Christmas has been associated with various legends and mythical characters since time immemorial. One such popular character is Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer. Rudolph is portrayed as a reindeer with a glowing red nose, and is one of Santa Claus's prized reindeers. Known for pulling Santa's sleigh on Christmas, Rudolph's nose is believed to light the path while Santa goes from house to house, placing gifts under the Christmas tree. There have been various television shows, feature films, comics and cartoons based on this popular Christmas Character. Apart from being one of the star reindeers of the Christmas night legend, there have been countless variations on the origins of this character. Rudolph, Santa's ninth reindeer has been immortalized time and again through Christmas folk songs, stories and cartoons. Contrary to belief, Rudolph is infact a twentieth century creation, whose invention and creation can be traced back to a specific time and place. Read on to know more about the history and the Legend of Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer.
Santa's Red-Nosed Reindeer
There was a story that stated that Rudolph's character was created by a man to console his daughter on the news of her mother dying from a terminal disease. However, it is not so. It is said that Rudolph was created purely for commercial purpose by a Montgomery Ward Copywriter who came up with the design of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. It is said that he tested the skeleton of Rudolph's character on his own daughter to ensure that Rudolph would appeal to children. The story of Rudolph's character began to take form when the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward company asked one of its employees, Robert L. May to come with a Christmas story as a promotional gimmick. May, who was known for his limericks and stories, began developing the story and used the reindeer as the protagonist of his story. Robert L. May is credited for having come up with the name, Rudolph, which is said to be a mix of Rollo and Reginald.
There were quite a few controversies regarding Rudolph's depiction with a glowing red nose. Many people ostracized the portrayal of Rudolph's red nosed and compared the image to drunkards and drinking, as people who drank a lot, often had red noses.
Barring the controversies, Rudolph's story and depiction was approved and more than 2 million booklets of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer were circulated around the world during the 1940's. Post World War II, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer turned into a comic and was printed commercially. There was a song called 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer developed by Johnny Marks that became one of the best-selling Christmas songs of all time. After the famous song, a television series, starring Rudolph, remained a perennial favorite all around the U.S.
Rudolph was one of Santa's prized reindeers. He wasn't any ordinary reindeer, and although he was made fun of for his red-nose, he was not regarded as an embarrassment by his family and friends. Legend states that Rudolph was brought up in a well-to-do family and was also a responsible reindeer, who was concerned about his self-esteem. There is an interesting story behind how Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was picked by Santa Claus. When Santa was delivering presents around town, he found a red light emanating from one of the houses. He bumped into Rudolph by accident, and concluded that without Rudolph's guiding light from his nose, Santa Claus might have been victim to an accident while travelling on his sleigh.
After completing his rounds, Santa chose Rudolph to be a part of his team, and picked him to lead the way back to the North Pole. It is believed that Santa said "By you, last night's journey was bossed. Without you, I'm certain we'd all have been lost". And ever since, Rudolph has been considered as one of the most popular Christmas legends, and will continue to be, so long as the story of Christmas lives on.
The story of Rudolph was considered unsuitable for traditional, Christmas folklore. However, the legend of Rudolph went on to become one of the best-selling Christmas legends for a long time. From several adaptations of animated feature-length films like 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' and 'Rudolph's shiny New Year' to the bestselling Limited editions of 'Rudolph' in 1958, Rudolph, apart from being one of Santa's treasured Reindeers, has also managed to carve a place in the hearts of children and adults galore.