Books and Beyond

At the library book sale in August, I found a hardcover of “Smoky: The Cow Horse,” by Will James. It has the protected dust jacket on it and the Marshall-Lyon County Library envelope for the check-out card across from the back cover. It’s a Willow Leaf Library book published in 1926 by Charles Scribner’s Sons. This book was on the free table! It’s a keepsake that reminds me of how I began to check out books as a youngster in our school library and in the library offered by our local postmaster.

James’s Preface in “Smoky” begins this way:

To my way of thinking there’s something wrong, or missing, with any person who hasn’t got a soft spot in their heart for an animal of some kind … whatever kind of animal it is a person likes, it’s all hunky-dory so long as there’s a place in the heart for a few of them. (p. v)

He illustrated the book with 43 of his drawings.

This was a timely happening, because I was about halfway through reading my hardback copy of “Bambi: A Life in the Woods,” knowing I planned to write my next library column about the book. I called our daughter to ask if she still had her copy of “Bambi,” and she does. She said her husband also has his copy of the book, and my husband has his copy.

Felix Salten wrote the first book about Bambi in 1923, and it was translated and printed in America in 1928. My hardback has a foreword written by John Galsworthy, a well-known English author, in 1928. He calls it a “masterpiece.” He writes that ordinarily he doesn’t like it when animals speak words as humans do. But in a way he forgives Salten for doing that.

I think most experts who study animals of every kind all over the world would say it was OK for Salten to imagine what the deer and their friends are talking about in the book “Bambi.” Animals do communicate. One of my favorite chapters is when Bambi and Faline are saying they love each other.

Each chapter begins with a description of nature — the beauty of the season, and the conversations among the animals who are enjoying it. Here is an example from Chapter XXIV, the next to the last chapter:

The cold broke, and there was a warm spell in the middle of winter. The earth drank great draughts of the melting snow so that wide stretches of soil were everywhere visible … The woodpecker began to chatter, … Magpies and crows grew more talkative. (p. 278)

I don’t think I need to say much about Bambi’s life, because I’m pretty sure you read the book as a child, had it read to you as you went to sleep, or read it to your child or grandchild. There is a second Bambi book written by Salten: “Bambi’s Children: The Story of a Forest Family,” c 1939. I checked this out from Plum Creek Library System and have begun to read it.

In Chapter XXIV in the first Bambi book, the old Stag tells his son Bambi some important things about life. He explains that deer are like the Him (a man) who has been killed and is now lying on the ground. This Him has shot deer who then lie on the ground. Bambi and his family would hear the noise and be scared.

Then Bambi’s father says “There is Another who is over us all, over us and over him” (p.286). The old stag knows his time of life is nearly over, and he says to Bambi “Good-by my son. I loved you dearly” (p. 287).

There are inviting illustrations throughout the book. My artist friend said they are pen and ink etchings made on copper plates. Simon & Schuster didn’t respond to my request to print one of the illustrations with my column. So you get to see a family picture from about 1960. My father is on the floor with the pet rabbit my mother brought into the house! You can understand why there’s a place in my heart for cats, dogs, deer, rabbits, birds, and this year toads and frogs.

Felix Salten was born in Budapest, but the family moved to Vienna, the capital of Austria when he was still a baby. As an adult he wrote many books and also wrote for newspapers in Vienna. In the late 1930s, Salten and his wife, Ottilie Metzl Salten, moved to Switzerland. It wasn’t safe to be Jews and continue living in Austria. They had two children, Paul and Anna Katherina. According to Wikipedia, Hitler banned Salten’s books in 1936.

Nick Simonson’s recent column was about deer, and of course I clipped it to save. Recently when we were eating breakfast, my husband and I took pictures of a mother and her fawn in our backyard. Deer are beautiful.

I have the Disney animated film, “Bambi,” made in 1942. At the beginning when credits are given, we see “From the Story by Felix Salten.” Plum Creek Library System has many Bambi-related books and videos. If I were the English major again that I was as an undergraduate, I would write a term paper about Bambi.