ANOTHER classic literary tale has been given the Scots treatment as Le Petit Prince becomes first The Prince-Bairnie, and then The Wee Prince.

Though translated more than 320 times, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 150 million-selling tale, originally published in 1943, has never been translated into Scots until this summer.

Last month Grace Note Publications published The Prince-Bairnie, a translation by Derrick McClure, and now language specialist Dr Susan Rennie of Glasgow University, author of ABC: a Scots Alphabet, has brought her version to life in The Wee Prince.

The book, released last week, reveals the life of the enigmatic Wee Prince, including the secrets of his dowff an dowie life, his fondness for sundouns and his love for a wondrous bonnie. The poignancy of the original remains, with its message that the things that really matter in life – the muckle maitters – are takkin guid tent of your hame planet, and cultivating the deep ties of friendship and love.

Rennie first read Le Petit Prince in Katherine Woods’ classic translation as a teenager, and has been “fond of the story and its enigmatic characters ever since”.

“It is one of the most translated books in the world, so I was delighted to be able to add Scots to the list, as it is a recognition of the status of the language and of the many cultural links between Scotland and Europe,” she added.

“Saint-Exupéry’s writing is deceptively simple, but the choice of each word is important. Certain concepts and phrases echo across the text, and you have to try to keep that fabric together.

“Some quotes from the original, and the English translation, are well-known and well-loved, so any translator has a responsibility to retain the spirit and weight of those lines.”

The writer is confident that her translation will appeal to both young and old readers alike.

“Le Petit Prince is one of those books which appeal to both children and adults, and I hope the Scots version will do the same. Grown-ups come in for quite a bit of criticism in the book – for example “Growen-ups canna mak sense o oniething on their lane, an it is a sair wark for bairns tae be aye explainin things tae them” – but that only enhances its appeal to ‘bairns’ of all ages!”

Beyond a source of entertainment, Rennie hopes the new translation can also be of use educationally.

“In this translation, there are some French words which transfer directly into Scots, such as douce “gentle or sweet”, which is one of many words which Scots borrowed from French. I hope that schools may now be able to use the Scots version alongside the French original to support the teaching of both languages”.

The expert translator has previously worked on prestigious titles such as TinTin and the BFG, bringing the classic tales to life in Scots.

Her newest release, however, relies on a more formal and literal style of Scots as opposed to the more informal and conversational style of the aforementioned titles. But Rennie has assured readers that The Wee Prince is just as accessible.

“There are some very familiar Scots words in the text, such as bairn and bonnie”, she explained, “but also less common ones like malafooster meaning ‘to destroy’ and dowff an dowie ‘sad and melancholy’, so I have also compiled a glossary of the Scots words in the text to help readers.”


This article was originally published on July 18 as "Le Petit Prince printed for the first time in Scots". This was incorrect. It was amended on July 21 to reflect the fact Grace Notes Publications published The Prince-Bairnie by Derrick McClure in June. We apologise for this error.