Bambi, a Life in the Woods, originally published in Austria as Bambi. Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde, is a 1923 Austrian novel written by Felix Salten and published by Paul Zsolnay Verlag. The novel traces the life of Bambi, a male roe deer, from his birth through childhood, the loss of his mother, the finding of a mate, the lessons he learns from his father and experience about the dangers posed by human hunters in the forest. An English translation by Whittaker Chambers was published in North America by Simon & Schuster in 1928. The novel has since been translated and published in over 20 languages around the world. Salten released a sequel, Bambis Kinder, eine Familie im Walde (Bambi's Children), in 1939.
The novel was well received by critics and is considered a classic. It was adapted into a theatrical animated film, Bambi, by Walt Disney Pictures|Walt Disney Studios in 1942, two Russian live-action adaptations in 1985 and 1986, and a stage production in 1998. A ballet adaptation was written by an Oregon troupe, but never released. Janet Schulman released a children's picture book adaptation in 2000 that featured realistic oil-paintings and many of Salten's original words.
Bambi is a roe deer fawn born in a thicket to a young doe in late spring one year. Over the course of the summer, his mother teaches him about the various inhabitants of the forest and the ways deer live. When she feels he is old enough, she takes him to the meadow which he learns is both a wonderful but also dangerous place as it leaves the deer exposed and in the open. After some initial fear over his mother's caution, Bambi enjoys the experience. On a subsequent trip, Bambi meets his Aunt Ena, and her twin fawns Faline and Gobo. They quickly become friends and share what they have learned about the forest. While they are playing, they encounter princes, male deer, for the first time. After the stags leave, the fawns learn that those were their fathers, but that the fathers rarely stay with or speak to the females and young.
As Bambi grows older, his mother begins to leave him alone. While searching for her one day, Bambi has his first encounter with "He", the animals' term for humans, which terrifies him. The man raises a firearm and aims at him; Bambi flees at top speed, joined by his mother. After he is scolded by a stag for crying for his mother, Bambi gets used to being alone at times. He later learns the stag is called the old Prince, the oldest and largest stag in the forest who is known for his cunning and aloof nature. During the winter, Bambi meets Marena, a young doe, Nettla, an old doe who no longer bears young, and two princes Ronno and Karus. Mid-winter, hunters enter the forest, killing many animals including Bambi's mother. Gobo also disappears and is presumed dead.
After this, the novel skips ahead a year, noting that Bambi was cared for by Nettla, and that when he got his first set of antlers he was abused and harassed by the other males. It is summer and Bambi is now sporting his second set of antlers. He is reunited with Faline. After he battles and defeats first Karus then Ronno, Bambi and Faline express their love for one another. They spend a great deal of time together. During this time, the old Prince saves Bambi's life when he nearly runs towards a hunter imitating a doe's call. This teaches the young buck to be cautious about blindly rushing toward any deer's call. During the summer, Gobo returns to the forest having been raised by a man who found him collapsed in the snow during the hunt where Bambi's mother was killed. While his mother and Marena welcome him and celebrate him as a "friend" of man, the old Prince and Bambi pity him. Marena becomes his mate, but several weeks later Gobo is killed when he approaches a hunter in the meadow, falsely believing the halter he wore would keep him safe from all men.
As Bambi continues to age, he begins spending most of his time alone, including avoiding Faline though he still loves her in a melancholy way. Several times he meets with the old Prince who teaches him about snares, shows him how to free another animal from one, and encourages him not to use trails to avoid the traps of men. When Bambi is later shot by a hunter, the Prince shows him how to walk in circles to confuse the man and his dogs until the bleeding stops, then takes him to a safe place to recover. They remain together until Bambi is strong enough to leave the safe haven again. When Bambi has grown gray and is "old", the old Prince shows him that man is not all powerful by showing him the dead body of a man who was shot and killed by another person. When Bambi confirms that he now understands that "He" is not all powerful, and that there is "Another" over all creatures, the stag tells him that he has always loved him and calls him "my son" before leaving to die.
At the end of the novel, Bambi meets with twin fawns who are calling for their mother and he scolds them for not being able to stay alone. After leaving them, he thinks to himself that the girl fawn reminded him of Faline, and that the male was promising and that Bambi hoped to meet him again when he was grown.
- Chambers, Whittaker. 1952. Witness. Random House. pp. 56, 239. ISBN: 0-89526-571-0.
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