Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a legendary reindeer, created by Robert Lewis May, usually depicted as a young fawn who barely has antlers, with a glowing red nose, popularly known as "Santa's ninth reindeer." When depicted, he is the lead reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. The luminosity of his nose is so great that it illuminates the team's path through inclement winter weather.
Rudolph first appeared in a 1939 booklet written by Robert L. May and published by Montgomery Ward, the department store.
The story is owned by The Rudolph Company, LP and has been adapted in numerous forms including a popular song, the iconic television special and sequels, and a feature film and sequel. Character Arts, LLC manages the licensing for the Rudolph Company, LP. In many countries, Rudolph has become a figure of Christmas folklore. 2014 marked the 75th anniversary of the character and the 50th anniversary of the television special. A series of postage stamps featuring Rudolph was issued by the United States Postal Service on November 6, 2014.
==Publication history== Robert L. May created Rudolph in 1939, as an assignment for Chicago-based Montgomery Ward. The retailer had been buying and giving away coloring books for Christmas every year and it was decided that creating their own book would save money. May considered naming the reindeer "Rollo" or "Reginald" before deciding upon using the name "Rudolph." In its first year of publication, Montgomery Ward had distributed 2.4 million copies of Rudolph's story. The story is written as a poem in anapestic tetrameter, the same meter as "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (also known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"). Publication and reprint rights for the book Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer are controlled by Pearson PLC.
The catchy tune was first played in Chicago's Drake Hotel by well-loved house pianist Joe "Opie" Gunther, a refugee from Nazi Germany. The song's first public broadcast came in 1949, when crooner Harry Brannon performed it on New York City radio in early November.
Of note is the change in the cultural significance of a red nose. In popular culture, a bright red nose was then closely associated with chronic alcoholism and drunkards, and so the story idea was initially rejected. May asked his illustrator friend at Montgomery Ward, Denver Gillen, to draw "cute reindeer," using zoo deer as models. The alert, bouncy character Gillen developed convinced management to support the idea.
Maxton Books published the first mass-market edition of Rudolphin 1947 and a sequel, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Shines Again, in 1954. In 1992, Applewood Books published Rudolph's Second Christmas, an unpublished sequel that Robert May wrote in 1947. In 2003, Penguin Books issued a reprint version of the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with new artwork by Lisa Papp. Penguin also reprinted May's sequels, Rudolph Shines Again and Rudolph's Second Christmas (now retitled Rudolph to the Rescue).
==The story== The story chronicles the experiences of Rudolph, a youthful reindeer buck (male) who possesses an unusual luminous red nose. Mocked and excluded by his peers because of this trait, Rudolph manages to prove himself one Christmas Eve after Santa Claus catches sight of Rudolph's nose and asks Rudolph to lead his sleigh for the evening. Rudolph agrees, and is finally treated better by his fellow reindeer for his heroism and accomplishment.
===Theatrical cartoon short (1948)===
Rudolph made his first screen appearance in 1948, in a cartoon short produced by Max Fleischer for the Jam Handy Corporation that was more faithful to May's original story than Marks' song, which had not yet been written. It was reissued in 1951 with the song added.
===Comic books (beginning in 1950)=== DC Comics, then known as National Periodical Publications, published a series of 13 annuals titled Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer from 1950 to 1962. Rube Grossman drew most of the 1950s stories.
In 1972, DC Comics published a 14th edition in an extra-large format. Subsequently, they published six more in that format: Limited Collectors' Edition C-24, C-33, C-42, C-50 and All-New Collectors' Edition C-53, C-60.
Additionally, one digest format edition was published as The Best of DC #4 (March–April 1980). The 1970s Rudolph stories were written and drawn by Sheldon Mayer.
===Children's book (1958)=== In 1958, Little Golden Books published an illustrated storybook, adapted by Barbara Shook Hazen and illustrated by Richard Scarry. The book, similar in story to the Max Fleischer cartoon short, is no longer in print, but a revised Little Golden Books version of the storybook was reissued in 1972.
