True Story Of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

December 16, 2013 by  

True Story Of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, It’s that time of year again. The elves are finishing their yearly quota of toys and Santa is readying his sleigh for Christmas Eve. His eight reindeer have been in training for their annual ride throughout the world in just one night.

Eight reindeer? You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. But what about Rudolph?

Classic Santa with eight reindeer… no Rudolph
In 1823 Clement C. Moore created the Santa Claus we know and love in the classic poem A Visit from St. Nicholas. The verse mentions eight tiny reindeer but there is no mention of a ninth that sports a glowing red nose.

Where did Rudolph come from and how did he come to be part of Christmas? No, not the script for the TV special bearing his name. But who created Rudolph and how did he grow into the beloved Christmas figure we now know?

An email has made its way around the internet containing the “true” story of how the lead puller of Santa’s sleigh came into existence through the artistic endeavor of Robert L. May. It is a heartwarming story of love, heartbreak, tragedy and triumph. Does it sound almost too good to be true? Part of it is according to May himself, affirms David Emery of and

The heart of the inaccurate story asserts that May’s wife Evelyn died of cancer in December 1938 and that this battle had stripped them of all their savings. The bereaved father couldn’t even afford a Christmas present for their young daughter Barbara.

The little girl wanted to know why her mother had to be different than other mothers. So he decided to write a story to bring her comfort and hope. From this May supposedly created a misfit reindeer that had a shiny red nose.

But in an interview given to the Gettysburg Times in 1975, May states that Rudolph’s conception began on a cold January day in 1939. He was a copywriter with Montgomery Ward in Chicago when his boss asked May to come up with a character and story for the annual Christmas coloring book

Original book by Bob May
The supervisor suggested an animal character similar to storybook figure Ferdinand the Bull. May agreed.

Evelyn May did have cancer and four year old Barbara did inspire him. The little girl was fascinated with the deer she saw at the zoo. It was this enchantment, not her mother, that inspired May to choose a reindeer for the main character of his parable.

In August of 1939, barely a month after his wife died, May finished the final draft of his story.

“I called Barbara and her grandparents into the living room and read it to them,” he later wrote. “In their eyes I could see that the story accomplished what I had hoped.”

This is the story accepted by May’s supervisor and made into the coloring books given to children who visited the store that Christmas.

Writer David Emery of tells of the alternate version of this story. He compared May’s account and the version of Ace Collins, author of Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas. This is the erroneous report making its way around cyberspace now.

Emery writes that “…while I’m sure it accurately portrays some of the emotions in play, it directly contradicts Bob May’s own account of what transpired.” When asked about his version Collins states his version came to him by a Montgomery Ward PR person and that it is “’….as truthful as there is.’”

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