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Bambi the Disney movie was the one I avoided when people listed off movies-to-watch. It was too sad and boring to me. It put a bad taste in my mouth and so I had no interest in reading the classic book either. I’m so glad I changed my mind. We just finished reading it to the family. What a treasure the book Bambi: A life in the Woods by Felix Salten is.
Animal stories were something I avoided in the past to my utter regret. Over the course of our homeschooling years, and especially the last two years, I’ve realized what wisdom and masterful storytelling can be done within a story about animals.
And just so you’re not bitterly disappointed, Thumper was made up for the movie, and I suspect it was because Bambi is not a book easily turned into a movie so it was “Disney-fied”. We found the leaves talking to one another entertaining and interesting. The kids all say now that the leaves whisper. The conversation was a beautiful segway into winter.
Death is as much a part of life as birth. Early children’s literature as we know it didn’t really begin until about the 17th century. Death was a common subject and through the stories we can teach and comfort. By the 1970’s-1980’s, death was only in about 2% of the children’s books. Books reflect our society and affects it. Another example is breastfeeding. Nursing was commonly spoken of in adult and children’s literature. Nowadays it is only bottles. Our society does what is taught. I felt completely ignorant as a new mother as to how it worked and have since become an advocate as I’ve nursed ten children. Bambi addresses both topics among others that we appreciated and talked about which where: the difference between pride and confidence, arrogance and inexperience related to Gobo, trust, the circle of life: kids and raising them in righteousness.
Bambi is about the Phases of Learning
During his core phase he learns who he is and his place in the world. He learned about his home and to be obedient. This phase is perfectly illustrated in Bambi’s early life. He also learns to fear and throughout the book he learns how to work with this instinct. Later in his scholar phase he learns, through mentoring and wisdom, that much of his fear is unnecessary.
All the “children” (animals) are learning about life:
“Don’t put yourself out so much, dearie,” a crow who was flying above her in the same direction called down, “don’t put yourself out so much. You can’t fly high enough to get outside these flakes. This is snow.”
“Snow!” cried the magpie in surprise, struggling against the drizzle.
“That’s about the size of it,” said the crow, “it’s winter, and this is snow.”
“Excuse me,’ the magpie replied, ‘but I only left the nest in May. I don’t know anything about winter.”
“There are plenty in the same boat,” the crow remarked, “But you’ll soon find out.”
Questions help you Learn
“Bambi questioned her. He loved to ask his mother questions. It was the pleasantest thing for him to ask a question and then to hear what answer his mother would give. Bambi was never surprised that question after question should come into his mind continually and without effort. He found it perfectly natural, and it delighted him very much. It was very delightful, too, to wait expectantly till the answer came. If it turned out the way he wanted, he was satisfied. Sometimes, of course, he did not understand, but that was pleasant also because he was kept busy picturing what he had not understood, in his own way.”
“Bambi noticed that the world was changed. It was hard for him to get used to this altered world. They had all lived like rich folk and now had fallen upon hard times. For Bambi knew nothing but abundance. He took it for granted that he would always have plenty to eat. He thought he would never need to trouble about food. He believed he would always sleep in the lovely green-leafed glade where no one could see him, and would always go about in this smooth, handsome, glossy red coat.
Now everything was changed without his having noticed the change take place. The process that was ending had seemed only a series of episodes to him.”
And this is what life is like. A series of episodes and we learn to get used to changes in our world and in our life. As we do this, wisdom and strength is gained.
Learning What Our Weaknesses Are and How to Be Strong in Spite of Them
“The call came again and again. The old stag stood still, listening and nodding his head. Bambi stood beside him, shaken with desire, and suffering from restraint. He could not understand it at all.
The old stag whispered, “No matter what you see, don’t move, do you hear? Watch everything I do and act just as I do, cautiously. And don’t lose your head.”
He stood as though rooted to the ground. For a moment his heart seemed pouring in his throat. The old stag stood calmly beside him and motioned with his eyes.
He (the man) was standing there.
He (the man) was calling solidly, “Come, come!”
Bambi was so completely bewildered. He was so terrified that he began to understand only by degrees that it was He who was imitating Faline’s voice. It was He who was calling, “Come, come!”
Cold terror shot through Bambi’s body. The idea of flight gripped him and tugged at his heart.
“Be still,” whispered the old stag quickly and commandingly as if he meant to forestall any outbreak of fear. Bambi controlled himself with effort.”
After he learned the lesson and the truth of the deceit in man using a female dear call, they went back into the forest.
“After wandering about for a long time he found Faline. He was breathless, tired and happy and deeply stirred.
“Please beloved,” he said, “please don’t ever call me again. We’ll search until we find each other, but please don’t ever call me…for I can’t resist your voice.”
He found an alternative to help save him from himself and mortal danger.
And Finally, Bambi is about mentoring
Throughout the years Bambi’s dad would come in and out of his life (it’s the deer way) and mentor him at exactly the times he needed it. One of the greatest lessons Bambi’s dad and mentor taught him was this:
“Bambi looked around and saw the stag standing calmly where He was lying on the ground. Bambi was amazed and, moved by a sense of obedience, a boundless curiosity and quivering expectancy, he went closer.”
“Come near,” said the old stag, “don’t be afraid.”
“We can stand right beside Him,” the old stag began softly, “and it isn’t dangerous.”
Bambi looked down at the prostrate form whose limbs and skin seemed so mysterious and terrible to him.
“Do you see, Bambi,” the old stag went on, “do you see how He’s lying there dead, like one of us? Listen, Bambi He isn’t all-powerful as they say. Everything that lives and grows doesn’t come from Him. He isn’t above us. He’s just the same as we are. He has the same fears, the same needs, and suffers in the same way. He can be killed like us, and there He lies helpless on the ground like all the rest of us, as you see Him now.”
There was a silence.
“Do you understand me, Bambi?” asked the old stag.
“I think so,” Bambi said in a whisper.
“Then speak,” the old stag commanded.
Bambi was inspired, and said trembling, “There is Another who is over us all, over us and over Him.”
“Now I can go,” said the old stag.