Search
    • Felix Salten presumably in his country house in Pötzleinsdorf
      media_content.tooltip.skipped

    The True Origins of ‘Bambi’

    The intriguing story behind the book that led to Disney’s beloved movie about a baby deer plays out in some of Vienna’s most iconic and historic settings and natural landscapes untouched to this day.

    One might argue that the movie’s key story element, the scene in which Bambi learns his mother’s fate, is the moment in which Bambi’s world loses its childlike innocence and the young stag is initiated into the real world. Despite the trauma of these moments, the Disney movie is an enchanting coming of age story beloved by three generations of fans.

    Hardly anyone knows that Bambi’s character was based on the story of an Austrian stag from the Danube woods near the town of Stockerau, 12.4 miles / 20 km north of Vienna. Its life was immortalized in the novel „Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde“ by the Viennese author Felix Salten, who was himself a hunter with hunting grounds in those very same woods.

    Since its publication in 1923, there has been a lot of speculation about the deeper meaning behind Salten’s novel. Some saw it as a parable for the slaughter during the first World War, some even saw a coded erotic story, still, others interpreted it as a condemnation of technology apostles disturbing the balance of nature by destroying natural woodlands.

    The latter would have made Salten a prescient sage, an intellectual forerunner of Greta Thunberg, 100 years before global warming was a widely recognized problem.

    Felix Salten found inspiration for his novel during his long walks through the Stockerauer Au near Zögersdorf where he used to hunt, and in the vicinity of his house in the bourgeois Vienna Cottage District (Wiener Cottageviertel) with its - back then still limitless - views of the Vienna Woods.

    In many ways, Felix Salten just made notes of everything he observed during his walks and hunting excursions, and then reflected on it with the unflinching realism of a trained journalist. A little like a wartime correspondent witnessing the ceaseless struggle for the survival of the species.

    I wanted to free my readers from the faulty perception that nature is a sunny paradise.

    Felix Salten presumably in his country house in Pötzleinsdorf
    media_content.tooltip.skipped
    Felix Salten

    As is the case with several Disney movies, the actual screenplay reflected little of these sentiments. When it came to hunting, Felix Salten was far from apologetic. He was also quoted as stating bluntly that “Bambi would have never come to life if I hadn't trained my weapon on the head of many a deer or an elk,” crediting the experience with triggering the observations and reflections that formed the core of his novel.

    Where Bambi's Offspring Roam

    Türkenschanzpark
    media_content.tooltip.skipped

    The Cottageviertel in Vienna

    100 years after the publication of his book, the Vienna Cottage District - wrongly pronounced with a drawn-out “ä” in a French fashion by the Viennese - is still a sleepy neighbourhood wedged between two posh suburban districts. Its villas are among the most expensive in Vienna and home to artists and ambassadors.

    Ambling from Salten’s villa at Cottagegasse 37 towards the Türkenschanzpark some 100 years later, you get the impression that no time has passed at all. As you enjoy a cup of coffee and admire the beautiful views over the Vienna Woods from the „Salettl“ (Viennese for Pavillon), which was built by Otto Wagner, it is easy to imagine Bambi hopping into view from between the shrubs of the Türkenschanzpark.

    Read more
    Donau-Auen National Park / Nationalpark Donau-Auen
    media_content.tooltip.skipped

    Stockerauer Au

    Bambi’s offspring are still roaming the woods in the Stockerauer Au, where Salten used to hunt. The untouched river landscape has hardly changed over the last 100 years. Fauna and flora could develop without restrictions and the Danube’s sidearms remained unregulated.

    Here, the event Salten seems to warn about has not come to pass and nature has remained intact. An unspoiled piece of nature's paradise that lies only a 20-minute drive away from Vienna.

    Read more

    Nature lovers most often are completely ignorant of nature and the daily violence of the wilderness.

    Felix Salten presumably in his country house in Pötzleinsdorf
    media_content.tooltip.skipped
    Felix Salten
    • The Cottageviertel, the Türkenschanzpark and the „Salettl“ can be reached within 15 minutes with Bus No. 40A, with the last stop right next to the Schottentor in Vienna’s city centre.

    • At the train station Bahnhof Stockerau, get on a bike and explore the Hirschweg (stag trail) in the nearby Au.

    Cottageviertel and Stockerauer Au - Discover Magical Places

    Türkenschanzpark
    media_content.tooltip.skipped

    Cottageviertel

    Danube National Park / Nationalpark Donau-Auen
    media_content.tooltip.skipped

    Stockerauer Au

    If the shower scene in “Psycho” was the shocker of the sixties, and to me it was, then the equivalent in the forties was the scene in which Bambi’s mother dies. And the sentence: “The man has entered the woods.”

