The year 2023 marked the 100th anniversary of the publication of Bambi, a novel by the Austrian Jewish writer Felix Salten. But what is the story really about, and how does it compare with Disney’s 1942 film, which has shaped our view of Bambi?

To explore these issues (we always thought that Bambi was just about a deer…), the SinaiFree Film Society was delighted to host a conversation with Dr. Jack Zipes on October 18, 2023. A recording of the program is available here.

Jack (as he asked us to call him) is Professor Emeritus of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota, as well as an author, editor, and translator with more than 50 books to his credit. In 2022, Princeton University Press published his eloquent new translation of Salten’s novel, beautifully illustrated by Alenka Sottler.

In his presentation, Jack cogently described Bambi as an allegory for the persecution of minorities, even while they try to live peacefully in their own environments. When Man enters the forest, with hounds barking and guns firing, the deer and other animals flee for their lives, just as the Jews of Europe (and the Roma and other groups) desperately sought to escape the Nazis.

Assimilation offered no protection. Like Salten, those who felt “Austrian” or “German” in both culture and ethos were persecuted in the same way as their more identifiably Jewish compatriots. Similarly, Bambi’s cousin Gobo, who thought that Man was his friend, is mercilessly shot and dies in agony, a victim of his belief in Him.

And what about the Disney film? In Jack’s view, it is a diluted version of the original, replacing Salten’s allegorical message with saccharine images that reinforced American cultural stereotypes of the time.

Following the presentation, we engaged in a thoughtful and provocative discussion of the novel and the film.

In the words of our attendees, this was a “wonderful” program and “an amazing and important talk.” And as one participant said to our guest, “you took me on a journey.”

A short essay by Jack Zipes (“Bambi: The Lonely Destiny of Outsiders”) and Chapter One of his masterful translation areavailable on the Princeton University Press website. If you wish to read more about Bambi and about Felix Salten and his world, please click this link. And for a closer look at two of Bambi’s extraordinary illustrators – Kurt Wiese in the early editions and Alenka Sottler in 2022 – please click here.

For more information about the Film Society, contact Joel Wald at