Bambi Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Forest

Forest. The location of this story is not specified but appears to have been inspired by woods that Salten saw during a vacation in Europe’s Alps. Bambi’s woodland home may thus be envisioned as an alpine forest in the heart of Europe, remote enough from human settlements to offer a haven for wild creatures—but only some of the time. This setting is crucial to the story, for the animals’ security is always conditional. They are never completely free of the fear of “Him,” the possessor of a “third arm” (that wields a gun or an ax), who invades the natural world to kill and destroy unnaturally.

Many children’s books portray the natural world as a benign Garden of Eden, but the forest in Bambi is no such place. There death, even violent death, is accepted as part of the natural scheme of things. However, humans are depicted as apart from, and alien to, Bambi and his fellow forest dwellers. Humans are superpredators who wreak havoc on the entire forest, not just on individual prey. That Salten wrote such a negative view of humankind’s relationship to the natural world in the aftermath of World War I is not surprising, as he was one of many Europeans of his time who turned from what they believed to be the false promise of human civilization toward the imagined solace of a natural world devoid of the demonstrated inhumanity of humankind.

Little glade

Little glade. Hidden center of a thicket that serves as Bambi’s mother’s home and Bambi’s birthplace. Surrounded by dense foliage on all sides and...

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Bambi Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Blount, Margaret. Animal Land: The Creatures of Children’s Fiction. New York: William Morrow, 1975. Brief discussion of Bambi as a great example of “animal biography,” avoiding its predecessors’ and imitators’ tendency to caricature. Poignant and poetic account of animal life and death compensates for novel’s failings, chiefly its excessive anthropomorphism.

Cartmill, Matt. A View to a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature Through History. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993. Focuses primarily on Disney’s film as a piece of antihunting propaganda, but discusses Salten’s novel at greater length than most sources. The novel exudes violence and death, influenced by pessimism of post-World War I Austria and an intense misanthropy; the intrusion of human beings in the forest corrupts innocence and destroys life.

Egoff, Shirley A. Thursday’s Child: Trends and Patterns in Contemporary Children’s Literature. Chicago: American Library Association, 1981. Brief discussion of Bambi as the first significant European children’s novel in the twentieth century. Novel was popular in its time, but the modern reader may find it overly sentimental; however, its negative view of humanity is quite modern and echoed by subsequent children’s books about animals.

Meigs, Cornelia, et al. A Critical History of Children’s Literature. Rev. ed. New York: Macmillan, 1969. Places Bambi as the most significant fact-based animal story in children’s literature. Beautiful passages may appeal to reader despite sentimentality.