The saga of Rudolph and the reindeer
Many know the story of Rudolph, the reindeer with the red nose. If you need a refresher on the popular Christmas story, you can find it here.
A total of nine reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh through the Christmas night:
- and Rudolph at the top.
But, why is Rudolph, of all people, at the head of the sled team?
Even as a child, Rudolph stands out among the other reindeer. However, not by special achievements, but by his red, shining nose. Therefore, he is ostracized by the other reindeer children and is not allowed to play with them.
Rudolph’s hour comes when a terrible snowstorm hits one Christmas Eve. The bad weather prevents Santa Claus from flying off in his sleigh.
Looking for a solution, he sees the bright glow of Rudolph’s nose in the distance. He seeks out Rudolph and asks him to lead the sleigh that night to save Christmas.
Rudolph agrees, of course, and thus wins the respect of the other reindeer and thus his place at the head of the team.
And where did the story about Rudolph originate?
Copywriter Robert L. May (07/27/1905 – 08/11/1976), who worked for the Montgomery Ward department store chain in 1939, was commissioned to write a cheerful children’s story for Christmas.
May decided to use a reindeer as the main character, since it is a Christmas animal. It should be a kind of “ugly duckling”, which has a big heart.
When the book was finished, May read it to his daughter Barbara and her grandparents. He related, “I could see in their eyes that the story had accomplished what I had hoped it would.”
At Christmastime 1939, the Rudolph poems were first distributed to customers by Montgomery Ward. There were 2.4 million copies distributed, which apparently loved the poems.
In 1948, May convinced his brother-in-law to write a song to Rudolph. This was originally rejected by artists such as Bing Crosby and was not recorded until 1949 by Gene Autry. It became one of the most successful Christmas songs of all time, topped only by “White Christmas.”