CHAPTER 15 – LAMP
The fifth planet was very strange. It was the smallest of all. There was just enough room for a street lamp and a lamplighter.
The little prince couldn’t understand the reason for a street lamp and a lamplighter on a planet, under so many stars, which had no people. There wasn’t even one house.
However, he said to himself, “It’s quite possible that this man is strange, but his work has some meaning. When he lights his lamp, it’s as if he’s bringing one more star to life, or one more flower. When he puts out his lamp, he sends the flower, or the star to sleep. It’s a beautiful job. And because it’s beautiful, it’s really useful.”
When the little prince arrived on the planet, he greeted the lamplighter respectfully, “Good morning. Why did you just put out your lamp?”
“That’s an order,” replied the lamplighter. “Good morning.”
“What’s the order?”
“The order is to put out my street lamp. Good evening.” And he lit his lamp again.
“But why have you just lit your lamp again?”
“That’s the order,” replied the lamplighter.
“I don’t understand,” said the little prince.
“There’s nothing to understand,” said the lamplighter. “The order is the order. Good morning.”
And he put out his lamp. Then he wiped his forehead.
“It’s a terrible job I have. It used to be reasonable in the past. The planet used to turn much slower. I put the lamp out in the morning and in the evening I lit it again. I had the rest of the day for myself, and the rest of the night to sleeping.”
“And since that time the order has changed?”
“The order hasn’t changed,” said the lamplighter. “That’s the problem! Year by year the planet is turning faster and faster, and the order hasn’t changed!”
“Which means?” asked the little prince.
“Which means that now the planet makes a complete turn every minute and I have no time to rest. I light my lamp and put it out once every minute.”
“That’s funny! Your days last only one minute.”
“It’s not funny at all,” said the lamplighter. “You and I have already been talking to each other for a month.”
“Yes. Thirty minutes. Thirty days. Good evening.” And he lit his lamp again.
The little prince watched the lamplighter and he liked more and more this man who was so faithful to his order. He remembered the days when he saw many sunsets just by pulling his chair. He wanted to help his new friend.
“You know. I can show you a way to stop your work whenever you want to.”
“I always want to stop my work,” said the lamplighter.
The little prince continued, “Your planet is so small that you can walk around it in three long steps. All you have to do is walk more slowly and you’ll always be in the sun. When you don’t want to work, just walk and the day will last as long you want it to.”
“How could that help me?” said the lamplighter. “The one thing that I love in life is to sleep.”
“Then you’re unlucky,” said the little prince.
“I am,” said the lamplighter. “Good morning.” And he put out his lamp.
The little prince said to himself, as he continued on his journey, “The other men, the king, the drunk man, the businessman would laugh at this lamplighter. However, he’s the only one that doesn’t seem ridiculous to me. Maybe, it’s because he cares about something else, not just himself.
That man is the only one of them who could be my friend. But his planet is really too small. There is no room for two people.”
What the little prince didn’t want to admit was that he regretted leaving that planet for one even more important reason. He didn’t want to leave because the planet was blessed with one thousand four hundred and forty sunsets every twenty-four hours!