Felix Salten's 1923 novel was originally titled "Bambi, A Life in the Woods" when published in Austria. An English translation, released in 1928, met with success. Walt Disney optioned the book and made it into a famous 1942 animated film titled simply "Bambi." Critics consider the original novel, darker and more adult in nature than the animated adaptation, one of the first environmental books.
Bambi is a deer fawn. He is born in a thicket in a large wood in late spring one year. His mother is a young doe. During his first summer he learns about the other wood creatures and how to live in the wood. His mother eventually introduces him to his cousins, twin fawns named Faline and Gobo, and his Aunt Ena. The young deer become friends and playmates. Bambi's mother shows him his first meadow in the wood. Bambi is entranced by the beauty of the open grove with its sunshine, fields of blooming flowers and lack of trees and thicket.
Although Bambi finds the meadow beautiful, his mother warns him that in the open there is no protection for deer. Bambi learns about dangerous two-legged creatures that come into the forest with the sole purpose of killing deer. Older deer teach Bambi that they sometimes use fake doe calls to bring deer within the sights of their guns. During one day of hunting Bambi's mother is killed, and Gobo goes missing, assumed dead. Bambi must slowly learn to live on his own even though he is not mature. He gets his first set of antlers, deals with the teasing of other young deer and meets a deer named Nettla, who helps raise him.
Before his mother dies he and his cousins Faline and Godo learn about princes while playing one day. They meet two older male deer, or stags, whom they refer to as "princes." When Bambi, Faline and Gobo tell their mothers about the princes, they learn that they are really their fathers. They also learn that deer princes have little to do with their offspring or mates. When Bambi is an adult, a prince shows him the dead body of a human killed by another human. Bambi learns that even "he" will die and that there is a greater force in nature than "him."
Gobo returns after having been saved by a human and raised outside the woods. Bambi falls in love with Faline. He meets with his father, now an old prince, who teaches him about animal traps and how to survive being shot by walking in circles until the bleeding stops. Bambi's "prince" actually cares for him while Bambi recovers from his wound. Gobo is eventually killed by another hunter. Bambi ages and spends most of his time alone, even avoiding Faline. His father returns to him to tell him that he loves him once before he dies.
- Bambi: A Life in the Woods; Felix Salten; 1988
- Publishers Weekly; Children's Review of Bambi
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images