Thursday, April 20, 2006

Musing: The Snake in "The Little Prince"

Je les résous toutes

I'm working on a screenplay of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's "Le Petit Prince" ("The Little Prince"). This is the first of a few blog entries about the book (which has been translated into many, many languages). Here is an excerpt from Chapter 17 (in French, then in English as translated by Richard Howard):
-Celui que je touche, je rends à la terre dont il est sorti, dit-il encore. Mais tu es pur et tu viens d'une étoile...

Le petit prince ne répondit rien.

-Tu me fais pitié, toi si faible, sur cette Terre de granit. Je puis t'aider un jour si tu regrettes trop ta planète. Je puis...

-Oh! J'ai très bien compris, fit le petit prince, mais pourquoi parles-tu toujours par énigmes?

-Je les résous toutes, dit le serpent.

Et ils se turent.
"Anyone I touch, I send back to the land from which he came," the snake went on. "But you're innocent, and you come from a star..."
The little prince made no reply.
"I feel sorry for you, being so weak on this granite earth," said the snake. "I can help you, someday, if you grow too homesick for your planet. I can--"
"Oh, I understand just what you mean," said the little prince, "but why do you always speak in riddles?"
"I solve them all", said the snake.
And they were both silent.
The context of this passage is that the Little Prince has just arrived on Earth, and the first creature he meets is a snake in the desert. A later blog post will be about the allegory to Christ in the book, but I'd like to focus on the translation (and meaning) behind "Je les résous toutes".

Simply, it means "I [re]solve them all". The snake, boasting its power of death, speaks in riddles because it solves them all. I think St-Ex was making a double meaning, assigning a certain cleverness to the snake, but also impressing that death has the power to resolve any riddle (read: problem or challenge). It's not a cheery message, for certain, but it represents the mastery of the snake over his domain.


Weekend Fisher said...

Have you seen the recent opera that has been made of The Litte Prince? Interesting adaptation.

Thanks for the comment you left over on my blog. Beautifully put and I think you've also got it just right about Christ as the Word of God.

Take care & God bless

Anthony said...

A Christ-like interpretation of the snake in The Little Prince? Interesting.

If one was going religious I would consider a comparison between Adam and Eve after the Garden of Eden.

In both stories the price of knowledge is death. In a way, like Adam and Eve before the fall, the little prince was innocent of the world. He was part of a small paradise but became curious about the rest of the universe. Near the time he gained his knowledge he met the snake who represents death.

Of course I could be reading way too much into it or I could have my facts wrong or something entirely different from that.

Jeffrey Pinyan said...

Anthony, I did not mean to connect "the allegory to Christ in the book" with the snake; sorry for the confusion.