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THE ORIGIN OF RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER

 
 
Misti26
 
Reply Sun 8 Dec, 2002 06:55 pm
The Origin of
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer

On a December night in Chicago in the year 1939, a little girl climbed onto
her father's lap and asked a question. It was a simple question, asked in
children's curiosity, yet it had a heart-rending effect on Robert May.

"Daddy," four-year old Barbara asked, "Why isn't my Mommy just like
everybody else's mommy?"

Bob May stole a glance across his shabby two room apartment. On a couch lay
his young wife, Evelyn, racked with cancer. For two years she had been
bedridden; for two years, all Bob's income and smaller savings had gone to
pay for
treatments and medicines.

The terrible ordeal already had shattered two adult lives. Now Bob suddenly
realized the happiness of his growing daughter was also in jeopardy. As he
ran his fingers through Barbara's hair, he prayed for some satisfactory
answer to her question.

Bob May knew only too well what it meant to be "different." As a child he
had been weak and delicate. With the innocent cruelty of children, his
playmates had continually goaded the stunted, skinny lad to tears. Later at
Dartmouth, from which he was graduated in 1926, Bob May was so small that
he was always being mistaken for someone's little brother.

Nor was his adult life much happier. Unlike many of his classmates who
floated from college into plush jobs, Bob became a lowly copy writer for
Montgomery Ward, the big Chicago mail order house. Now at 33 Bob was deep
in debt, depressed and sad.
Although Bob did not know it at the time, the answer he gave the tousled
haired child on his lap was to bring him to fame and fortune. It was also
to bring joy to countless thousands of children like his own Barbara. On
that December night in the shabby Chicago apartment, Bob cradled his little
girl's head against his shoulder and began to tell a story...

"Once upon a time there was a reindeer named Rudolph, the only reindeer in
the world that had a big red nose. Naturally people called him Rudolph the
Red Nosed Reindeer." As Bob went on to tell about Rudolph, he tried
desperately to communicate to Barbara the knowledge that, even though some
creatures of God are strange and different, they often enjoy the miraculous
power to make others happy.

Rudolph, Bob explained, was terribly embarrassed by his unique nose. Other
reindeer laughed at him; his mother and father and sister were mortified
too. Even Rudolph wallowed in self pity.

"Well," continued Bob, "one Christmas Eve, Santa Claus got his team of
husky reindeer -Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixon ready for their yearly
trip around the world. The entire reindeer community assembled to cheer
these great heroes on their way. But a terrible fog engulfed the earth that
evening, and Santa knew that the mist was so thick he wouldn't
be able to find any chimney.

Suddenly Rudolph appeared, his red nose glowing brighter than ever. Santa
sensed at once that here was the answer to his perplexing problem. He led
Rudolph to the front of the sleigh, fastened the harness and climbed in.
They were off! Rudolph guided Santa safely to every chimney that night.
Rain and fog, snow and sleet; nothing bothered Rudolph, for his bright nose
penetrated the mist like a beacon.

And so it was that Rudolph became the most famous and beloved of all the
reindeer. The huge red nose he once hid in shame was now the envy of every
buck and doe in the reindeer world. Santa Claus told everyone that Rudolph
had saved the day and from that Christmas, Rudolph has been living serenely
and happy."

Little Barbara laughed with glee when her father finished. Every night she
begged him to repeat the tale until finally Bob could rattle it off in his
sleep. Then, at Christmas time he decided to make the story into a poem
like "The Night Before Christmas" and prepare it in bookish form
illustrated with pictures, for Barbara's personal gift. Night after night,
Bob worked on the verses after Barbara had gone to bed for he was
determined his daughter should have a worthwhile gift, even though he could
not afford to buy one...

Then as Bob was about to put the finishing touches on Rudolph, tragedy
struck. Evelyn May died. Bob, his hopes crushed, turned to Barbara as chief
comfort. Yet, despite his grief, he sat at his desk in the quiet, now
lonely apartment, and worked on "Rudolph" with tears in his eyes.

Shortly after Barbara had cried with joy over his handmade gift on
Christmas morning, Bob was asked to an employee's holiday party at
Montgomery Wards. He didn't want to go, but his office associates insisted.
When Bob finally agreed, he took with him the poem and read it to the
crowd. First the noisy throng listened in laughter and gaiety. Then they
became silent, and at the end, broke into spontaneous applause.

By Christmas of 1947, some 6,000,000 copies of the booklet had been given
away or sold, making Rudolph one of the most widely distributed books in
the world. The demand for Rudolph sponsored products, increased so much in
variety and number that educators and historians predicted Rudolph would
come to occupy a permanent place in the Christmas legend.

