CHAPTER 16 – GEOGRAPHER
The sixth planet was ten times bigger than the last one. It was inhabited by an old gentleman who wrote huge books.
“Oh, here comes an explorer,” he said when he saw the little prince coming.
The little prince sat down on the table and he was breathing fast. He was tired from travelling so much and so far.
“Where do you come from?” the old gentleman asked him.
“What’s that big book?” said the little prince. “What are you doing here?”
“I am a geographer,” the old gentleman answered.
“What’s a geographer?”
“A geographer is a scientist who knows where the seas are, and rivers, cities, mountains and deserts.”
“That’s very interesting,” said the little prince. “Here at last is a man who has a real job,” he thought. And he looked around at the geographer’s planet. The planet was amazing.
“Your planet is very beautiful,” he said. “Does it have any oceans?”
“I can’t say,” said the geographer.
“Ah!” the little prince was disappointed. “And mountains?”
“I can’t say,” said the geographer.
“And cities and rivers and deserts?”
“I can’t tell you that either,” said the geographer.
“But you are a geographer!”
“You’re right,” said the geographer, “but I’m not an explorer.”
And he continued, “There’s no explorer on my planet. It’s not the geographer who goes out to discover cities, rivers, mountains, seas, oceans and deserts. The geographer is too important to just travel around. He doesn’t leave his office. But the explorers visit him there. He questions them, and he writes down what they remember. And if the memories of one of the explorers seem interesting to him, then the geographer has to find out if the explorer is an honest person.”
“Because an explorer who lies would cause disasters in the books of geography. And also an explorer who drank too much.”
“Why?” asked the little prince.
“Because drunk people see double. Then the geographer would write down two mountains in a place where there is only one.”
“I know someone,” said the little prince,” who would be a bad explorer.
“It’s possible. So when the character of the explorer seems good, then I have to confirm his discovery.”
“Do you visit the place?”
“No. That would be too complicated. But the explorer is required to provide evidence. For example, if the discovery is a large mountain, the explorer is required to bring large stones from it.”
The geographer suddenly smiled. “But you come from far away! You’re an explorer! You must describe your planet to me!”
And the geographer opened his big book and prepared his pencil. Explorers’ words are first written down in pencil. Ink is used only after there is a proof of their words.
“Well?” said the geographer.
“Oh, where I live,” said the little prince,” it’s not very interesting. It’s very small. I have three volcanoes. Two volcanoes are active, and one is extinct. But you never know.”
“You never know,” said the geographer.
“I also have a flower.”
“We don’t record flowers,” said the geographer.
“Why not? The flower is the most beautiful thing on my planet!”
“Because flowers don’t last very long. In geography we have the most exact books of all. They never become old-fashioned. It’s very rare for a mountain to change position. It’s very rare for an ocean to lose its water. We write eternal things.”
“But extinct volcanoes can come back to life,” the little prince interrupted.
“Whether volcanoes are extinct or active, it is the same for us,” said the geographer. “What matters to us is the mountain. That doesn’t change. Your flower is different. It can disappear soon.”
“My flower can disappear soon?”
“My flower can disappear soon,” thought the little prince, “and she has only four thorns to defend herself against the world! And I left her alone!”
That was the first time he regretted leaving his planet. But he took his courage again. “Where would you advise me to visit?” he asked.
“The planet Earth,” the geographer answered. “It has a good reputation.”
And the little prince went on his way, still thinking about his flower.