The death of Bambi’s mother is many children’s first encounter with death. But the history of the book that inspired the film is even darker story than the story it tells.
Born Siegmund Salzmann, Bambi author Felix Salten was brought to Vienna as an infant in 1869, shortly after the government allowed Jews citizenship. Already a prolific writer by the time he published Bambi in 1923, Salten achieved international renown with the novel’s English translation. In 1936, however, Bambi was banned by the ruling Nazi party because of its “political allegory on the treatment of Jews in Europe.” Burnings of the book were organized across Nazi states.
As anti-Jewish sentiment increased, Salten moved from Austria to Switzerland, where he wrote a sequel, Bambi’s Children. Meanwhile, one of Bambi’s fans, publishing magnate Max Schuster, introduced Salten to Walt Disney, who was taken with the book and wanted to adapt it. Bambi, the film, was released in 1942. And the rest—as they say in Hollywood—is history.