by Siegmund Salzmann

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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 overhead, the area resembles a nest or womb, safe and secure in the middle of the forest.

Deer trails

Deer trails. Deer tracks through the forest, on one of which Bambi first encounters death when he sees a ferret kill a mouse. There he also first witnesses anger when he overhears an argument between two blue jays. Later, Bambi’s father tells him that he no longer uses the trails because humans have found them and made them dangerous. To serve as a warning, he takes Bambi along while he rescues Friend Hare from a snare set in the middle of a track. From that day on, Bambi avoids the trails and survives to inherit his father’s mantle as the great prince of the forest.


Meadow. Center stage in the forest, the most alluring and most dangerous destination for the deer, the place where deer emerge from the shadows of the trees to graze and play under the open sky, though never in broad daylight. The meadow is teeming with life. On Bambi’s first visit there, he encounters butterflies, ants, and a grasshopper, whose fear of Bambi foreshadows the presence of danger that can often be found lurking in the meadow. There he meets Friend Hare, his aunt, Ena, and his cousins, Gobo and Faline, with whom he discusses the frightening new concept of “danger.” The meadow is also where Bambi first sees his father, the old stag, where he first sees a hunter shooting a deer, and where he himself is shot by a hunter.

Great oak

Great oak. Old tree growing on the edge of the meadow that is the squirrels’ home and shelter for many animals, including the deer. The oak serves as a landmark for both the deer and the reader until humans chop it down, leaving its residents homeless.

Little clearing

Little clearing. Place where Bambi first sees a man, first hears a gun being fired, and first speaks to his father. Like the meadow, the clearing presages both good and...

(This entire section contains 654 words.)

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Hollow under the beech log

Hollow under the beech log. Bambi’s father’s home, the refuge where Bambi recovers after being shot. Like Bambi’s mother’s home in the thicket, it is a secure womb where humans do not intrude.


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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.


Critical Essays