Through the years of unhappiness, the tragedy of his wife's death and his
ultimate success with Rudolph, Bob May has captured a sense of serenity.
And as each Christmas rolls around he recalls with thankfulness the night
when his daughter, Barbara's questions inspired him to write the story.
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chatoyant
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Dec, 2002 07:17 pm
I think I heard that story a long time ago, but I had forgotten it. Thanks, Misti. What a wonderful story!
0 Replies
 
mikey
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Dec, 2002 07:25 pm
thank's for the reminder, i remember that one, great story Misti.
0 Replies
 
Misti26
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Dec, 2002 07:25 pm
You're welcome Chatoyant!

There are so many stories like that, we never even think about the origins because they were always there, passed down from generation to generation.

I, for one, thought it was a fairy tale:)
0 Replies
 
charlesc
 
  1  
Reply Tue 25 Dec, 2007 08:46 am
Rudolph
Thank you, Misti, for the wonderful story about Bob May and Rudolph.

Where did you find this information and it sounds like Bob May has a wonderful daughter. Did you know him? Where does he live today?

Thanx for your reply to my questions.

Charles C.
0 Replies
 
parhteus
 
  2  
Reply Mon 29 Dec, 2008 09:55 pm
Six years since this was posted! And this is the first time I'm reading it. I've always known Rudolph's story but thought nothing more of it than a folklore. My oh my was I wrong...thanks Misti for sharing. MErry CHristmas! Here's a toast to Bob, Eveyln & Barbara May!
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 29 Dec, 2008 10:17 pm
When Gene Autry was approached to make the first recording of Rudolph, he didnt want to do a kid's song. They talked him into it by allowing him to choose the song for the flip side of the record.
0 Replies
 
lmr33
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Dec, 2009 11:43 am
Actually .... that story was only partially true. Rudolph was created by Robert May and he did draw on his own background. But May was an employee of Montgomery Ward who asked him to come up with a Christmas story, and as such never owned the rights to sell. He did however, request and received the rights back from Montgomery Ward which helped him to pay his wife's (who was terminally ill) medical bills. This still a great story, but tainting it with embellishments to make it more 'heartwarming' only turns it into a lie (no such thing as partially true ...true is true, false is false).

We should always check out the validity of these stories before circulating them " so we can 'tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth'! Merry Christmas.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
The character 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' was created for the Montgomery Ward group of department stores.
To most of us, the character of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - immortalized in song and a popular TV special - has always been an essential part of our Christmas folklore. But Rudolph is a decidedly twentieth-century invention whose creation can be traced to a specific time and person.

Rudolph came to life in 1939 when the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward company (operators of a chain of department stores) asked one of their copywriters, 34-year-old Robert L. May, to come up with a Christmas story they could give away to shoppers as a promotional gimmick. (The Montgomery Ward stores had been buying and giving away coloring books for Christmas every year, and May's department head saw creating a giveaway booklet of their own as a way to save money.) May, who had a penchant for writing children's stories and limericks, was tapped to create the booklet.

May, drawing in part on the tale of The Ugly Duckling and his own background (he was a often taunted as a child for being shy, small, and slight), settled on the idea of an underdog ostracized by the reindeer community because of his physical abnormality: a glowing red nose. Looking for an alliterative name, May considered and rejected Rollo (too cheerful and carefree a name for the story of a misfit) and Reginald (too British) before deciding on Rudolph. He then proceeded to write Rudolph's story in verse, as a series of rhyming couplets, testing it out on his 4-year-old daughter Barbara as he went along. Although Barbara was thrilled with Rudolph's story, May's boss was worried that a story featuring a red nose - an image associated with drinking and drunkards - was unsuitable for a Christmas tale. May responded by taking Denver Gillen, a friend from Montgomery Ward's art department, to the Lincoln Park Zoo to sketch some deer. Gillen's illustrations of a red-nosed reindeer overcame the hesitancy of May's bosses, and the Rudolph story was approved. Montgomery Ward distributed 2.4 million copies of the Rudolph booklet in 1939, and although wartime paper shortages curtailed printing for the next several years, a total of 6 million copies had been given by the end of 1946.

