The Little Prince in Quechua

I met my great-grandmother on my first trip to Peru when I was ten years old. I couldn’t speak to her since she only spoke Quechua, the nearly extinct language of the Incas. My grandmother can speak it fluently, my mother has forgotten a lot of it and I only know a few words.

Recently a Peruvian professor, Demetrio Tupac Yupanqui began a crusade to save the Quechua language and translated Don Quixote.

It’s a beautiful book and has become a collector’s item, one I was never able to track down, but I did find a translated copy of The Little Prince:

Little Prince Cover
Inka means ‘ruler of men’ in Quechua, I presume the ‘cha’ suffix changes ‘king’ to ‘prince’ which means that ‘Kamachikuq’ means ‘little’ (in theory).

Quechua was only ever an oral language, so the text is written phonetically. I flipped through it and tried to sound out the foreign words. I pulled out my English copy and tried to pair up phrases. One of the interesting things I found was that in places where there were no equivalent words in Quechua, the original French words were used instead of Spanish ones (geographie instead of geographia, calcul instead of matamatica, etc.):

French words

The Little Prince was a book I loved as a child and one I thought was quite profound when I read it as a teen. I used it a lot in working with teenaged ESL students as it was easy to understand. I revisited it again in my late twenties and I found it dull and its lessons heavy-handed. It saddened me that something I used to love bored me. I had changed and perhaps I had become a dull adult who only saw pictures of hats instead of snakes eating elephants.

More recently, I read The Little Prince to my daughter and fell in love with it again. I saw the story through her eyes and saw how powerful some its lessons are. She would always turn the page to try to see the simple drawings that matched the text. I remember the confused look on her face when I read one passage: ‘It is such a secret place, the land of tears’ She furiously flipped the pages back and forth saying ‘Papi, I want to see the land of tears,’ and it was the first time I had explain the concept of a metaphor to her. But she understood and it was a lovely reminder that some things are exclusive to the realm of the written word.

I pulled out my Quechua copy and looked at the words that I could not decipher and tried to match up that phrase:

The land of tears

I thought about the ‘land of tears’ and what it looked like to those people long since lost to history.

It’s a cool little collectible and I’ve brought a small pile of these books back with me. I’ve left some copies with my good friends over at R and R Books. If you’re interested in one, feel free to contact them or me, I go to Peru frequently and will bring back more.

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12 thoughts on “The Little Prince in Quechua

  1. Hi, I recently visited Peru and tried to track down a copy of the Quechua translation of the Little Prince. I had no luck in finding it and have since returned home. Any leads as to where I can purchase this book? Thank you!

    1. Hi Rachel, I hope you enjoyed your trip to Peru. As it so happens, I regularly bring back copies that a friend sells through his book store, R&R Books in Oakville, Ontario, Canada (not sure where you are). Here’s his website: http://www.randrbooks.ca They ship everywhere, and if they don’t have any, I’m in Peru right now, coming back next week and will try to bring some back. Cheers!

      1. Thank you! I followed your advice and contacted RnR Books. I just got a copy in the mail today!

  2. Hi David! I am a Little Prince collector. Had no luck in finding it and R&R seems no exist anymore. Do you know where I can purchase this book? Can you sell me one copie? Thank you!

    1. Hi Jose! Thanks for coming by. I’m pretty sure R&R are still around. Try this email address (info@randrbooks.ca), let me know if you have any luck. I’m sure we can get one to you one way or another.

      1. No luck: not email answer. Webpage says:

        “WE ARE NOT CURRENTLY BUYING OR TRADING BOOKS

        WE WILL NOT BE BUYING OR TRADING FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE”

      2. Hi Jose, sorry fir the late reply. I was there the other day, they’re still in business and think they have some copies still (but not sure where). So if you’re not in any rush, im sure one of us can help you.

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