===Stop-motion animation television special (1964) and sequels (1976–79)===
Perhaps the most well-known version of all the Rudolph adaptations is the Rankin/Bass Productions version of 1964. Filmed in Japan, with all sound recordings done in Toronto, Canada, the show premièred on NBC. As the producers of the special only had the song as source material and did not have a copy of the original book, they interpolated an original story around the central narrative of the song, one that differed from the book. This re-telling chronicles Rudolph's social rejection among his peers and his decision to run away from home. Rudolph is accompanied by a similarly outcast elf named Hermey, whose dreams of becoming a dentist are shunned by the other elves, along with a loud, boisterous, eager prospector named Yukon Cornelius who was in search of wealth. Additional original characters include Rudolph's love interest, Clarice; the antagonistic "Abominable Snow Monster"; and, as narrator, the living Sam the Snowman, voiced by Burl Ives.
In the 1964 stop-motion movie, Rudolph is born to Donner the Reindeer and Donner's wife. He is discovered by Santa to have a shiny, glowing red nose. Donner, regardless of Rudolph's defect, trains him to be a normal reindeer with skills such as gathering food and hiding from the "Abominable Snow Monster", a giant, furry white beast. To hide Rudolph's nose, Donner puts dirt on it to cover it with a black coating. This causes Rudolph to talk in a funny accent, as told by the Rudolph's peers. A short time later, Rudolph joins his peers at the Reindeer Games, where he meets Fireball, who is initially friendly and has a shock of strawberry blond hair on his head, and Clarice, a female spectator who takes a liking to Rudolph. Clarice's flirtation inspires Rudolph to perform better than all of his peers at flying, but in his excitement he knocks the black cover off his nose, revealing a red glow that causes Fireball and the others to turn against him; this distraction, in turn, prompts the coach (Comet) to ban Rudolph from the Reindeer Games. Clarice remains loyal to him, only to be ordered by her father not to shame the family by associating with "a red-nosed reindeer."
Rudolph soon runs into Hermey, an elf who was forced out of his job at the North Pole's toy factory; Hermey showed a total lack of interest in the toymaking and singing aspects of being an elf and instead wanted to pursue dentistry. They come to the conclusion that they're both misfits and decide to run away together. On their aimless journey, they run into Yukon Cornelius, the self-described "greatest prospector of the North" who nevertheless seems to never find any silver or gold, and attempt to stay away from the Bumble, a huge, abominable snow monster. Their journey leads them to the Island of Misfit Toys, where sentient but unorthodox toys go when they are abandoned by their owners. King Moonracer, the winged lion that lords over the Island, refuses to let them stay there permanently, instead telling the trio to return home and tell Santa Claus of the toys' plight, in exchange for one night's stay on the island. Rudolph refuses the offer and, fearing for his friends' life, runs off alone.
A now older Rudolph, still unable to find a place in the world, returns home to the North Pole, only to find that his family and Clarice had left to look for him and are now about to be eaten by the Bumble. With the help of Hermey and Yukon (who arrived separately), they lure the Bumble away and pacify him by knocking him unconscious and allowing Hermey (with dental skills he has acquired by reading books) to remove his sharp teeth. Everyone eventually returns to Santa's workshop, where a dismayed Santa Claus breaks the bad news that the weather is too bad to take the sleigh out and that Christmas would be canceled. Santa changes his mind when he notices Rudolph's red nose and asks Rudolph to lead the sleigh team, which he happily accepts.
After the story's initial broadcast, its closing credits were revised. Images of wrapped presents being dropped from Santa's sleigh were replaced by a scene in which Santa stops to pick up the Misfit Toys and delivers them to the homes of children below, where they were found by children who loved them. The changes were prompted by viewer feedback pleading for a happy ending for each toy. The special now airs annually on CBS, rather than NBC, and is hailed as a classic by many. The special's original assortment of characters have acquired iconic status, and an uncertainty surrounding an error in the special's copyright has allowed the special to be widely parodied and imitated in the decades since its original airing.
