The narrator, a pilot, crash-lands his plane in the Sahara desert. While he tries to repair his engine and monitor his dwindling supply of water and food, a little boy appears out of nowhere and simply asks him to draw a sheep. The author then learns that this "little prince" comes from the far away Asteroid B-612, where he left a rose and three volcanoes.
The prince’s most prized possession was the rose, but her tempestuous mien and fickleness tired him and he decided to leave his tiny planet. To his surprise, the flower was visibly sad to see him go, but she urged him on nonetheless.
Before arriving on Earth, the prince visited other planets and met with strange individuals: a king, a vain man, a drunkard, a lamplighter, and a geographer. At the geographer’s suggestion, he visited Earth but dropped down into the Sahara Desert. He found no friends there, but a snake told him that if he ever needed to return to his home planet, he could take advantage of the snake’s bite. He met a fox that taught him to realize that to know others we must “tame” them; this is what makes things and people unique. "The essential is invisible to the eye," says the fox.
The narrator grows to love and cherish the small boy, marveling at how fragile he seems though he adopts a serious air. He and the boy find a well and drink from it, which saves the narrator’s life, but he later, right as he is about to joyfully tell the prince he's fixed his engine, happens upon the prince talking to a yellow snake about poison. The plan is for the prince to reunite with his rose, but this is utterly devastating to the narrator. Nevertheless, the boy lets the snake bite him and falls over into the sand. The narrator cannot find his body the next day so he hopes that the boy is not dead.
The narrator returns to his life but always wonders about the prince and hopes he returns. He asks readers to let him know if they ever meet the prince.