I recently read the book Bambi by Felix Salten, and I highly recommend it as a spring read.
Bambi is not just the story of a fawn who looses his mother and must learn to make his way in the world. Instead, it is the author’s take on what life in the forest must be like through the eyes of deer and other animals. There are the obnoxious and vocal birds, the chatty squirrells, the proud owls, and the gentle deer who all interact to create an imaginative community. Then there is He – the one who brings death and who is unnatural in every way that the animals are not.
And Chapter VIII – oh beautiful Chapter VIII! This is perhaps one of the best chapters ever written. By anyone. Ever. Two leaves, the last to cling to a winter tree, discuss “falling” as if they were two elderly friends visiting about death as they look out the window sipping tea. The chapter is short, sweet and supremely beautiful.
And while the story of Bambi was immortalized by Disney, this book is somehow completely separate in its own right. This book is worthy of the title Classic, and after reading it, I will never look at deer the same way again. Available in our collection under JF SAL.
Here is Chapter VIII in its entirety:
Bambi, Chapter VIII by Felix Salten
The leaves were falling from the great oak at the meadow’s edge. They were falling from the trees.
One branch of the oak reached high above the others and stretched far out over the meadow. Two leaves clung to it’s very tip.
“It isn’t the way it used to be,” said one leaf to the other.
“No,” the other leaf answered. “So many of us have fallen off to-night we’re almost the only ones left on our branch.”
“You never know who’s going to go next,” said the first leaf. “Even when it was warm and the sun shone, a storm or a cloudburst would come sometimes, and many leaves were torn off, though they were still young. You never know who’s going to go next.”
“The sun seldom shines now,” sighed the second leaf, “and when it does it gives no warmth. We must have warmth again.”
“Can it be true,” said the first leaf, “can it really be true, that others come to take our places when we’re gone and after them still others, and more and more?”
“It is really true,” whispered the second leaf. “We can’t even begin to imagine it, it’s beyond our powers.”
“It makes me very sad,” added the first leaf.
They were silent for a while. Then the first leaf said quietly to herself, “Why must we fall?…”
The second leaf asked, “What happens to us when we have fallen?”
“We sink down….”
“What is under us?”
The first leaf answered, “I don’t know, some say one thing, some another, but nobody knows.”
The second leaf asked, “Do we feel anything, do we know anything about ourselves when we’re down there?”
The first leaf answered, “Who knows? Not one of all those down there has ever come back to tell us about it.”
They were silent again. Then the first leaf said tenderly to the other, “Don’t worry so much about it, you’re trembling.”
“That’s nothing,” the second leaf answered, “I tremble at the least thing now. I don’t feel so sure of my hold as I used to.”
“Let’s not talk any more about such things,” said the first leaf.
The other replied, “No, we’ll let be. But– what else shall we talk about?”
She was silent, but went on after a little while, “Which of us will go first?”
“There’s still plenty of time to worry about that,” the other leaf assured her. “Let’s remember how beautiful it was, how wonderful, when the sun came out and shone so warmly that we thought we’d burst with life. Do you remember? And the morning dew, and the mild and splendid nights….”
“Now the nights are dreadful,” the second leaf complained, “and there is no end to them.”
“We shouldn’t complain,” said the first leaf gently. “We’ve outlived many, many others.”
“Have I changed much?” asked the second leaf shyly but determinedly.
“Not in the least,” the first leaf assured her.
“You only think so because I’ve got to be so yellow and ugly. But it’s different in your case.”
“You’re fooling me,” the second leaf said.
“No, really,” the first leaf exclaimed eagerly, “believe me, you’re as lovely as the day you were born. Here and there may be a little yellow spot but it’s hardly noticeable and only makes you handsomer, believe me.”
“Thanks,” whispered the second leaf, quite touched. “I don’t believe you, not altogether, but I thank you because you’re so kind, you’ve always been so kind to me. I’m just beginning to understand how kind you are.”
“Hush,” said the other leaf, and kept silent herself for she was too troubled to talk anymore.
Then they were both silent. Hours passed.
A moist wind blew, cold and hostile, through the tree tops.
“Ah, now,” said the second leaf, “I…..” Then her voice broke off. She was torn from her place and spun down.
Winter had come.