    Congratulations from Sigmund Freund on Felix Salten's 60th birthday, 1929
    media_content.tooltip.skipped
    Script-Doctor William Goldman
    • A screenplay-worthy biography of a restless soul who lived above his means and whose talents were overshadowed by those of his friends. 

      He played a significant role in shaping the world of literature, theatre and film during the Wiener Moderne, without ever reaping long-lasting financial success or lasting fame like many of his acquaintances.

      At most, Felix Salten is known today for one of his novels, the movie version of which became a worldwide box office success, even though during his lifetime, he was one of the best-known journalists and theatre critics in Europe.

      In 1890, the 21-year-old insurance salesman appeared among the „Jung-Wien“ circle at the Café Griensteidl, a literary group that included the likes of Peter Altenberg, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Karl Kraus, Stefan Zweig and Arthur Schnitzler.

    • We don’t know much about his childhood and his youth, other than that he was born in 1869 in Budapest as Sigmund Salzmann (he changed his name to Felix Salten in 1911, at the age of 42) and left school at 16 to sell insurance policies.

      Salten became a lifelong friend of Schnitzler and when he began to work as an editor at the „Wiener Allgemeinen Zeitung“ in 1894, he used his position as theatre critic to promote Schnitzler’s debut and subsequent career.

      A friendship with Karl Kraus ended in 1896 when he publicly slapped Kraus for publishing his liaison with Ottilie Metzl, whom he was to marry six years later. At that point, however, Salten was still in a relationship with the mother of his child, the Social Democrat Lotte Glas, whom he had met through Karl Kraus.

      In 1902 Felix Salten and Ottilie Metzl were married. Authors Arthur Schnitzler and Siegfried Trebitsch were best men.

    • Felix Salten seems to have always lived above his means, most likely to impress his friends and acquaintances. His constant money troubles seem to have contributed to the prolific amount of material he published. Before the start of World War I, he wrote for numerous newspapers in Vienna, Budapest and Berlin.

      Around 1900, Salten became widely known as a gossip and society correspondent who used his connections to write about scandals at the court in Vienna. Despite this rather shady profession, he was well respected by his contemporaries, as is evidenced by letters he exchanged with iconic figures such as Max Brod, Sigmund Freud, Egon Friedell, Gerhard Hauptmann, Heinrich and Thomas Mann, Robert Musil, Joseph Roth and Berta Zuckerkandl.

    • A screenplay-worthy biography of a restless soul who lived above his means and whose talents were overshadowed by those of his friends. 

      He played a significant role in shaping the world of literature, theatre and film during the Wiener Moderne, without ever reaping long-lasting financial success or lasting fame like many of his acquaintances.

      At most, Felix Salten is known today for one of his novels, the movie version of which became a worldwide box office success, even though during his lifetime, he was one of the best-known journalists and theatre critics in Europe.

      In 1890, the 21-year-old insurance salesman appeared among the „Jung-Wien“ circle at the Café Griensteidl, a literary group that included the likes of Peter Altenberg, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Karl Kraus, Stefan Zweig and Arthur Schnitzler.

    • Kulturerbebahn Semmering
      media_content.tooltip.skipped

      One got together at the Semmering during the summer and in Berta Zuckerkandl's Salon.

    • Many of these relationships frayed because of his embrace of nationalistic political views. First, he applauded the start of WWI, kept defending it until the very end, and then, in 1933 he did the same with the overthrow of Austrofascism. He was then president of the Austrian P.E.N. Club and as such could not condemn the book burnings in Nazi Germany, which is why he stepped down from the position.

      The same year, he sold the film rights to his novel “Bambi,” which had been published in 1923.

    • He foresaw the success of the medium film much sooner than many of his contemporaries, wrote many screenplays before World War I, and several during the 1930s in collaboration with Billy Wilder. Through Wilder, contact was established with Walt Disney, who bought the film rights to Bambi for only U$ 1,000 - without royalties.

      In 1939 he immigrated to Switzerland and published „Bambis Kinder,” in English, but the sequel never reached the same popularity as the original.

      Salten died at the age of 76 in October 1945 in Zurich, without ever having returned to Vienna.

    Also of interest

    •                 National Park Hohe Tauern - Weisssee / Weisssee Glacier world
      media_content.tooltip.skipped

      National Parks in Austria

      Austria's six national parks offer visitors the chance to discover nature in its original, untouched state first-hand.

      Find your favourite
    media_content.tooltip.skipped