Exactly a century ago European writer Felix Salten published a novel (1922). It was acclaimed and made the author famous. The book, "Bambi: A Life In The Woods," was a best-seller. Today, Salten's novel is forgotten; it was overshadowed by Walt Disney's later animation which bowdlerized Salten's story.
The novel -- written for adults, not children -- is a remarkable work of real imagination. It depicts the state of nature and confronts major issues of existential importance. My favorite chapter is one in which two leaves discuss what death will be like as they watch their companions wither and fall off a tree. "Do we feel anything, do we know anything about ourselves when we're down there?"
Some readers interpret Salten's "Bambi" as an allegory for the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany. In fact, the Nazis banned and burned the book. I, however, agree with a New Yorker magazine writer in the current issue; I don't read the book that way. There is political depth to the novel but that wasn't Salten's focus.
Can the story of an interesting book obscured by a cartoon adaptation get more interesting? Yes, it can. Salten's novel was translated into English by Whittaker Chambers. Why is that name familiar to us? Because Chambers was secretly an American spy for the Soviet Union during the 1930s and the center of a huge political scandal.
Chambers grew up on Long Island (in Lynbrook) and was the most talented writer-editor at prestigious Time magazine. His history includes the Alger Hiss controversy (during a House Un-American Activities Committee hearing in 1948 Chambers accused Hiss of having been a fellow Communist spy), the "Pumpkin Papers" (Chambers hid spy documents in a hollowed-out pumpkin) and, improbably, Chamber's being posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1984. Chamber's story has more angles than a dame in a film noir drama. :)
I actually have the original novel in paperback, and I read it as a child (along with the original "Heidi"). This is the same as mine: https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/1115782352/bambi-by-felix-salten-1966-vintageReplyDelete
I'm pretty sure I still have it. I remember being confused about the leaves! I read that New Yorker article - it was interesting. Of course, I knew none of the background when I read the book!
How interesting! Your paperback is a half-century old. Yes, the New Yorker piece is wonderful and tells us so much we didn't know before.Delete
In high school, a teacher read that chapter about the leaves to the class, and it's always stayed with me.ReplyDelete
Wow, good choice!Delete
Interesting! I just watched a show about fairytales and where they come from. It was Explained on Netlix. It was just a quick episode but it showed how old the (origin) stories really are the themes are copied over and over and never really for childrenReplyDelete
Karen @For What It's Worth
Cool. I go look for it. Thanks.Delete
I think I was an exceptionally lucky child because my parents often paired movies WITH the books.ReplyDelete
I also think they kept me away from Bambi after the Fox and the Hound fiasco, but I definitely watched the Rats of NIMH and then my parents read me the books.
That's a good way to teach kids.Delete
I had NO idea Bambi was a story for adults and not children! And Chambers- wow. This post was quite informative, my friend!ReplyDelete
And thank you so much for the Valentine's card, Ally- that was so lovely of you to think of me!
Le Stylo Rouge
I never stop thinking (and caring) about you! :)Delete
P.S., If you have time, read the book. It's absorbing.Delete
This is so interesting, I had no idea it was based on a book. I haven't even seen the full movie (too sad) but I do know a little about the artist who was responsible for the film's look.ReplyDelete
Give the book a try; you'll be surprised at it.Delete
I had no idea Bambi was based on a book or that it was an allegorical one! Tempted to look it out!!ReplyDelete
You should. It's a fascinating read and not long.Delete