Thursday, December 16



You know Dasher and Dancer
And Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid

And Donner and Blitzen.
But do you recall

The most famous reindeer
of all?

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is probably the most famous reindeer, though he was not actually a member of Santa's original team.  In 1939, a copywriter by the name of Robert L. May created Rudolph in 1939 as an assignment for his employer, the department store Montgomery Ward. Each year, Montgomery Ward would buy and give away coloring books to kids each Christmas, and they decided to create their own book in an effort to save money.

Drawing on his own personal childhood experiences of being taunted for his small, slight stature and tendency toward shyness, May wrote a poetry version of the tale about a misfit reindeer who is ostracized by the rest because of his physical abnormality...a glowing red nose. In search of an alliterative name for his misfit, May considered and rejected "Rollo" (he thought it was too cheerful and carefree) and "Reginald" (he thought is sounded too British) before finally deciding on "Rudolph."  In its first year of publication, 2.4 million copies of Rudolph's story were distributed by Montgomery Ward, and it is still selling copies.

May's radior producer brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, decided to adapt the story of Rudolph into a song. It was first sung commercially by Harry Brannon on New York city radio in the latter part of 1948 before Gene Autry recorded it formally in 1949, and has since filtered into the popular consciousness.  Autry's version of the song also holds the distinction of being the only number one hit to fall completely off the chart after hitting #1 the week of Christmas 1949. Nonetheless, it sold 2.5 million copies the first year, eventually selling a total of 25 million, and it remained the second best-selling record of all time until the 1980s.

Although most of know Rudolph's story through the song, May's poem differs in many ways.  The original Rudolph was not one of Santa's reindeers, nor was he the offspring of any of Santa's reindeer. Rudolph did not dwell at the North Pole - he actually lived in an "ordinary" reindeer village. Although he was taunted for his shiny, red nose, his parents were not embarrassed of him and he had a good self-image.

More importantly, the original Rudolph did NOT rise to fame when Santa singled him out from the rest of the reindeer herd because of his shiny, red nose. Rudolph was discovered accidentally when Santa was delivering gifts to Rudolph's house and noticed his glowing nose.  Concerned that thickening fog would keep him from completing his Christmas Eve deliveries, Santa called upon Rudolph to lead the team of reindeer, observing upon their safe return.

Info gathered from:

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