Title: Bambi: A Life in the Woods.
Author: Felix Salten.
Genre: Fiction, literature, fantasy, animals, children's lit, YA, bildungsroman, family saga, romance.
Publication Date: 1923.
Summary: Bambi's life in the woods begins happily. There are forest animals to play with - Friend Hare, the chattery squirrel, the noisy screech owl, and Bambi's twin cousins, frail Gobo and beautiful Faline. But winter comes, and Bambi learns that the woods hold danger, and things he doesn't understand. The first snowfall makes food hard to find. Bambi's father, a handsome stag, roams the forest, but leaves Bambi and his mother alone. Then there is Man. He comes to the forest with weapons that can wound an animal. He does terrible things to Gobo, to Bambi's mother, and even to Bambi. But He can't keep Bambi from growing into a handsome stag himself, and becoming the Prince of the Forest.
My rating: 8.5/10.
♥ Bambi is a delicious book. Delicious not only for children but for those who are no longer so fortunate. For delicacy of perception and essential truth I hardly know any story of animals that can stand beside this life study of a forest deer. Felix Salten is a poet. He feels nature deeply, and he loves animals. I do not, as a rule, like the method which places human words in the mouths of dumb creatures, and it is the triumph of this book that, behind the conversation, one feels the real sensations of the creatures who speak. Clear and illuminating, and in places very moving, it is a little masterpiece.
~~From the Foreword by John Galsworthy.
♥ In early summer the trees stood still under the blue sky, held their limbs outstretched and received the direct rays of the sun. On the shrubs and bushes in the undergrowth, the flowers unfolded their red, white and yellow stars. On some the seed pods had begun to appear again. They perched innumerable on the fine tips of the branches, tender and firm and resolute, and seemed like small, clenched fists. Out of the earth came whole troops of flowers, like motley stars, so that the soil of the twilit forest floor shone with a silent, ardent, colorful gladness. Everything smelled of fresh leaves, of blossoms, of moist clods and green wood. When morning broke, or when the sun went down, the whole woods resounded with a thousand voices, and from morning till night, the bees hummed, the wasps droned, and filled the fragrant stillness with their murmur.
♥ Bambi questioned her. He loved to ask his mother questions. It was the pleasantest thing for him to ask a question and then to hear what answer his mother would give. Bambi was never surprised that question after question should come into his mind continually and without effort. He found it perfectly natural, and it delighted him very much. It was very delightful, too, to wait expectantly till the answer came. If it turned out the way he wanted, he was satisfied. Sometimes, of course, he did not understand, but that was pleasant also because he was kept busy picturing what he had not understood, in his own way. Sometimes he felt very sure that his mother was not giving him a complete answer, was intentionally not telling him all she knew. And at first, that was very pleasant, too. For then there would remain in him such a lively curiosity, such suspicion, mysteriously and joyously flashing through him, such anticipation, that he would become anxious and happy at the same time, and grow silent.
♥ Now he saw the whole heaven stretching far and wide, and he rejoiced without knowing why. In the forest he had seen only a stray sunbeam now and then, or the tender, dappled light that played through the branches. Suddenly he was standing in the blinding hot sunlight whose boundless power was beaming upon him. He stood in the splendid warmth that made him shut his eyes but which opened his heart.
♥ It sounded different from the thrushes' song, or the yellowbirds', different from the friendly notes of the cuckoo, but Bambi loved the owl's cry, for he felt its mysterious earnestness, its unutterable wisdom and strange melancholy.
♥ "Oh just as you please," said the crow solemnly. "Forget what I said to you, but remember that the Prince did not die because he was proud or stupid, but because no one can escape Him."
♥ Bambi felt himself thrill with pride, felt inspired with a deep earnestness. Yes, life was difficult and full of danger. But come what might he would learn to bear it all.
♥ The leaves were falling from the great oak at the meadow's edge. They were falling from all the trees.
One branch of the oak reached high above the others and stretched far out over the meadow. Two leaves clung to its very tip.
"It isn't the way it used to be," said one leaf to the other.
