What’s the best translation of Bambi by Felix Salten?

Bambi: Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde, a novel in German by Austrian Jewish author Felix Salten, was serialized in 1922 and published in book form in 1923. The first English translation was published in 1928 with illustrations by Kurt Wiese.

Why is the novel called ‘Bambi’?

The main character’s name is based on the Italian word ‘bambino’, meaning ‘child’, as is the girl’s name ‘Bambi’, most popular in the US in the year 1979.

Bambi: Translation History

There are two in-print translations of Bambi, both available from Simon & Schuster, the original English-language publisher.

  1. 1928 – Whittaker Chambers
  2. 2019 – Hannah Correll
  3. 2022 – Jack Zipes
  4. 2022 – Damion Searls

The original text will be public domain in the US on January 1, 2022, which means American publishers can release English translations without buying translation rights. That’s why there are two new translations scheduled for release in 2022.

The 1928 English translation will remain copyrighted until 2024.

See below for details on the English Bambi translations.

Other Books by Felix Salten

Salten is the author of numerous works, including a sequel to Bambi titled: Bambi’s Children.

Simon & Schuster’s series “Bambi’s Classic Animal Tales” includes:

  • Bambi
  • Djibi
  • Perri: The Youth of a Squirrel
  • Florian: The Emperor’s Stallion
  • Fifteen Rabbits
  • The City Jungle
  • The Hound of Florence (the basis of the 1959 Disney film The Shaggy Dog!)
  • Bambi’s Children: The Story of a Forest Family
  • A Forest World
  • Renni the Rescuer
 
1928 · Whittaker Chambers · Bambi: A Life in the Woods

Who was Whittaker Chambers?

Whittaker Chambers was an American writer, editor, and spy.

He also translated Salten’s Fifteen Rabbits and The City Jungle.

About the Chambers translation of Bambi

Includes a foreword by John Galsworthy, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1932:

Extract from the Chambers translation of Bambi

Get the Atheneum Chambers translation of Bambi: A Life in the Woods

Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. Adapted by Janet Schulman.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781442493452, 192 pages).

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Get the Aladdin Chambers translation of Bambi: A Life in the Woods

Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey.

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9781442486805).

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2019 · Hannah Correll · Bambi: A Life in the Woods

Who is Hannah Correll?

The marketing text says, “Most nineties kids grew up with the adorable Disney movie Bambi, but the basis for the movie was the 1923 book by Felix Salten.” I hypothesize that Correll is one such nineties kid, but it’s certainly not just nineties kids who grew up with Bambi. The movie was re-released six times between 1942 and 1990; that’s a lot of kids in a lot of decades.

About the Correll translation of Bambi

I spotted some typos, and I take issue with some of the wording. For example:

  • Serious books do not spell “all right” as “alright”.
  • There’s an important difference between “lay” and “lie”; hens lay eggs, deer lie down.
  • The game “catch” involves a ball; what Bambi and his mother played was not catch but “chase” or perhaps “tag”.

In short, I’m glad a modern translation exists, but the book could have been copyedited better.

Extract from the Correll translation of Bambi

Get the Clydesdale Classics Correll translation of Bambi: A Life in the Woods

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781949846058, 218 pages).

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Get the Racehorse Correll translation of Bambi: A Life in the Woods

Adapted by Gina Gold and illustrated by Cindy Thornton.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9781631586422, 88 pages).

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Get the Racehorse Correll translation of Bambi: A Life in the Woods

Adapted by Gina Gold and illustrated by Cindy Thornton.

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9781631585361).

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2022 · Jack Zipes · The Original Bambi: The Story of a Life in the Forest

Who is Jack Zipes?

Jack Zipes is an American writer, editor, and translator. He is a professor emeritus with expert knowledge of German literature and children’s literature and has translated and written extensively about Grimms’ fairy tales.

» Website of Jack Zipes

About the Zipes translation of Bambi

The introduction describes the book as an allegory and ties it to the life of the author.

Extract from the Zipes translation of Bambi

Get the Princeton University Press Zipes translation of The Original Bambi: The Story of a Life in the Forest

Includes an introduction by Jack Zipes and 11 black-and-white illustrations by Alenka Sottler.

Available as a hardcover (ISBN 9780691197746, 192 pages).

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Get the Princeton University Press Zipes translation of The Original Bambi: The Story of a Life in the Forest

Includes an introduction by Jack Zipes and 11 black-and-white illustrations by Alenka Sottler.

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9780691232263).

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2022 · Damion Searls · Bambi: A Life in the Woods

Who is Daimon Searls?

Daimon Searls is an American writer and translator. He does translation from German, French, Norwegian, and Dutch. He has translated works by Hesse, Proust, and Rilke, among others.

About the Searls translation of Bambi

Paul Reitter’s afterword rejects the notion of Bambi as political allegory.

Get the New York Review Books Searls translation of Bambi: A Life in the Woods

Includes an afterword by Paul Reitter.

Available as a paperback (ISBN 9781681376318, 208 pages).

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Get the New York Review Books Searls translation of Bambi: A Life in the Woods

Includes an afterword by Paul Reitter.

Available as an ebook (ISBN 9781681376318).

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Conclusion and Discussion

Bambi translations

I’m looking forward to the Zipes and Searls translations.

Bambi the Disney movie

Until someone mentioned it to me recently, I had no idea Bambi was a book before it was a Disney movie. The 1942 film was re-released to theaters in 1947, 1957, 1966, 1975, 1982, and 1988, so when I watched it in a theater as a kid, it seemed new. I’ve seen it at least twice as an adult. I love the music and I see a lot of parallels with The Lion King, another bildungsroman that depicts the circle of life in general and the death of a parent specifically.

Bambi was banned!

The original German-language novel was banned in Nazi Germany because it was thought that the author wrote it to protest the treatment of Jews.

For Discussion

What’s your interpretation of Bambi?

  • Do you see the novel as anti-hunting, or as more broadly environmentalist?
  • Do you see it as an allegory of antisemitism?
  • Do you see it as a straightforward story about forest animals?

Let me know in the comments!