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The Author of Bambi

Lawrence Bush
September 5, 2017

The author of Bambi: A Life in the Woods, Felix Salten, was born in Budapest on this date in 1869. When he was a small child, his parents brought him to Vienna, as Jews had been granted full citizenship there. He became a prolific writer of books, plays, short stories, operetta librettos, and essays, as well as an anonymously published erotic novel, Josephine Mutzenbacher. Salten became the president of Austrian P.E.N. in 1927, four years after the publication of his most famous work.

In 1928, Bambi was translated into English and became a bestseller, but in 1933, Salten sold the rights to a film director for $1,000; when the Disney studios produced its famous movie in 1942, Salten saw no royalties. By then he had other problems to contend with: the Nazis had banned his writings in 1936 and taken over Austria in 1938, forcing Salten to move to Switzerland, where he died in 1945.

Young Bambi: “What happened mother? Why did we all run?”
Bambi’s Mother: Man was in the forest.” — Bambi (Disney, 1942)

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.