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World Wildlife Day

“Your growing antlers,' Bambi continued, 'are proof of your intimate place in the forest, for of all the things that live and grow only the trees and the deer shed their foliage each year and replace it more strongly, more magnificently, in the spring. Each year the trees grow larger and put on more leaves. And so you too increase in size and wear a larger, stronger crown.”

~ Felix Salten, Bambi's Children, 1939

Deer have significant roles in the mythology of various peoples located all over the world, such as object of worship, the incarnation of deities, the object of heroic quests and deeds, or as magical disguise or enchantment/curse for princesses and princes in many folk and fairy tales. In some Scottish and Irish tales deer are seen as "fairy cattle" and are herded and milked by a tutelary, benevolent, otherworldly woman (such as a bean sìdhe or in other cases the goddess Flidais), who can shapeshift into the form of a red or white deer. In the West Highlands, this woman of the otherworld selects the individual deer who will be slain in the next day's hunt! Males of the deer family - moose, deer, elk, and reindeer, and others - grow the large, bony structures to intimidate or fight off romantic rivals during mating season. Because of the weight imposed on the animal to carry these bony structures, after they are no longer needed, the antlers fall off, to grow again in early spring. Whitetail deer antlers are one of the fastest growing tissues known to man! 🦌

World Wildlife Day was designated to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora.

A common animal but one that figures prominently throughout the man's history is the deer.  Deer appear in art from Paleolithic cave paintings onwards, and they have played a role in mythology, religion, and literature throughout history, as well as in heraldry

The two main groups of deer are the Cervinae, including the muntjac, the elk (wapiti), the fallow deer, and the chital; and the Capreolinae, including the reindeer (caribou), the roe deer, and the moose.

 

Female reindeer, and male deer of all species except the Chinese water deer, grow and shed new antlers each year.

Deer have been an integral part of fables and other literary works since the inception of writing dating back to Sumerian culture. In modern times, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1938 novel The Yearling was about a boy's relationship with a baby deer.

 

The unforgettable 1942 Walt Disney Pictures film, Bambi (with a famous scene which traumatized many young viewers) portrays the namesake character as a white-tailed deer, while in Felix Salten's original 1923 book "Bambi, a Life in the Woods" he is depicted as a roe deer.

 

For more about deer in mythological works, click the twin fawns!