While leafing through the latest print copy of Nextbook — the editors collect web highlights in periodic broadsheets — I discovered that I’d missed David Rakoff’s praise for Bambi, the novel, not the movie. Evidently Disney’s most famous tearjerker was based on a book with “not a trace of anthropomorphized cuteness.”
Bambi’s forest is peopled (creatured?) with characters by turns arrogant, venal, gossipy, and engaging — as flawed and varied as the cosmopolitan fauna Salten must have encountered daily in his life in Vienna….
[H]arrowing as the celluloid rendition of Bambi’s maternal loss may be, it is nothing compared to Salten’s original chapter, where things are bad to begin with and only become more horrible. It is winter and the once cordial animals have begun to turn on one another in the madness of hunger. The near-famine conditions have “spread bitterness and brutality.” The crows kill the hare’s sick young son for sport. The ferret wounds the squirrel mortally, the fox has torn the admired and stately pheasant to pieces. “It’s hard to believe that it will ever be better,” says Bambi’s dispirited mother. Bambi himself is skittish and exhausted with hunger and cold.