3. Bedtime Stories

Bambi Story: A Life in the Woods

One day a deer was born.  His name was Bambi.  His mother washed him all over with her tongue.

“Bambi,” she said.  “My little Bambi.”

The young Bambi was curious about everything.  He learned he was a deer, and so was his mother.  He learned there are other deer in the forest, and someday he would meet them. He learned the trails his mother followed were made by the deer. Bugs and critters, sounds and smells. So many wonders to explore!Bambi A Life in the Woods

Sometimes on a trail, suddenly his mother would stop still.  She would open her ears wide and listen from all directions. First- over there! Then- here!  Bambi would wait.  At last, when she said, “It’s all right.  There’s no danger. We can go,” then the two of them would start on the trail again.  But he did not know why they had to do this. 

One day, his mother took him to the meadow for the first time.  He started to run out to the open clearing but she jumped right in front of him.  “Stop!” said she. “Stay here.  I must go out first. Wait till I call for you.  But if I start to run, you must turn around and run back into the woods very fast.  Do not stop.  Do you understand me?” 

Bambi’s mother slowly stepped out into the open meadow.  She sniffed all around.  She looked this way and that, alert and carefully.  After awhile she said, “It’s fine, Bambi.  Nothing to worry about.  Come on!” He bounded out to meet her. 

Oh, what a bright sun!  Back in the woods, Bambi had seen a stray sunbeam every now and then, but here the hot bright sun warmed him all over.  He felt marvelous and jumped high into the air.  Each time he landed on grass softer than any grass he had ever felt.  Then he leaped back up again, over and over.

In some places the flowers were so thick, they made a sweet carpet.   But what was that tiny thing dancing in the air?  “Look, Mother!” said Bambi.  “The flower is flying.” Why, that flower must have needed to dance so much, Bambi thought, that it broke right off its stem to rise up and dance in the air.

“That’s not a flower, Bambi,” said the mother, “it’s a butterfly.” 

Then – Thump, thump, thump!  On a rock was a young hare, a rabbit, thumping its foot. 

“Hello, there!” smiled Hare, raising one tall ear. “Want to play?”

“Sure!” said Bambi. 

“Catch me!”  Hare hopped off the rock into the grass, hop-hopping away. Bambi was a bit faster at running and jumping, but Hare was better at hiding, so the two of them had a fine time.    Bambi A Life in the Woods

On top of the flowers, a tall, fluffy black and white tail was sliding over to them.  “Why, I’d know that tail anywhere!” said Hare.  “It’s my friend Skunk.  He’s under the flowers.  Skunk?”  And sure enough, a black and white head popped up.

“This is Bambi,” said Hare.  Soon the three of them were exploring the meadow, sniffing its rich deep smells.Bambi A Life in the Woods

After awhile, Hare and Skunk had to go home.  Bambi looked around.  “Mother! Where are you?”  At the far side of the meadow he saw her, with a creature that looked just like her.

“Bambi, come meet my sister Ena,” called Bambi’s mother.  “And her two little ones.”  Bambi hopped over.  Two fawns, little Faline and her brother Gobo, were running in and out of their mother’s legs.   

Faline gave a leap and landed right in front of Bambi, then jumped back to Gobo.  With care, Bambi stepped up to her.  Faline hopped off to one side and Gobo followed.  Soon the three of them were chasing each other up and down the grass. 

“Now run off and play, all of you,” said Bambi’s mother.

Every day after that, the three young deer played and chattered.  They raced and chased, they nibbled many strawberries and blueberries on the bushes, and sometimes they just talked.

One day, Bambi said, “Do you know what danger means?”

“Something very bad,” whispered Gobo. 

“But what is it?” said Bambi.

“I know what danger is,” said Faline.  “It’s what you run away from.”  But soon they were chasing and playing again. 

Bambi’s mother and Ena came up.  “Come on now,” they said. “It’s time to go home.”

Far off at the top of a hill two large proud deer came into view, with enormous heads of antlers. 

Turning to them, Faline said, “Who are they?”

“Those are your fathers,” said Ena.

“If you are smart and don’t run into danger,” said Bambi’s mother to her son, “someday you will grow up as big and handsome as your father. And you will have antlers, too.”  Bambi’s heart swelled with pride.

As Bambi grew, he learned how to sniff the air.  He could tell if his friend Hare was coming, or if a fox had just trotted by.  He could tell if it would rain soon.

One afternoon came a raging storm.  Lightning flashed and thunder crashed.  Bambi thought the end of the world had come.  But when he lay by his mother’s side, he felt safe.

