Rudolph, the Most Popular Reindeer


Maybe it’s the way Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer rolls off your tongue that makes this misfit reindeer the most popular of all of Santa’s flying friends. None of the others – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen – have such descriptive nicknames.

The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first appeared in 1939 when Montgomery Ward department stores distributed about 2.4 million booklets with the poem in the form of a story. It was written by Robert L. May, who worked in the store’s marketing department and was meant to attract more people into the store. It was so popular that the store had to print more, with final sales soaring to more than 3.5 million copies.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer DVDBut it wasn’t until a decade later, in 1949, that the story really gained immense popularity when Gene Autry sang about the reindeer with the shiny nose. As a Christmas song, it is second only in popularity to “White Christmas.” Rudolph, the ninth reindeer whose “nose so bright” guides Santa’s sleigh through the night, is now known worldwide and has been translated into more than 20 languages and been transformed into an animated television special.

Rudolph and his noticeable nose have also sparked more interest in all of Santa’s 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 then one foggy Christmas Eve, when Santa was afraid he’d have to cancel Christmas due to bad weather, he invited Rudolph to guide his sleigh, and “then all the reindeer loved him.”

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. 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 originated in the poem, “Twas The Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore. That poem tells the story of St. Nicholas calling his eight tiny reindeers by their names.

But even though Santa’s sleigh is pulled by many reindeer, Rudolph remains number one in the hearts and minds of many people.

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