Ask wildlife managers what their favorite movie is and you probably won’t hear Bambi. The classic Disney film has long been criticized for fostering, as the New Yorker recently put it, “‘the Bambi complex’: a dangerous desire to regard nature as benign and wild animals as adorable and tame, coupled with a corresponding resistance to crucial forest-management tools such as culling and controlled burns.”
But the film is a far cry from the book it was based on. An avid hunter, Austro-Hungarian writer Felix Salten said he wrote the 1922 novel Bambi: A Life in the Wood, to educate readers about the harsh world of nature, the New Yorker writes, “a place where life is always contingent on death, where starvation, competition, and predation are the norm.”
In the book, predators kill, prey species die and even Bambi can be cruel. A new translation has recently been published by Princeton University Press.