In the book 'the little prince' by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, I found the expression 'I ask the indulgence of the children'. What's the meaning of that?

I'm not sure if it means 'I ask the children for forgiveness' or 'I ask for the children's pardon'.

Here is the full sentence:

I ask the indulgence of the children who may read this book for dedicating it to a grown-up.

Do you think the words "forgiveness" and "pardon" are strong and don't work?

  • I have seen "I apologize to children for having dedicated this book to a grownup. " in some translations... I believe that could be used too.. There is many translations of Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) at laetaprinco.org
    – Toni Jr
    Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 12:58

1 Answer 1


The two suggested interpretations of the original sentence are:

  • I ask the children for forgiveness for...
  • I ask for the children's pardon for...

There is no real difference in meaning here. "Pardon" is perhaps slightly stronger.

I ask the indulgence of the children for...

is a bit milder than either. It is about the same as

I ask the children to excuse me for ...

"Indulgence" is a slightly more formal, slightly more old-fashioned word, but that is mostly just the author's style. Also here, he is asking to be "excused" for something that (I believe) no one would have thought of objecting to until the author mentioned the issue. The word choice seems to me to fit that slightly artificial situation.

  • I wish the downvoter would indicate any problems, issues or disagreements. I could perhaps fix them, or respond, and learners might be assisted. I have madwe some mechanical corrections. Commented May 18, 2019 at 13:20
  • Okay. I see. So here the author is asking for something like 'understanding/tolerance', right? Do you think "I ask the children to INDULGE ME for ..." also works? Commented May 19, 2019 at 1:59
  • @Jorge El Soñador yes that is what he is asking for. However, one does not usually say "indulge me for" but rather "indulge me in" for no very obvious reason. I suspect that "indulgence" meaning "mild forgiveness" or "tolerance" goes back to the meaning "a written church document granting pardon for a specific sin, capable of being sold or transferred". But I cannot confirm that. Commented May 19, 2019 at 2:08
  • Yes, I think asking for "indulgence" in colloquial usage is not quite the same as "forgiveness" or "pardon", both of which imply some admission of guilt. "Understanding" and "tolerance" are closer. But certainly (@DavidSiegel) the origin is in Catholic church practice of remission of sins. Indulgence in colloquial use also has another distinct but related meaning, which is a fondness for things that are mildly bad for you, such as chocolate. Commented Jan 14, 2021 at 0:25

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