One day when Bambi wandered about in the woods, he came upon a sharp, unpleasant smell.  Curious, he followed it.  It led to a clearing, where stood a strange creature.  He had never seen such a creature.  It stood up on its rear legs, and in its two arms it held something long and black – could it be a third leg?  The smell of the creature somehow filled him with terror. The creature raised its long black arm.  In a flash, Bambi’s mother rushed up to him. 

“Run, Bambi, run!  As fast as you can!” 

Bambi’s mother bounded over shrubs and bushes.  He kept pace beside her till they were back at their leafy home.

Later, Bambi’s mother said, “Did you see the Human?”  Bambi nodded yes.  “That’s the one who brings danger,” she said.  And both of them shuddered.

Bambi was still growing.  The first time he woke to find his mother gone from his side, he was scared.  It was early morning and still dark.  “Mother! Mother!” he called out. A large shadow approached, bigger than his mother’s.  Standing before a pool of moonlight, a Great Old Buck looked proud and stern.

“Who are you calling?” said the Buck with a frown.  “Can’t you take care of yourself?”  Bambi did not dare answer. He lowered his head in shame.   “Look up,” said the Old Buck, “Listen to me.  Watch.  Smell.  Find out for yourself.  You will be fine on your own.”

The leaves fell and Bambi grew even taller. Bambi A Life in the Woods

His mother started leaving him alone more and more, letting him meet other deer and creatures of the forest. Faline, Gobo, Hare and Skunk were still Bambi’s best friends, but he also found other creatures fascinating to watch and sometimes fun to play with.

One wet winter day, the terrible smell of Humans swept across the forest.  The scent was so strong that there had to be many Humans in a group! Most animals quickly fled out of danger.  But some were not as lucky.  With the hunter’s loud noise and great power, many animals were killed and one of them was Bambi’s mother.

After that terrible day, Bambi felt lost.  He wandered about. How could this awful thing have happened?  Suddenly, the Great Old Buck stepped out in front of him. 

“Were you out in the meadow when it happened?” the Old Buck said.

“Yes,” said Bambi. 

“And you’re not calling for your mother?” said the Buck.

Suddenly Bambi felt full of courage.  “I can take care of myself!” he said, looking up.

The Great Old Buck smiled.  “Listen to me,” he said.  “Smell.  Watch. Learn to live and be careful. Find out for yourself.  Now farewell.”  And he vanished into the deep forest. 

Bambi A Life in the Woods

Winter came.  Strong and bitter cold winds swept through the woods.  Deep snow covered the forest floor.  There was little food to eat.  Bambi felt hungry and cold all the time.  Nearly all the bark on the trees had been peeled away by hungry deer.  Still, the cold wind blistered on, day after day.

Gobo had always been smaller than Bambi and Feline.  He shivered all the time.  He could hardly stand up anymore. 

One day a flock of crows flew overhead, yelling loudly.  “Caw!  Caw!”  The geese also screamed in the sky, “Gawk! Gawk!” They warned of the Humans coming – again!

Hare hopped up and down in alarm.  “We’re surrounded!  They are everywhere!” A single boom crashed like thunder, and one goose fell from the sky.  All the animals ran like mad, even the tiny tit mouse.  Another short crash like thunder, and a fox fell down on the forest floor.  Bang! Bang! 

Hare called out to Bambi, “We have to get out of here!”  Bambi and Hare started to bound away.  But was that Gobo, lying in the snow?

“Gobo!” said Bambi. “Where is your mother and Faline?”

“I fell down,” said Gobo.  “I’m too weak.  You go on, Bambi.” 

Another young deer bounded by.  “Bambi, run!  Don’t just stand there if you can run!”  He took off like the wind, and as Bambi ran along, he called behind him, “I will come back for you, Gobo!” Bambi ran and ran.  Soon the sound that boomed as loud as thunder grew more and more distant. 

When Bambi returned to where Gobo had been, there was no trace of him, not even his tracks.  Just big tracks.  Faline and her mother were pacing around the spot.  “What has become of him?” wailed Ena.  But they all knew.  They could smell it. A Human had come and had taken Gobo away.

Weeks passed. At last, little sprigs of fresh green grass popped up through the snow.  Then more and more tufts of green.  What was left of the snow melted away.  On Bambi’s head, he could feel the weight of his fast-growing antlers. 

As the trees and bushes turned green and the weather warmed, all the animals started to act so oddly.  Birds flitted about two by two.  So many creatures large and small were in pairs.  His friend Skunk spent all his time was with a girl skunk and hardly noticed Bambi.  Even his friend Hare seemed in a daze, forever staring at a girl hare and thumping his foot.  

“What’s happened to my friends?” said Bambi.  “I am alone.”  There was a rustling in the leaves behind him.  There stood Faline, but she was grown up now, like he was.  Each of them was thinking, “How different you look!”  They gazed at each other and smiled. 

“It has been a long time since we saw each other,” said Faline. 

