On one of my visits to our public library, I came across a book that caught my eye, while arresting my memory at the same time. It was “Bambi” by Felix Salten. I thought, “The Walt Disney Bambi?,” but on picking it up, I saw that it had no connection to the Bambi that most of us have grown up with. It was originally published in English, in 1929, and standing there at the “For Sale” section of the library, I read the forward, written by John Galsworthy, on March 16, 1929. It seems he read the galley proof, on his way between Paris and Calais. Actually four people read it on that journey, his wife, his nephew’s wife, and his nephew, as well as himself. He said it was a “delicious” book. And here it was in my hands, all for the price of twenty-five cents. I gambled a quarter, and found that I won a true literary jackpot!
We all know the story, only too well, of Bambi, the little dear fawn, born in the forest, and embarking on the journey of growing up into a “Prince of the Forest,” so I sure won’t bore you with this plot. You know that Bambi faces joy and tragedy, along this journey of life. You’ve probably seen the movie, and read the Gold Key books to your babies, if you have children.
I painted scenes of the Disney rendition of Bambi in my daughter’s (both of them) nursery when they were little.
What you may not know, is that Bambi was actually written in 1923, by an Austrian Jewish man named Felix Salten, originally published as “Bambi, A Life in the Woods.” In doing some web searching, I found that it had been actually banned in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s because it was seen by Hitler as a political allegory referring to the treatment of the jews. The author had also moved to Switzerland, due to the Nazi’s occupying Austria.
“Bambi” has been reported to be one of the original environmental novels ever written.
In the passage below, the young buck Bambi, is searching for his beloved young doe, Faline. He believes he hears her voice calling for him, and as he is heading to her, the old Stag, interrupts him, showing him the true source of what he believed to be Faline’s voice:
“The old stag whispered, “No matter what you see, don’t move, do you hear? Watch everything I do, and act just as I do, cautiously. And don’t lose your head.”
They went a few steps farther and suddenly that sharp arresting scent that Bambi knew so well struck them full in the face. He swallowed so much of it that he nearly cried out. He stood as though rooted to the ground. For a moment his heart seemed pounding in his throat. The old stag stood calmly beside him and motioned with his eyes.
He was standing there.”
Bambi was written for an adult audience, and will offer you much more than a heartfelt pleasant story. You will be changed, I promise, and it will be for the better. Published by Simon and Schuster in 1929 and in1956, it will offer you a very private glimpse into the very heart of Nature herself, and you will be the better for it as it truly offers an elegance in literature that has sadly been abandoned in our present world.
Read Bambi….then read it to those you love.