Maybe it’s the undeniable alliterative appeal of Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer
that makes him the most known or popular of all Santa’s nine flying reindeers.
It certainly doesn’t seem as easy to come up with a similar catchy description
for the others – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner andBlitzen – as named in the song.
The story of Rudolph whose glowing red nose made him a standout, first appeared
in 1939 when Montgomery Ward department stores distributed about 2.4 million
booklets with the poem in the form of a story about “Rudolph the Red-Nosed
Reindeer.” It was written by Robert L. May, who worked in the store’s
advertisement or marketing department, to be used to attract more people into
the store. When the booklet was reissued in 1939, sales soared to more than 3.5
million copies. But it wasn’t until a decade later, in 1949, that the story
really gained immense popularity when Gene Autry sang a musical version of the
fable. As a Christmas song, it is second only in popularity to ‘White
Rudolph, the ninth reindeer whose lighted nose guides Santa’s sleigh through the
night, is now known worldwide as the song has been translated into more than 20
different languages and an animated television movie has also been based on the
story. Rudolph and his noticeable nose have also become the subject of jokes and
sparked more interest in reindeers which has led to much research into Santa and
the flying reindeers who pull his sleigh through the sky.
Along with the catchy rhythm of the lyrics, Rudolph’s story is also appealing
because of the moral lessons it contains. As the story goes, Rudolph was
ostracized by the other reindeers, which laughed and teased him about his shiny
red nose. But on a foggy night, when Santa must have been concerned that he may
not be able to deliver his Christmas gifts around the world, Santa spotted him
and kindly asked if he would step to the front as the leader to ‘guide my sleigh
tonight.’ His shiny red nose would after all be very useful in lighting the way,
Santa thought. From then on ‘all of the other reindeers loved him,” and rightly
predicted that he ‘would go down in history.’
Among the moral lessons the story can impart is that an attribute that is
perceived as negative or as a liability can be used for a positive purpose, or,
become an asset. It also makes the point that an individual should not let the
negative behavior of others define him or her and limit expectations of what can
be achieved. And it also illustrates how quickly opinions and attitudes about a
person can change.
The question still lingers however of where Rudolph came from. He is commonly
regarded as the son of Donner (or Donder), one of the original eight reindeers.
But the Snopes.com site rejects this however, saying that he dwelled in a
reindeer village elsewhere and it was there that he was seen by Santa who had
already started on his Christmas Eve journey to deliver gifts. And in a more
modern evolution of the story according to Wikipedia.com, an animation by the
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) introduced a son, named Robbie, of
Rudolph. That son has now become the tenth reindeer.
It’s also interesting to note that the idea of Santa’s sleigh being pulled by
reindeers was originated in the poem, ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.’ That
poem tells the story of St. Nicholas, who is Santa, calling his eight tiny
reindeers by their names, as previously mentioned, just before he came down the
chimney of a house to start filling the stockings from a sack full of toys he
carried on his back.