So I lived my life alone, without anyone that I could really talk to, until I had an accident with my plane in the Desert of Sahara, six years ago. Something was broken in my engine. And as I had with me neither a mechanic nor any passengers, I set myself to attempt the difficult repairs all alone. It was a question of life or death for me: I had scarcely enough drinking water to last a week.
The first night, then, I went to sleep on the sand, a thousand miles from any human habitation. I was more isolated than a shipwrecked sailor on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Thus you can imagine my amazement, at sunrise, when I was awakened by an odd little voice. It said:
"If you please-- draw me a sheep!"
"Draw me a sheep!"
I jumped to my feet, completely thunderstruck. I blinked my eyes hard. I looked
carefully all around me. And I saw a most extraordinary small person, who stood there
examining me with great seriousness. Here you may see the best potrait that, later, I
was able to make of him. But my drawing is certainly very much less charming than
That, however, is not my fault. The grown-ups discouraged me in my painter's career when I was six years old, and I never learned to draw anything, except boas from the outside and boas from the inside.
Now I stared at this sudden apparition with my eyes fairly starting out of my head in
astonishment. Remember, I had crashed in the desert a thousand miles from any
inhabited region. And yet my little man seemed neither to be straying uncertainly
among the sands, nor to be fainting from fatigue or hunger or thirst or fear. Nothing
about him gave any suggestion of a child lost in the middle of the desert, a thousand
miles from any human habitation. When at last I was able to speak, I said to him:
"But-- what are you doing here?"
And in answer he repeated, very slowly, as if he were speaking of a matter of great consequence:
"If you please-- draw me a sheep..."
When a mystery is too overpowering, one dare not disobey. Absurd as it might seem to me, a thousand miles from any human habitation and in danger of death, I took out of my pocket a sheet of paper and my fountain-pen. But then I remembered how my studies had been concentrated on geography, history, arithmetic, and grammar, and I told the little chap (a little crossly, too) that I did not know how to draw. He answered me:
"That doesn't matter. Draw me a sheep..."
But I had never drawn a sheep. So I drew for him one of the two pictures I had drawn so often. It was that of the boa constrictor from the outside. And I was astounded to hear the little fellow greet it with,
"No, no, no! I do not want an elephant inside a boa constrictor. A boa constrictor is a very dangerous creature, and an elephant is very cumbersome. Where I live, everything is very small. What I need is a sheep. Draw me a sheep."
So then I made a drawing.