Bambi, a Life in the Woods (Bambi, Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde) is a classic 1923 novel by Austrian author Felix Salten. It is a Coming-of-Age Story about a roe deer named "Bambi" as he grows up in a forest in Austria.
In 1939 Bambi received a sequel in Bambi's Children: The Forest of a Family (Bambis Kinder: Eine Familie im Walde) revolving around Bambi and Faline's offspring, Geno and Gurri.
In 1985, a Soviet live-action adaptation of the story titled Bambi's Childood (Детство Бемби) was released in Russia directed by Natalya Bondarchuk.
The book entered the Public Domain in 2016 in the European Union and 2022 in the United States.
These books contain examples of:
- Allegorical Character: The hound and fox near the end of the novel.
- An Aesop: Be alert and independent. You cannot depend on anyone else for survival.
- This gets a particularly grim illustration with Faline's brother Gobo, who appeared to have been killed by a hunter in the same winter Bambi's mother died, only to return some time later as a full grown deer. (A human family had taken pity on him and made him a pet.) The Great Prince realizes immediately that the buck's lack of caution will get him killed eventually — as it does.
- Animal Religion: The animals believe humans to be some sort of god. Bambi eventually learns that humans are mortal creatures too, and concludes that there must be a higher power over them both.
- Animal Talk: All animals understand each other; Bambi can even converse with insects.
- Anyone Can Die: Most notably, Bambi's mother, Gobo and the Prince at the end. Several minor characters also die.
- Capital Letters Are Magic: Humans are referred to as "He," with a capital H. Interestingly, the term used in the movies, "Man", is only used once, and in the summary for the first book rather than in-universe.
- Constantly Curious: Bambi is like this when he's little.
- Continuity Nod: In Bambi's Children, Gobo's death at the hands of man is brought up early on.
- Disabled Badass: Ronno has a lame leg due to being shot in it, but is still capable and manages to survive fine in the forest.
- Disappeared Dad: As is normal with roe deer, the fathers are not present in their children's lives. Even Bambi has become distant from his mate and children by the end, though he takes a more fatherly role in Bambi's Children.
- False Friend: Gobo assumes that because he was rescued by a human, they would all be a friend to him. He is killed by a hunter not long after.
- G-Rated Sex: During mating season, Bambi feels the need to always be near his cousin Faline. Eventually his feelings wane but Faline later gives birth to his twins.
- Grumpy Old Man: Nettla fills this role, even referred to as Old Nettla.
- Humans Are Cthulhu:
- The animals believe that humans are some kind of god. Near the end, the Prince shows Bambi the corpse of a man. Bambi then realizes that humans are mortal creatures too, concluding there must be Another who is even higher up.
- Faline's brother Gobo disappears for a year before returning with a halter around his neck. He says he was cared for by a human, and that Man is now his friend. The other animals are confused by this. Later he sees a human in a meadow and runs out to greet him, but unfortunately it turns out to be a hunter, who kills him.
- Downplayed in Bambi's Children; while the animals are still afraid of humans and understand their ways dimly at best, humans are portrayed in a more nuanced light with good and evil individuals.
- Kids Are Cruel: A minor antagonist of Bambi's Children is an unnamed kid who steals his dad's hunting rifle to poach fawns. The Gamekeeper catches him in the act and sends him off, but he returns later and is about to kill Bambi's son Geno, only for Bambi himself to intervene by ramming the kid from behind, sending him running back home in fear and pain.
- Kissing Cousins: Bambi's mother and Faline's mother (Aunt Ena) are sisters, making the two first cousins. As adults the two pair up and have children.
- Les Collaborateurs: The doe Marena believes that humans and deer could live in peace, pairing up with an overconfident young buck who has rescued by humans and has lost his fear. She soon finds out that trying to befriend humans is suicide.