"No," the other leaf answered. "So many of us have fallen off tonight we're almost the only ones left on our branch."
"You never know who's going to go next," said the first leaf. "Even when it was warm and the sun shone, a storm or a cloudburst would come sometimes, and many leaves were torn off, though they were still young. You never know who's going to go next."
"The sun seldom shines now," sighed the second leaf, "and when it does it gives no warmth. We must have warmth again."
"Can it be true," said the first leaf, "can it really be true, that others come to take our places when we're gone and after them still others, and more and more?"
"It is really true," whispered the second leaf. "We can't even begin to imagine it, it's beyond our powers."
"It makes me very sad," added the first leaf.
They were silent a while. Then the first leaf said quietly to herself, "Why must we fall? ..."
The second leaf asked, "What happens to us when we have fallen?"
"We sink down. ..."
"What is under us?"
The first leaf answered, "I don't know, some say one thing, some another, but nobody knows."
The second leaf asked, "Do we feel anything, do we know anything about ourselves when we're down there?"
The first leaf answered, "Who knows? Not one of all those down there has ever come back to tell us about it."
They were silent again. Then the first leaf said tenderly to the other, "Don't worry so much about it, you're trembling."
"That's nothing," the second leaf answered, "I tremble at the least thing now. I don't feel so sure of my hold as I used to."
"Let's not talk any more about such things," said the first leaf.
The other replied, "No, we'll let be. But—what else shall we talk about?" She was silent, but went on after a little while. "Which of us will go first?"
"There's still plenty of time to worry about that," the other leaf assured her. "Let's remember how beautiful it was, how wonderful, when the sun came out and shone so warmly that we thought we'd burst with life. Do you remember? And the morning dew, and the mild and splendid things..."
"Now the nights are dreadful," the second leaf complained, "and there is no end to them."
"We shouldn't complain," said the first leaf gently. "We've outlived many, many others."
"Have I changed much?" asked the second leaf shyly but determinedly.
"Not in the least," the first leaf assured her. "You only think so because I've got to be so yellow and ugly. But it's different in your case."
"You're fooling me," the second leaf said.
"No, really," the first leaf exclaimed eagerly, "believe me, you're as lovely as the day you were born. Here and there may be a little yellow spot but it's hardly noticeable and only makes you handsomer, believe me."
"Thanks," whispered the second leaf, quite touched. "I don't believe you, not altogether, but I thank you because you're so kind, you've always been so kind to me. I'm just beginning to understand how kind you are."
"Hush," said the other leaf, and kept silent herself for she was too troubled to talk any more.
Then they were both silent. Hours passed.
A moist wind blew, cold and hostile, through the treetops.
"Ah, now," said the second leaf, "I..." Then her voice broke off. She was torn from her place and spun down.
Winter had come.
♥ Sometimes he liked to listen to his big cousins the elk. The whole forest would tremble with their kingly voices. Bambi used to listen and be very much frightened, but his heart would beat high with admiration when he heard them calling. He remembered that the kings had antlers branching like tall, strong trees. And it seemed to him that their voices were as powerful as their antlers. Whenever he heard the deep tones of those voices he would stand motionless. Their deep voices rolled toward him like the mighty moaning of noble, maddened blood whose primal power was giving utterance to longing, rage and pride. Bambi struggled in vain against his fears. They overpowered him whenever he heard those voices, but he was proud to have such noble relatives. At the same time he felt a strange sense of annoyance because they were so unapproachable. It offended and humiliated him without his knowing exactly how or why, even without his being particularly conscious of it.
♥ "Will He never stop hunting us?" young Karus sighed.
Then Marena spoke, the young half-grown doe. "They say that sometime He'll come to live with us and be as gentle as we are. He'll play with us then and the whole forest will be happy, and we'll be friends with Him."
Old Nettla burst out laughing. "Let Him stay where He is and leave us in peace," she said.
Aunt Ena said reprovingly, "You shouldn't talk that way."