“Yes, I know,” said Bambi.  They talked of old times.  “Do you remember playing Tag on the meadow?” said one.  “Do you remember all the berries on the bushes we ate?” said the other.  The two seemed to understand each other perfectly. 

A fat deer came up to them, sniffing the air.

“Sister, don’t you know me?” 

Faline and Bambi turned in amazement.  “Gobo!”  They rushed up to him in joy. 

“So you’re not dead!” said Bambi. 

“Where have you been?” said Faline. 

Gobo told his story.  “I was with a Human.  I have seen a lot more than the rest of you, all together.” Dogs had found him when he lay in the snow, and they barked.  The Human came and carried Gobo to the place where he lived.  “It was as warm as summer inside,” said Gobo.  “Rain may pour outside, but not inside where Humans live.  It is always dry and warm!  And there is always something to eat, too – turnips, hay, potatoes, carrots – yum!”

 “Weren’t you afraid, though?” said Faline.

“No, the Human wouldn’t hurt me.  If he loves you, or if you serve him, he’s good to you,” said Gobo.  “They all loved me there.  The children petted me.”

The Great Old Buck strode out from the bushes.  “What kind of band is that you have on your neck?” 

“It’s a halter I wear,” said Gobo.  “It’s a great honor to wear the Human’s halter.”

“Be silent!” said the Great Old Buck.  “You poor thing.”  He turned and was gone.

One day when Gobo and Bambi were together, they smelled the scent of a Human.  “We must hide, at once!” said Bambi.  “No need for that,” said Gobo.  “The Humans know me.” Then all at once a sharp bang!  And Gobo fell down. 

Fortunately, the Human never came after Gobo.  Instead, when the scent of the Human went away, Bambi pulled his friend to a leafy place where he could rest and be out of danger.  Bambi knew what weeds his mother used to eat to heal a wound faster.  As he brought the weeds to Gobo, he wondered, “Why must this always happen to us?” Bambi thought of the Great Old Buck who had said, “Find out for yourself.” Find out what?

Faline and Ena brought Gobo food and visited with him for hours. Bambi often came by, too, until Gobo was healed. The words from the Great Old Buck still fresh in his head – “Learn to live and be careful.” Bambi was starting to understand. 

Seasons came and went.  Bambi grew still taller.  His antlers were nearly full grown now.  One day, Bambi caught a new warning smell in the air.  It was a hot and smoky smell.  A flock of crows rushed overhead, cawing loudly.  Fire! 

At once, the animals were running, running, as fast as they could.  It wasn’t easy to run away from fire.  Sometimes it seemed to rush in from different directions.  After hours went by of flames and smoke, the fire started to wind down at last.  The smell of fire was fading, too. 

The Great Old Buck stepped in front of Bambi. His head was gray now, but he still bore his antlers with pride.  “Come with me,” he said in a serious way.  “I want to show you something before I go.”

Bambi A Life in the Woods

He led Bambi through the woods to a burned-out village.  Mixed along with the smell of fire was the same awful smell of Humans that had sent terror to their hearts again and again.   

“Do not be frightened,” said the Old Buck.  Closer and closer they went to the village.  “Look, Bambi,” he said.  There in front of them were dozens of huts.  Each one was burned, some almost to the ground, others burned mostly on the roof.  The village was empty. 

“You see, Bambi,” said the Old Buck.  “The houses of the Humans get burned by fire just like the places where we stay in the woods.  The Human isn’t above us.  We are just the same. Do you understand me, Bambi?”

“Fire burns the woods where we live, and it burns the villages of Humans, too,” said Bambi.  “We are not so different from Humans.”

“We both live under the same great powers in this world,” said the Great Old Buck.

“Yes,” said Bambi.

“Now I can go,” said the Great Old Buck.  “Don’t follow me.  My time is up.  Goodbye my son, I loved you so.”

Now Bambi had become a full Buck himself.  His antlers spiked and gleamed in the sun. 

Sometimes he would visit the corner of the woods where he had spent his childhood.  Some of the trails were still there.  Once while wandering there he saw Gobo and his sister, Faline. When he saw Faline, his heart beat faster. He wanted to rush to her.  He gazed after her.  Finally she was gone.  Then he heard the call of two little fawns. 

 “Mother!  Mother!” they called.

“Can’t you stay by yourselves?” said Bambi.  The little brother and sister were too much in awe of the great Buck to answer. Bambi thought, this little fellow pleases me.  He reminds me of the deer face I used to see when I looked in the brook years ago. Perhaps I’ll meet him again.  The little girl is nice, too.  Faline looked like that once.

“Listen to me,” said Bambi to the two fawns.  “You must watch and listen. Find out for yourself.  You will be fine on your own.”

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