The sequel Rudolph's Shiny New Year (premier air date December 10, 1976) continued the reindeer's journeys, and the series was made into a trilogy with the 1979 feature-length film Christmas in July, which integrated the Rudolph universe into that of Rankin/Bass's adaptation of Frosty the Snowman.
===Animated feature-length films===
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie (1998) is an animated feature film. It received only a limited theatrical release before debuting on home video. Its inclusion of a villain, a love interest, a sidekick, and a strong protector are more derivative of the Rankin/Bass adaptation of the story than the original tale and song (the characters of Stormella, Zoey, Arrow, Slyly, and Leonard parallel the Rankin/Bass characters of the Bumble, Clarice, Fireball, Hermey, and Yukon, respectively). The movie amplifies the early backstory of Rudolph's harassment by his schoolmates (primarily his cousin Arrow) during his formative years.
GoodTimes Entertainment, the producers of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie, brought back most of the same production team for a CGI animated sequel, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys (2001). Unlike the previous film, the sequel featured the original characters from the Rankin/Bass special (as GoodTimes soon learned that Rankin/Bass had made a copyright error that made the characters unique to their special free to use).
===Other=== A live-action version of Rudolph (complete with glowing nose) along with Donner and Blitzen appears in the Doctor Who Christmas special, "Last Christmas" which was broadcast on BBC One on 25 December 2014. In this special, Santa is able to park him like a car and turn off his nose.
Nathaniel Dominy, an anthropology professor at Dartmouth College (Robert L. May's alma mater), published a scholarly paper on Rudolph's red nose in the open access online journal Frontiers for Young Minds in 2015. In the paper, Dominy noted that reindeer eyes can perceive shorter wavelengths of light than humans, allowing them to see ultraviolet light; ultraviolet light, however, is much more easily scattered in fog, which would blind reindeer. Thus, Rudolph's red nose, emitting longer-wavelength red light, would penetrate the fog more easily. A summary of Dominy's findings was released in an Associated Press article on December 22.
==Homages in media==
===Film=== *In the film remake of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), The Grinch disguises his dog, Max, as Rudolph for his plan to disguise himself as Santa Claus and steal everything in each house in Whoville, to stop Christmas from coming. He also changes Rudolph's story saying, he hates Christmas and is gonna steal it. He then yells "Action!" through a megaphone. But Max takes off the fake red nose the Grinch had put on him. *In the film Fred Claus (2007), Rudolph is mentioned and briefly seen, although his red nose is not glowing. Fred (Vince Vaughn) is filling in for his injured brother Nick (Paul Giamatti) delivering the toys on Christmas Eve. While en route, he crashes the sleigh through a billboard advertisement for Pepsi Cola featuring Santa Claus and tells Rudolph to "shake it off". There are quick edits of Fred flying through the night making his deliveries. Willie the elf says, "Fred, I have a bad feeling about this", followed by a shot of the full moon. The sleigh zips by and turns to go head on into the camera. Here, you can see Rudolph leading the pack. In slow motion, you can clearly count nine reindeer.
*Rudolph is mentioned in the video game Army of Two (2008) during a tutorial video about the use of the game's Aggro feature. *In Guild Wars Nightfall (2006), player characters are accompanied by a reindeer named Rudy whose nose begins to glow red when coming into range of presents that the player is tasked to find in a holiday themed quest.
===Music=== *Rudolph is mentioned in the Beach Boys' song "Little Saint Nick" (1963) in the following lyric: "Now haulin' through the snow at a frightening speed with a half a dozen deer with Rudy to lead." *"Run Rudolph Run" (1958) is a Christmas song popularized by Chuck Berry and written by Johnny Marks and Marvin Brodie and published by St. Nicholas Music (ASCAP). The song was released as a single on Chess Records (label no. 1714) and has since been covered by numerous other artists, sometimes under the title "Run, Run, Rudolph". The song is a 12-bar blues and has a clear musical parallel to Chuck Berry's popular and recognizable song, "Johnny B. Goode" (1958); it is also melodically identical to Berry's "Little Queenie" (1959). *In Ray Stevens' novelty song "Santa Claus Is Watching You" (1962), Rudolph is replaced on Santa's team by "Clyde the Camel", a character from Steven's earlier hit, "Ahab the Arab". In the original version, aimed at children in a similar fashion to "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town", Rudolph was said to be recuperating from an injury sustained during "a twist contest"; a later version, warning a lover away from infidelity because Santa is watching, has Rudolph on a "stakeout at (the lover's) house".
