Monday, December 28

The True Story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

I thought you might enjoy this story about the origination of the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The story is true but I do not know who wrote it.

A man named Robert L. May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night. His 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bob’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn’t understand why her mommy could never come home.

Barbara looked up into her dad’s eyes and asked, “Why isn’t Mommy just like everybody else’s Mommy?”

Bob’s jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob’s life; everything was always different for him.

Being small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he didn’t want to remember. He never seemed to fit in. He did complete college, married a loving wife, and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then, he was blessed with his little girl.

But it was all short-lived. Evelyn’s bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums. Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.

Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn’t even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But if he couldn’t buy a gift, he was determined to make one - a storybook!

Bob created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal’s story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again, Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling. Who was the character? What was the story all about?

The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day. But the story doesn’t end there. The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Ward’s went on to print Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores.

By 1946, Ward’s had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Ward’s to print an updated version of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Ward’s returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller.

Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.

But the story doesn’t end there either. Bob’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, wrote a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of White Christmas.

The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning to bless him again and again. And he learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn’t so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing!

6 Responses
  1. Great story! Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    interesting blog
    God bless you

  3. Dawn Wilson Says:

    I've never heard that story! (I may share it NEXT Christmas on my blog!) :o) How wonderful that this father made a wise choice to bless his daughter ... a great example.

  4. Lee Hiller Says:

    Bless you for sharing this Lynn. Rudolph's story is the mirror of so many of our lives, which is why today it is is still so popular with children and adults.

    This wonderful story shows the integrity of the the CEO of Montgomery Wards a powerful lesson in and of itself.

    Love to you and your family have a blessed New Year... We Love you Lynn Lee & Rick xx00

  5. What a great story! I didn't know this before. But every song has a tale behind it, and I'm very glad I read this one. Thanks.

    ~ VT

  6. Karen Says:

    What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it with us!

    Hope you're having a wonderful week!