CHAPTER 17 – EARTH
The seventh planet was the Earth. The Earth is not just another planet. There are a hundred and eleven kings, including of course the African kings, seven thousand geographers, nine hundred thousand businessmen, seven and a half million drunk men, all together about two billion adults.
To give you an idea of the size of the Earth, I will tell you that before the invention of electricity, it was necessary to keep an army of four hundred and sixty-two thousand, five hundred and eleven lamplighters. They maintained all the street lamps on six continents.
When seen from some distance, this made a wonderful effect. The movements of this army were similar to the movements of the dancers in the opera who come on stage and then leave one by one in perfect order.
First came the lamplighters of New Zealand and Australia. Then, after lighting their lamps, they went home to sleep. Then came the lamplighters of China and Siberia. Then they also went to sleep. Then came the lamplighters of Russia and India. Then those of Africa and Europe. Then those of South America and of North America. And they never made a mistake. They always came in the right order. It was wonderful.
Only the lamplighter of the single lamp at the North Pole, and his colleague of the single lamp at the South Pole, had carefree lazy lives. They worked twice a year.
When somebody tries to sound interesting, he sometimes goes away a little from the truth. What I have just told you about lamplighters isn’t completely true. And I realize that I risk giving a false idea of our planet to those who don’t know it. People occupy very little space on Earth.
If the two billion inhabitants of the globe all stood close together, they could be easily put into one square twenty miles long and twenty miles wide. You could put all humanity on a small Pacific island.
Of course, adults won’t believe you. They imagine they fill a lot of space. They consider themselves as important as the baobabs. You should advise them to make their own calculation. They love numbers and they’ll enjoy it.
But don’t waste your time on this extra task. It’s unnecessary. Trust me.
When the little prince arrived on Earth, he was quite surprised when he didn’t see any people.
He was beginning to fear he came to the wrong planet, but then he saw something move in the sand.
“Good evening,” said the little prince.
“Good evening,” said the snake.
“What planet have I landed on?” asked the little prince.
“On the planet Earth, in Africa,” the snake replied.
“Ah, are there no people on Earth?”
“This is the desert. There are no people in the desert. The Earth is very big,” said the snake.
The little prince sat down on a rock, and he looked up into the sky.
“I wonder,” he said, “if the stars are lit up so that each of us can find his own some day. Look at my planet. It’s just above us. But how far it is.”
“It’s beautiful,” the snake said. “What have you come here for?”
“I have been having some trouble with a flower,” said the little prince.
“Ah!” said the snake. And they were both silent.