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 and
Blitzen – 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 Christmas.’
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.