===Television and webisodes=== *In the Doctor Who promotional mini-webisode, "Songtaran Carols" (2012), the Sontaran warrior-nurse-detective, Strax, stated: "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, had a very shiny nose. It proved to be a tactical disadvantage, because it enabled me to punch him in the dark." *Rudolph along with Donner and Blitzen appear in the Doctor Who Christmas special, Last Christmas. *The anime and manga series One Piece has a main character called Tony Tony Chopper, a shapeshifter born on Christmas Eve, who was often discriminated against because of his blue nose. However his background and story is otherwise very different. *MadTV featured Rudolph in a parody of the 1964 Rankin-Bass special called Raging Rudolph. Rudolph is beaten up for his red nose, and decides to get revenge on Santa Claus with Hermie the Elf by hiring Yukon Cornelius (a hitman in the special) to kill and decapitate Santa. Rudolph then takes over the North Pole. A sequel to the skit, The Reinfather, shows Rudolph exacting revenge for his hitman's death in a nod to The Godfather.
==Relatives in different adaptations==
===Parents=== *Robert L. May's original book does not name Rudolph's parents. *The animated specials produced by both Rankin/Bass and GoodTimes Entertainment have given Rudolph different sets of parents: **In Rankin/Bass's holiday special, he is Donner's son, and his mother is a tan doe who is called Mrs. Donner. **In GoodTimes' retelling, Rudolph's father is Blitzen, and his mother is named Mitzi.
===Offspring=== Three BBC animations carry on the legend by introducing Rudolph's son, Robbie the Reindeer. However, Rudolph is never directly mentioned by name (references are replaced by the character Blitzen's interrupting with the phrase, "Don't say that name!", or something similar, presumably for copyright reasons.)
===Siblings=== Rudolph is also given a brother, Rusty Reindeer, in the American special, Holidaze: The Christmas That Almost Didn't Happen (2006). Unlike in the "Robbie the Reindeer" cartoons, Rudolph's name is mentioned in the film.
Michael Fry and T. Lewis have given Rudolph another brother in a series of Over the Hedge comic strips: an overweight, emotionally damaged reindeer named Ralph, the Infra-Red nosed Reindeer. Ralph's red nose is good for defrosting Santa's sleigh and warming up toast and waffles; he enviously complains about his brother Rudolph's publicity and his own anonymity.
===Aunts, uncles, and cousins=== * Rudolph has a cousin, Leroy, in Joe Diffie's 1995 song, "Leroy the Redneck Reindeer" (1995), which tells the story of Leroy's joining the sleigh team to substitute for Rudolph, who was ill. * In GoodTimes' retelling, three of Santa's reindeer (Dasher, Comet, and Cupid) are his uncles, and Cupid's son Arrow is Rudolph's cousin and rival.
*Santa Claus *Santa Claus's reindeer *Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer video game
*[http://www.npr.org/2013/12/25/256579598/writing-rudolph-the-original-red-nosed-manuscript?ft=3&f=1032#con256879513 Manuscript of the Montgomery Ward book] *[http://www.characterarts.com Official Licensor for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer] *[http://www.cbs.com/specials/rudolph/ Official CBS website for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer] *[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0156031/ Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1948)] *[http://xmasflix.com Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1948) Full Film (public domain footage)] * * *
Category:Christmas children's books Category:Christian folklore Category:Fictional characters introduced in 1939 Category:Fictional deer and moose Category:Montgomery Ward Category:Santa's helpers