Seek the Original (abbreviated): Bambi

Sometimes there just isn't much to say about a book/movie comparison. So here's an abbreviated seek the original of:

(book by Felix Salten / Movie: 1942 by Disney)

A deer is born into the world. He is happy and carefree, but quickly he is introduced to danger: Man hunts in these woods.

Over the course of the story, everyone Bambi knows and loves is touched by Man. Some are killed, some have their homes destroyed, others are trapped, snared, hunted and wounded. One of Bambi's childhood friends goes missing and comes back domesticated and naive. Even his own mother is taken away.

Man is always there. Always stalking them. As Bambi grows up, he learns how to survive the dangers that Man brings upon them, and just who Man is.

Very difficult to read. Something about the way it's written... It was originally written in German. This is a translated story, which could have something to do with it.

Though it was first published in 1923 in Austria (1928 in America), it's very much a Victorian story. The animals have been humanized into a Victorian society of sorts, with everyone being hyper-polite, judging based on appearances and first impressions, and everyone taking great care not to offend with so much as an ill-timed gesture of the hoof.

It imbues Victorian sensibilities onto animals to make them more human, but today those Victorian sensibilities make them seem even less human--less identifiable! Their way of life is even harder to understand because of this, and it makes the entire book very, very difficult to read. Little is described, the text is dodgy, the dialogue is so formal and indirect... I couldn't get into it at all.

It ends on a poignant note that is quite touching. In spite of everything Man puts Bambi through, he comes out wiser and stronger than anyone else. He doesn't just grow up. He learns the truth of who Man is, and he matures. I like that.

The rest of the book is very hard to get into. It is of course considered a children's story today (thanks to Disney), but it was meant for adults. The last few chapters are graphic and violent, and that's when the story began to grab me, when it dropped its Victorian pretense.

There's nothing wrong with the story, but I had a difficult time with it.

The movie? Half an hour of cute animals being cute, then POW! Bambi's mother is killed off-screen, then suddenly Bambi is grown up and finds true love. That's it.

His mother's death has no impact on him as an adult. In the book, however, it's just one of the horrors he witnesses as he grows up with Man stalking him and his friends day after day.

The book is about how Bambi grows up, drawing upon his years of watching Man murder, trap and take his friends away all his life to learn just who Man is, and how to survive when He is around.

It's only in the film's last ten minutes that Man is dealt with, but Bambi doesn't learn anything about Him. In the movie, being Prince of the Forest has no definition. The book, however, makes it very clear who the Prince of the Forest is: the solitary buck who knows all of Man's tricks, and his true identity.

Weird that the original trailer for the film calls it the world's greatest love story. No, there is no love in the book. Bambi seeks the solitary life to better understand He who hunts them.

It's landmark animation of course. No faulting that. It's beautiful and outstanding, but the story is insulting compared to the book. I didn't even like the book, but I still respect it for telling the story it did! The Disney movie is just cutsie critters hopping around on screen.


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