Chapter 1: A Chance Meeting
In his original story, Felix Salten set Bambi in the German woods and Bambi and his friends are roe deer. I am scrapping that idea and putting Bambi in as a North American Whitetail somewhere in the forest of the Southern USA. Time period is the 1930s to 1940s. There is no specific real place I have in mind for the story. It is a mix of locations I have visited during my life. I am doing this because I think most of my readers (assuming I get any) will be American and therefore might relate more to this setting then some story that took place in the late 1800s in a location that most likely got chopped down ages ago. In this story I am utilizing both Walt Disney's story mixed with a lot with Salten's original work. His books were favorites of mine when I was between 6-10 years old. Whereas every kid in my generation saw Bambi the movie as they grew up, I doubt if many of us read the books. I am hoping this story will capture the flavor of both book and movie.
BOOK ONE: THE STRANGER
Spring 1th Year
The Stranger walked silently through the early spring forest. The ground was clear of snow and the first shoots of spring grass were coming through the light brown soil. That was a relief. Although there is usually little snow in these forests, it had been a bad winter with three major snow falls. The grass and leaves had died or been buried under so much snow, they were hard to get too. He looked at his long thin body covered in shaggy brown fur he was shedding. His heavy muscles usually bulging at the shoulders and neck were wasted; his weight was down, and he felt weak. He was still lucky; he had made it through the winter. Many of the deer and other animals had not. The forest was littered with their remains the scavengers had picked over. He looked through his deep recessed black eyes at the meadow in front of him just now starting to turn from brown to green. Although he knew the killing did not take place until The Season, he was still reluctant to put himself in the open in the increasing light of a new day. He found a bare spot free of trees that was pushing up new grass and warmed by the new day. He chewed it and swallowed it quickly. His stomach was delighted.
He looked around at this new place. He had come over the hills from another forest; another place he was not wanted. The other herd had not chased him out, he was far too strong for that, but the herd leader had asked him to leave. He was odd, he was different, he was The Stranger. As soon as the snow allowed him to pass over the hills, he left and came here to a whole new world. There were other deer here, he could smell them. There were also other animals like raccoons, possums, porcupines, bobcats, badgers and one or two large bears. Only the bears concerned him. They could easily kill him. The others he could deal with. He bent over and eagerly swallowed more of the first spring grass. He ate quickly, not wanting to stay in an unfamiliar place for a long time. He could chew his cud later.
After eating for sometime he felt satisfied. Getting his weight and strength back would be his first task. He was not going to let himself get run down by a black bear or slashed by some bobcat. As he was finishing, his nose caught the whiff of fur followed by the scent of a male deer. He lifted his head and turned his large body around in a snap. An equally large and imposing male deer walked into the small opening. He was about his height and built, but perhaps a bit larger. From the new bumps on his head he could tell the male would have a large rack by the Season.
"Greetings," the male said in a deep powerful voice. "I am Bambi, the leader of this herd."
"You are very quiet," he answered studying the male carefully. They were still a long way from the time of the Season, so there was no need for fighting. Still that did not stop some deer from pushing their weight around.
"So are you, I almost did not hear you except for the chewing," Bambi said eyeing him carefully.
"It has been a hard winter," he went on. "I need to gain weight and strength before the bears decide they want to make a meal of me."
Bambi shook his head no. "Not too many bears around here. Most have been killed by Man."
"All it takes is one and you end up in someone's stomach," he went on.
"True," Bambi said. "Still I have not seen you or smelled your scent in this forest before. Your scent is different, not like any deer in my herd."
"I come from over the hills and far away from there," he said.
Bambi still looked at him closely, sizing him up. He knew what Bambi was thinking; was he a threat? "You will be strong by the Season, will you challenge me?"
"No," he said flatly. "Most herd leaders I know usually end up inside Man-caves. Besides I do not need to be a leader to get my doe, they come to me during the Season. If someone challenges me for them, I may have to hurt a few of your herd males."
Bambi stepped back looking at him with a puzzled stare. "Man-caves?" Bambi repeated.
Did this herd leader not know about what Man did to them? "Places where Man lives," he explained. "They are like caves but larger and more comfortable. After they kill us and remove our insides, they cut off our heads, put them on wood that they put them inside their caves. Then they eat the rest of us."
Bambi looked shocked, "How do you know this?"
He did not know why, but he felt compelled to answer the question. Something he usually didn't do. "I lost my mother when I was young, too young to live on my own. Before some fox, coyote, or the crows could find me, I was found by the keeper of my forest, He was a Man. He took me in and raised me with this own family. I learned many things living with Man. Most would disgust you as it did me. When I was old enough, I escaped to live on my own. I have been wandering ever since."
"You have no collar," Bambi added. "I knew a deer raised by Man. He wore a collar and thought Man was his friend. Man later killed him."
That sounded about right to him. "That is why they take us in so they can raise us until we are large and then kill us. I have no use for Man. In fact I hate Man."
"Hate is not the way either," Bambi said. "Are you planning on staying in this forest?"
"For a while at least," he answered. "Why, do you object?" Was he going to be told to leave this forest also?
"No," Bambi said quietly.
"Good," he said almost with relief. He wanted to walk away before Bambi reconsidered. "Perhaps we will see each other again," he said pleasantly. "Hopefully there will be plenty of food this season."
Bambi stood rock steady; he was not done with him. "Do you have a name?"Bambi asked.
"No," he said bowing his head. "My mother died before she could give me one, and I do not know who my father is. Most of the other deer simply call me The Stranger."
Bambi said nothing yet continued to study him carefully as if looking for something. "Are you alone?" Bambi continued.
"Yes," he answered almost with a moan. "I am always alone."
"That is not good," Bambi said with certainty. "We deer exist better in a herd where there are many to warn of danger. Alone you have no one to look out for you. Most deer do not live long when they are alone. You have done well to live this long."
He didn't ask for Bambi's approval. He stood up straight and looked directly into Bambi black eyes. "I am not so easy to kill," he said slowly and deliberately. He was starting to get tired of the questions.
Bambi seem to nod slightly. "I can see you are large and strong. You must also be very wary to have lived this long. My herd could use a strong male like you."
That was different, most places they were eager to get rid of him. "All the herds I ever tried to join wanted nothing to do with me," he told Bambi. "Besides, I will not go to a strange herd until my strength returns."
This time Bambi openly nodded his approval. "That is wise, Stranger. When you are ready, come visit my herd."
He had never been invited to a herd. This Bambi was different. He was not just a deer who kept his position through sheer strength, but with wisdom also. He was intrigued with the offer. "I will think about it," he said cautiously.
"Very well, Stranger, stay safe," Bambi said and started to walk away.
It was obviously Bambi was not repelled by him, nor was he afraid of him. He was not like the other herd leaders he knew. Maybe this place was different.