by Siegmund Salzmann

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Bambi is born in a thicket in the woods. While he is still an awkward young fawn, his mother teaches him that he is a deer. He learns that deer do not kill other animals nor do they fight over food as jaybirds do. He learns, too, that deer should venture from their hiding places to go to the meadow only in the early morning and late in the evening and that they must rely on the rustle of last year’s dead leaves to give them warning of approaching danger. On his first visit to the meadow, Bambi has a conversation with a grasshopper and a close look at a butterfly.

One evening Bambi and his mother go to the meadow again. On his second visit, he is introduced to the hare, an animal with big, soft eyes and flopping ears. Bambi is not impressed. The little deer is considerably happier to meet his cousins, Gob and Famine, and their mother, End. The two families are about to separate when two stags with spreading antlers on their heads come crashing out of the forest. Bambi’s mother explains that the larger, statelier stag is Bambi’s father.

As he grows older, Bambi learns the sounds and smells of the forest. Sometimes his mother goes off by herself. Missing her one day, Bambi starts out to look for her and comes upon his cousins in the meadow. Famine suggests that both their mothers might have gone to visit their fathers. Bambi decides to continue his search by himself. As he stands at the edge of a clearing, he sees a creature he never saw before. The creature raises what looks like a stick to its face. Terrified, Bambi runs back into the woods as fast as he can go. His mother appears suddenly, and they both run home to their glade. When he and his mother are safe again, Bambi learns that the creature he saw is Man.

On another day, he begins to call for his mother. Suddenly, a great stag stands before him. He coldly asks Bambi why he is crying and tells him that he ought to be ashamed of himself. Then he is gone. The little deer does not tell his mother of his experience nor does he call her anymore. Later, he learns that he met Old Prince, the biggest and wisest stag in the forest. One morning Bambi is nibbling in the meadow with his mother when one of the stags comes out of the forest. Suddenly, there is a crash. The stag leaps into the air and then falls dead. Bambi races away after his mother. All he wants is to go deeper and deeper into the forest until he can feel free of that new danger. He meets Old Prince again. When Bambi asks him who Man is, the stag replies that he will find out for himself. Then he disappears.

The forest gradually changes as summer passes into fall and then into winter. Snow falls, and grass is not easy to find. All the deer become more friendly during the cold months. They gather to talk, and sometimes even one of the stags joins them. Bambi grows to admire the stags. He is especially interested in Rondo, the stag who escaped after a hunter wounded him in the foot. The constant topic of conversation is Man, for none of the deer understands the black stick he carries. They all are afraid of it.

As the winter drags on, the slaughter of the weaker animals in the forest begins. A crow kills one of the...

(This entire section contains 1245 words.)

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hare’s children, a squirrel races around with a neck wound a ferret gives him, a fox murders a pheasant. A party of hunters comes into the woods with their noise-making sticks and kills many of the animals. Bambi’s mother and his cousin Gob are not seen again.

That spring, Bambi grows his first pair of antlers. With his mother gone, he spends most of his time alone. The other stags drive him away when he tries to approach them, and Famine is shy with him. Deciding one day that he is not afraid of any of the stags, Bambi charges at what he thinks is one of his tormentors in a thicket. The stag steps aside, and Bambi charges past him. It is Old Prince. Embarrassed, the young deer begins to tremble when his friend comes close to him. With an admonishment to act bravely, the older deer disappears into the woods.

A year later, Bambi meets Famine again, and once more they play as they did when they were very young. Then an older stag named Karur appears and tries to block Bambi’s way. When Bambi attacks him, Karur flees, as does the stag named Rondo, who was pursuing Famine.

Famine and Bambi venture into the meadow one day and there see a stranger nibbling the grass. They are surprised when he comes skipping up to them and asks if they know him. It is Gob. Hunters caught him and kept him until he was full-grown. Then he was sent back to join his family in the forest. His mother is delighted to see him once more. Gob explains his absence to an admiring audience and praises Man for his kindness. While he is talking, Old Prince appears and asks Gob about the strip of horsehair around his neck. Gob answers that it is a halter. Old Prince remarks pityingly that he is a poor thing and vanishes.

Gob will not live as the other deer in the forest do. He insists on going about during the day and sleeping at night. He has no fear about eating in the meadow, completely exposed. One day, when a hunter is in the woods, Gob declares that he will go talk to him. He walks out into the meadow. Suddenly there is a loud report; Gob leaps into the air and then dashes into the thicket, where he falls, mortally wounded.

Bambi is alone when he meets Old Prince for the first time since Gob’s death. They are walking together when they find a hare caught in a noose. Old Prince carefully manages to loosen the snare with his antlers. Then he shows Bambi how to test tree branches for a trap. Bambi realizes for the first time that there is no time when Man is not in the woods. One misty morning, as Bambi stands at the edge of the clearing, a hunter wounds him. He races madly for the forest and in its protection lies down to rest. Soon he hears a voice beside him, urging him to get up. It is Old Prince. For an hour, the veteran leads Bambi through the woods, crossing and redressing the place where he laid down, showing him the herbs that will stop his bleeding and clear his head. He stays with Bambi until the wound heals. Before he goes off to die, the old stag shows Bambi a poacher who was killed. He explains that humans, like animals, must die. Bambi understands then that there is someone even more powerful than he.

Walking through the forest one day, Bambi spies a brother and a sister fawn crying for their mother. As Old Prince spoke to him so many years before, he asks them if they cannot stay by themselves. Then, as his friend did, he vanishes into the forest.