The post-war demand for licensing the Rudolph character was tremendous, but since May had created the story as an employee of Montgomery Ward, they held the copyright and he received no royalties. Deeply in debt from the medical bills resulting from his wife's terminal illness (she died about the time May created Rudolph), May persuaded Montgomery Ward's corporate president, Sewell Avery, to turn the copyright over to him in January 1947. With the rights to his creation in hand, May's financial security was assured. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was printed commercially in 1947 and shown in theaters as a nine-minute cartoon the following year. The Rudolph phenomenon really took off, however, when May's brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, developed the lyrics and melody for a Rudolph song. Marks' musical version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (turned down by many who didn't want to meddle with the established Santa legend) was recorded by Gene Autry in 1949, sold two million copies that year, and went on to become one of the best-selling songs of all time (second only to "White Christmas"). A TV special about Rudolph narrated by Burl Ives was produced in 1964 and remains a popular perennial holiday favorite in the USA.

May quit his copy writing job in 1951 and spent seven years managing his creation before returning to Montgomery Ward, where he worked until his retirement in 1971. May died in 1976, comfortable in the life his reindeer creation had provided for him

0 Replies
 
lmr33
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Dec, 2009 11:44 am
Actually .... that story was only partially true. Rudolph was created by Robert May and he did draw on his own background. But May was an employee of Montgomery Ward who asked him to come up with a Christmas story, and as such never owned the rights to sell. He did however, request and received the rights back from Montgomery Ward which helped him to pay his wife's (who was terminally ill) medical bills. This still a great story, but tainting it with embellishments to make it more 'heartwarming' only turns it into a lie (no such thing as partially true ...true is true, false is false).

We should always check out the validity of these stories before circulating them " so we can 'tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth'! Merry Christmas.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
The character 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' was created for the Montgomery Ward group of department stores.
To most of us, the character of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - immortalized in song and a popular TV special - has always been an essential part of our Christmas folklore. But Rudolph is a decidedly twentieth-century invention whose creation can be traced to a specific time and person.

Rudolph came to life in 1939 when the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward company (operators of a chain of department stores) asked one of their copywriters, 34-year-old Robert L. May, to come up with a Christmas story they could give away to shoppers as a promotional gimmick. (The Montgomery Ward stores had been buying and giving away coloring books for Christmas every year, and May's department head saw creating a giveaway booklet of their own as a way to save money.) May, who had a penchant for writing children's stories and limericks, was tapped to create the booklet.

May, drawing in part on the tale of The Ugly Duckling and his own background (he was a often taunted as a child for being shy, small, and slight), settled on the idea of an underdog ostracized by the reindeer community because of his physical abnormality: a glowing red nose. Looking for an alliterative name, May considered and rejected Rollo (too cheerful and carefree a name for the story of a misfit) and Reginald (too British) before deciding on Rudolph. He then proceeded to write Rudolph's story in verse, as a series of rhyming couplets, testing it out on his 4-year-old daughter Barbara as he went along. Although Barbara was thrilled with Rudolph's story, May's boss was worried that a story featuring a red nose - an image associated with drinking and drunkards - was unsuitable for a Christmas tale. May responded by taking Denver Gillen, a friend from Montgomery Ward's art department, to the Lincoln Park Zoo to sketch some deer. Gillen's illustrations of a red-nosed reindeer overcame the hesitancy of May's bosses, and the Rudolph story was approved. Montgomery Ward distributed 2.4 million copies of the Rudolph booklet in 1939, and although wartime paper shortages curtailed printing for the next several years, a total of 6 million copies had been given by the end of 1946.

The post-war demand for licensing the Rudolph character was tremendous, but since May had created the story as an employee of Montgomery Ward, they held the copyright and he received no royalties. Deeply in debt from the medical bills resulting from his wife's terminal illness (she died about the time May created Rudolph), May persuaded Montgomery Ward's corporate president, Sewell Avery, to turn the copyright over to him in January 1947. With the rights to his creation in hand, May's financial security was assured. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was printed commercially in 1947 and shown in theaters as a nine-minute cartoon the following year. The Rudolph phenomenon really took off, however, when May's brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, developed the lyrics and melody for a Rudolph song. Marks' musical version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (turned down by many who didn't want to meddle with the established Santa legend) was recorded by Gene Autry in 1949, sold two million copies that year, and went on to become one of the best-selling songs of all time (second only to "White Christmas"). A TV special about Rudolph narrated by Burl Ives was produced in 1964 and remains a popular perennial holiday favorite in the USA.

May quit his copy writing job in 1951 and spent seven years managing his creation before returning to Montgomery Ward, where he worked until his retirement in 1971. May died in 1976, comfortable in the life his reindeer creation had provided for him
0 Replies
 
McGentrix
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Dec, 2009 11:48 am
http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/rudolph.asp
0 Replies
 
 

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