"And why not?" old Nettla replied hotly; "I really don't see why not. Friends with Him! He's murdered us ever since we can remember, every one of us, our sisters, our mothers, our brothers! Ever since we came into the world He's given us no peace, but has killed us wherever we showed our heads. And now we're going to be friends with Him. What nonsense!"
Marena looked at all of them out of her big, calm, shining eyes. "Love is no nonsense," she said. "It has to come."
♥ The old stag looked at him and thought, "He's handsome, he's really charming, so delicate, so poised, so elegant in his whole bearing. I must not stare at him, though. It really isn't the thing to do. Besides, it might embarrass him." So he stared over Bambi's head into the empty air again.
"What a haughty look," thought Bambi. "It's unbearable, the opinion such people have of themselves."
The stag was thinking, "I'd like to talk to him, he looks so sympathetic. How stupid never to speak to people we don't know." He looked thoughtfully ahead of him.
"I might as well be air," said Bambi to himself. "This fellow acts as though he were the only thing on the face of the earth."
"What should I say to him?" the old stag was wondering. "I'm not used to talking. I'd say something stupid and make myself ridiculous... for he's undoubtedly very clever."
Bambi pulled himself together and looked fixedly at the stag. "How splendid he is," he thought despairingly.
"Well, some other time, perhaps," the stag decided and walked off, dissatisfied but majestic.
Bambi remained filled with bitterness.
♥ After wandering about for a long time he found Faline. He was breathless, tired and happy and deeply stirred.
"Please, beloved," he said, "please don't ever call me again. We'll search until we find each other, but please don't ever call me... for I can't resist your voice."
♥ Gobo smiled a very superior smile. "No, dear Faline," he said, "not any more. I got to know that He wouldn't hurt me. Why should I have been afraid? You all think He's wicked. But He isn't wicked. If He loves anybody or if anybody serves Him, He's good to him. Wonderfully good! Nobody in the world can be as kind as he can."
While Gobo was talking that way the old stag suddenly stepped noiselessly from the bushes. ... Then the old stag asked in his quiet commanding voice, "What kind of a band is that you have on your neck?"
Gobo answered uneasily, "That? Why, that's part of the halter I wore. It's His halter and it's the greatest honor to wear His halter, it's..." He grew confused and stammered.
Everyone was silent. The old stag looked at Gobo for a long time, piercingly and sadly.
"You poor thing!" he said softly at last, and turned and was gone.
♥ Bambi heard him and again felt that gentle stirring in his heart. But he said nothing. When he was still a child the old stag had taught him that you must live alone. Then and afterward the old stag had revealed much wisdom and many secrets to him. But of all his teachings this had been the most important: you must live alone. If you wanted to preserve yourself, if you understood existence, if you wanted to attain wisdom, you had to live alone.
"But," Bambi had once objected, "we two are always together now."
"Not for very much longer," the old stag had answered quickly. That was a few weeks ago. Now it occurred to Bambi again, and he suddenly remembered how even the old stag's very first words to him had been about singleness. That day when bambi was still a child calling for his mother, the old stag had come to him and asked him, "Can't you stay by yourself?"
♥ "We can stay right beside Him," the old stag began softly, "and it isn't dangerous."
Bambi looked down at the prostrate form whose limbs and skin seemed so mysterious and terrible to him. He gazed at the dead eyes that stared up sightlessly at him. Bambi couldn't understand it all.
"Bambi," the old stag went on, "do you remember what Gobo said and what the dog said, what they all think, do you remember?"
Bambi could not answer.
"Do you see, Bambi," the old stag went on, "do you see how He's lying there dead, like one of us? Listen, Bambi. He isn't all-powerful as they say. Everything that lives and grows doesn't come from Him. He isn't above us; He's just the same as we are. He has the same fears, the same needs, and suffers in the same way. He can be killed like us, and then He lies helpless on the ground like all the rest of us, as you see Him now."
There was a silence.
"Do you understand me, bambi?" asked the old stag.
"I think so," Bambi said in a whisper.
"Then speak," the old stag commanded.
Bambi was inspired, and said trembling, "There is Another who is over us all, over us and over Him."
"Now I can go," said the old stag.