and you won’t say anything. Language is the source of misunderstandings. But day by day, you’ll be able to sit a little closer . . .”

That was how the little prince tamed the fox. And when the time to leave was near:”Ah!” the fox said. “I shall weep.”

“It’s your own fault,” the little prince said. “I never wanted to do you any harm, but you insisted that I tame you . . . ”

“Yes, of course,” the fox said.

“But you’re going to weep!” said the little prince.

“Yes, of course,” the fox said.

“Then you get nothing out of it?”

“I get something,” the fox said, “because of the colour of wheat.”

“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.”

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