- Loners Are Freaks: Averted in the first book: Deer are prey animals, and the protector you lean on today might not be there tomorrow. If you want to survive, you have to learn to make it on your own. By the second one, however, Bambi takes a more active role in the life of his family and even adopts some fatherless young bucks so he can help them succeed.
- Nature Is Not Nice: The novel does not gloss over the fact that life can be brutal for animals and death can be cruel.
- No Fathers Allowed: The males do not take part in caring for their children and are not expected to do so. During the breeding season, Bambi becomes head-over-heels for his cousin, Faline and rarely wants to leave her side. After she becomes pregnant, Bambi finds his interest in Faline quickly waning until he can't stand to be around her anymore. This reflects real bucks' behavior, who mate and leave without helping to raise fawns.
- No Name Given: The deer have names, but other animals are usually referred by the name of their species.
- Parental Neglect: Subverted. Partway through the book, Bambi's, Faline's, and Gobo's mothers start leaving their children alone for hours on end and get irritated when they try to follow. To a human's point-of-view, it looks like the mothers act this way. However, this is perfectly normal deer behavior. The mothers are just teaching their children to be independent.
- Parental Substitute:
- After his mother dies, Bambi is taken in by Old Nettla.
- As an adult, Bambi develops a father/son relationship with his mentor, the Great Prince.
- Protagonist Title: Bambi is the protagonist of the first novel.
- Raised In Captivity: Gobo was taken in by humans as a fawn and reared until adulthood. After being let back into the wild, it's clear that he's lost his self-preservation skills. He also thinks that he's friends with all humans, which leads to his death when he approaches a hunter.
- Sequel: Bambi's Children, which offers perspective flips between the animals and human characters, and is Lighter and Softer than the original book. Humankind is also portrayed in a much more nuanced light, with one of them being a generally benevolent gamekeeper note who is concerned for the welfare of the animals (even taking in Bambi's daughter and nursing her back to health after she is attacked and injured by a fox) and even fights off a poacher and a cruel kid who stole his father's rifle to illegally hunt fawns. Perri the Squirrel, who appeared in his own book that was a midquel to Bambi, is also a minor character in Bambi's Children.
- Spin-Off: Perri The Youth Of A Squirrel is a story about a red squirrel set during the events of Bambi, and Bambi himself makes a cameo appearance. Perri subsequently appears as a named supporting character in Bambi's Children. Disney made a Live-Action Adaptation of Perri for their True Life Adventures series in the 1950's.
- Spin-Offspring: The sequel, Bambi's Children, stars Bambi's twin fawns.
- Stranger in a Familiar Land: Gobo. When Bambi and Faline reunite with him, he no longer has his wariness and caution, much to Bambi's consternation. It doesn't help that his girlfriend Marena believes in peace with humans in a borderline-Suicidal Pacifist way — she ends up sadder but wiser when his foolishness does him in.
- Unnamed Parent: Bambi's mother. Subverted with Aunt Ena, Faline's and Gobo's mother.
- Unto Us a Son and Daughter Are Born: Bambi and Faline have two children, a buck and a doe named Geno and Gurri.
- We Used to Be Friends: Bambi with Karus and Ronno. Both were friendly to Bambi when he was a juvenile; but when Bambi matures enough to become a rival for does, these two drive him off whenever they see him. After Bambi finally fights and soundly defeats them both, they don't dare come near him anymore.note
- Wham Episode: The chapter where the hunters arrive involves the violent death of several characters, including Bambi's mother (though the film portrays it more dramatically).
- Wham Line: "You poor thing" is the Great Prince's pronouncement on Gobo when everyone else is marveling at the special treatment he received from humans.
- The xenofiction aspect is far more pronounced in the original books than in the Disney film. The does act snappish towards their fawns after weaning them and begin leaving them alone for long periods of time, in contrast to the film where Bambi is always near his mother. Bambi becomes infatuated with Faline during mating season, but loses interest in her afterwards.
- One chapter involves sentient autumn leaves. This got a nod in the Disney animated version, where the two falling leaves come down to rest on the ground together.