Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer Marion Books.jpg
Cover of one of the books of the Robert L. May story by Maxton Publishers, Inc.
First appearance1939
Last appearance2001 (films and series)
Created byRobert L. May
TitleThe Red Nosed Reindeer
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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer Marion Books.jpg
Cover of one of the books of the Robert L. May story by Maxton Publishers, Inc.
First appearance1939
Last appearance2001 (films and series)
Created byRobert L. May
TitleThe Red Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a fictional reindeer with a glowing red nose. He is popularly known as "Santa's 9th Reindeer" and, when depicted, 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.[1][2]

The story is owned by The Rudolph Company, L.P. and has been adapted in numerous forms including a popular song, a television special and sequels, and a feature film and sequel. Character Arts, LLC manages the licensing for the Rudolph Company, L.P. In many countries, Rudolph has become a figure of Christmas folklore.


Publication history

Robert L. May created Rudolph in 1939 as an assignment for 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" and "Reginald" before deciding upon using the name "Rudolph".[3] In its first year of publication, 2.5 million copies of Rudolph's story were distributed by Montgomery Ward.[citation needed] The story is written as a poem in the meter of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas".[citation needed] Publication and reprint rights for the book Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer are controlled by Pearson Plc.

Maxton Books published the first mass-market edition of Rudolph and also published a sequel, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Shines Again in 1954. In 1991 Applewood Books published Rudolph's Second Christmas, an unpublished sequel that Robert May wrote in 1947.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).[citation needed]

The story

The story chronicles the experiences of Rudolph, a youthful reindeer buck (male) who possesses an unusual luminous red nose. Harassed mercilessly and excluded by his peers because of this trait, Rudolph manages to prove himself one Christmas Eve after Santa Claus catches sight of his nose and asks him to lead his sleigh for the evening. Rudolph agrees, and is rewarded with exceptional recognition and social acceptance amongst his fellow reindeer for his heroism.

Rudolph in the media

The song

May's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, adapted the story of Rudolph into a song. Gene Autry's recording of the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard pop singles chart the week of Christmas 1949. Autry's recording sold 2.5 million copies the first year, eventually selling a total of 25 million, and it remained the second best-selling record of all time until the 1980s.[4]

Theatrical cartoon short

Rudolph's first screen appearance came in 1944, in the form of 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 then yet been written).[5] It was reissued in 1948 with the song added.[citation needed]

Comic books

DC Comics, then known as National Periodical Publications, published a series of 13 annuals titled Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer from 1950 to 1962.[6][7] Most of the 1950s stories were drawn by Rube Grossman.[8] In 1972, DC 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[9] and All-New Collectors' Edition C-53, C-60.[10] Additionally, one digest format edition was published as The Best of DC #4 (March-April 1980).[11] The 1970s Rudolph stories were written and drawn by Sheldon Mayer[12]

Children's book

In 1958, Golden Books published an illustrated storybook, adapted by Barbara Shook Hazen and illustrated by Richard Scarry. The book is similar in story to the Max Fleischer cartoon short. It is apparently no longer in print. However, a revised Golden Books version of the storybook has since been issued.

Stop-motion animation TV special

In 1964, the tale was adapted into a classic stop-motion Christmas special by Rankin/Bass that premiered on NBC, altering the original telling of the story drastically. This re-telling chronicles Rudolph's social rejection among his peers and his decision to run away from home 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 in search of wealth. Original additional characters include Rudolph's love interest, Clarice and the antagonist of the Abominable Snowman, along with the narrator, the anthropomorphic Sam the Snowman, voiced famously by Burl Ives. The special airs annually on CBS and is hailed as a classic by many, its original assortment of characters acquiring a famous and iconic status and alterations of the true storyline frequently parodied in other works.

Animated feature-length films

An animated feature film of the story was produced in 1998, titled Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie. It received only a limited theatrical release before debuting on home video. Its inclusion of a villain character, Stormella, and a love interest, Zoey, for Rudolph as well as a small sidekick, Slyly, and a strong protector character, Leonard, are very derivative of the Rankin-Bass adaptation of the story as opposed to the original tale and song (the characters of Stormella, Zoey, Arrow, Slyly and Leonard closely parallel the Rankin-Bass characters of The Bumble, Clarice, Fireball, Hermey the Dentist, and Yukon Cornelius respectively). The movie amplifies the early back-story of Rudolph's harassment by his schoolmates (primarily an older fawn named 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 in 2001. Unlike the previous film, the sequel licensed the original characters from the Rankin-Bass special.

Relatives in different adaptations

Two 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 a character interrupting with the phrase "Don't say that name!" or something similar, presumably for copyright reasons.)

Rudolph is also given a brother, Rusty Reindeer, in the 2006 American special, Holidaze: The Christmas That Almost Didn't Happen. Unlike in the "Robbie the Reindeer" cartoons, Rudolph's name is mentioned freely 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", who has a red nose just like Rudolph's, but his is good for defrosting Santa's sleigh and warming up toast and waffles. He appeared before R.J., Verne, and Hammy, enviously complaining about his brother's publicity and his own anonymity.

Rudolph has a cousin, Leroy, in Joe Diffie's 1995 song, "Leroy the Redneck Reindeer".

In the animated specials produced by both Rankin-Bass and GoodTimes Entertainment, Rudolph has been given different sets of parents. In Rankin-Bass's holiday special, he is Donner's son and his mother is an unnamed tan doe with long eyelashes who is simply called "Mrs. Donner". In GoodTimes's retelling, Rudolph's father is Blitzen, possibly to avoid plagiarism charges, and his mother, played by Debbie Reynolds, is named Mitzi.

Robert L. May's original book does not name Rudolph's parents.

See also


  1. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara; Mikkelson, David P. (December 19, 2010). "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". Urban Legends Reference Pages. Archived from the original on December 2, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011.
  2. ^ Ramer, Holly; Talbot, Toby (Photo) (23 December 2011). "Scrapbook tells how Rudolph went down in history". Hanover, N.H.: Associated Press. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  3. ^ "Old Fashioned Christmas". University Place/Wisconsin Historical Society. December 12, 2010. 0:28 minutes in. Wisconsin Public Broadcasting Station. Wisconsin Channel.
  4. ^ Kenneth T. Jackson, Karen Markoe, Arnie Markoe, The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives. Simon and Schuster, 1998, p.28
  5. ^ "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer"., April 13, 2012
  6. ^ Irvine, Alex; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1950s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "DC began an annual tradition of producing a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special. Following the success of the famous song (released in 1949), DC licensed the character and put Rudolph at the center of a series of lighthearted adventures...The Christmas Special would continue until 1962, and then return from 1972-1977."
  7. ^ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Annual at the Grand Comics Database
  8. ^ Markstein, Don. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on December 4, 2011. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
  9. ^ Limited Collectors' Edition #C-20, #C-24, #C-33, #C-42, and #C-50 at the Grand Comics Database
  10. ^ All-New Collectors' Edition #C-53 and #C-60 at the Grand Comics Database
  11. ^ The Best of DC #4 at the Grand Comics Database
  12. ^ Markstein, Don. "Sheldon Mayer". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Archived from the original on December 3, 2011. Retrieved December 3, 2011. "[Mayer] also worked on several tabloid-formatted comic books for DC in the mid-1970s, including the company's first use of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer since the early '60s."

External links

Preceded by
"Mule Train" by Frankie Laine
U.S. Billboard Best Sellers in Stores number-one single
January 7, 1950 (Gene Autry)
Succeeded by
"I Can Dream, Can't I" by The Andrews Sisters