Christmas Lyn

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Updated May 23, 2024
Source: Pexels

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, is among the most famous Christmas songs of all time, continuing to hit Billboard charts decades after its release.

However, not many know the history behind the carol and the deep thought it strives to convey to listeners.

Initially a commercial order with the sole purpose of boosting sales, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, became an all-time Christmas classic.

Behind the cheerful melody is a sentimental childhood story of a man who created Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

The song’s success wouldn’t be possible without the cooperation of two brothers-in-law, each of whom put a piece of their heart into their creations to inspire children worldwide.

Table of Contents [show]

Lyrics

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?
 
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows
 
All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games
 
Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
“Rudolph, with your nose so bright
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”
 
Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
You’ll go down in history”
 
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows
 
All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games
 
Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
“Rudolph, with your nose so bright
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”
 
Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
You’ll go down in history”

Origins

The history of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, begins with an eponymous book by Robert L. May. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen have been pulling Santa’s sleigh seemingly forever.

The first mention of Santa’s reindeer, although only one, was in an 1821 poem Old Santeclaus with Much Delight by an unknown author. Two years later, Clement Clarke Moore published a poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas, mentioning eight of Santa’s reindeer.

However, the reindeer squad only acquired a new member in 1939. At that time, May worked in Chicago’s marketing department of a chain store Montgomery Ward, one of America’s largest retailers.

Every year, Montgomery Ward purchased and gave away children’s coloring books as part of their advertising campaign. But in the winter of 1939, the company decided they needed something exclusive, unavailable anywhere else.

And so, Montgomery Ward assigned the task of creating a new children’s book to Robert May, with the only instruction being that the book should be about an animal.

Robert May put his whole heart into writing the story of Rudolph because that year, his wife contracted cancer and passed away. The author wrote the book merely to cheer up his little daughter Barbara than for the money.

The book narrates about a little reindeer Rudolph who was mocked in his village for his bright red nose. On Christmas Eve, Santa was delivering gifts in his sleigh pulled by his eight reindeer.

The weather was nasty that night, and Santa had to fly very low above the treetops to see anything among the snow. When Santa entered Rudolph’s house, he noticed the glow of his nose and asked Rudolph to join his crew.

Rudolph gladly agreed and led the reindeer team, lighting the way with his glowing nose. Rudolph was finally treated with love and respect and decided to stay with Santa, forever leaving his village.

The story reflected Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer author’s struggles as a kid when he was taunted by other children for being the smallest boy in the class.

According to later Barbara’s interviews, her father chose to write about a reindeer for two reasons. Firstly, it was her favorite animal, and she was always captivated by reindeer at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Secondly, it was a perfect fit for Christmas because Santa was already known to ride a sleigh pulled by reindeer. However, little did May know that his creation would become an all-time holiday season staple.

The first year the story was published, Montgomery Ward sold 2.4 million copies. The company had to pause issuing the story during World War ll due to paper use restrictions, but it only became more popular when the production was resumed in 1946.

But the song about Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, earned even wider recognition than the book. In 1939, the same year May wrote his story, a songwriter named Johnny Marks married May’s sister Margaret.

Although Johnny Marks wrote the song in the mid-1940s, it was only published in 1949. He asked Gene Autry, a famous American singer nicknamed the Singing Cowboy, to record the song, and it instantly became a hit.

Autry didn’t like the song at first, but his wife did and convinced him to do it. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer instantly became a track No. 1 on the Billboard pop singles chart that Christmas.

Until the 1980s, the song was the second best-selling track of all time, eventually reaching over 25 million copies.

Almost a decade later, in 1957, Gene Autry, despite his initial dislike of the song, released another version of the track under his own label, Challenge Records, with a full orchestra and chorus accompaniment.

Another notable Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer recording was made in 1950 by Bing Crosby, famous for numerous Christmas hits, including White Christmas and Jingle Bells.

Later, the song was covered by Spike Jones, The Little Foleys, The Cadillacs, Burl Ives, and The Temptations.

But the success of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, didn’t end in the 20th century. In 2018, the track ranked No. 36 on Billboard Hot 100 chart and reached No. 16 in 2019.

Johnny Marks always knew the song was bound for success, but he had no idea it would become that famous.

He once said, “I thought it was going to be a hit, but a regular hit. I didn’t think it was just going to go on forever.”

Not many know, but Johnny Marks is the author of another Christmas hit, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, released in 1958.

Funnily, Rudolph’s success was so huge that Marks eventually became fed up with it and admitted to the People magazine that a song about a reindeer wasn’t what he hoped to be remembered for.

Meaning

Johnny Marks’ song Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer is essentially a brief retelling of Robert May’s original book.

The song’s first verse mentioning the names of Santa’s reindeer is a paraphrased part of Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, A Visit from Saint Nicholas.

The second verse introduces us to Rudolph, the main character of the story, describing his appearance and pointing out his “flaw,” which later became his main advantage – the shiny red nose.

Other reindeer would laugh at Rudolph and even call him names, never letting him play their reindeer games. May wrote the story by the motives of his childhood, but he surely wasn’t the only kid in the world who felt lonely and misunderstood.

Everyone feels like Rudolph at times. It’s easy to perceive our peculiarities as flaws, and some people go as far as to think they don’t deserve to be loved because of their unique traits.

In the song’s fourth verse, Rudolph’s life changes forever as Santa arrives at his house and asks whether he will guide his sleigh that night.

One may think that the meaning of this verse is to give people hope in miracles, but it isn’t that simple. Yes, Rudolph met Santa by chance, but expecting one’s life to change suddenly without any effort can lead to disappointment, at the very least.

Instead, the author wants to show us that one’s flaws can turn out to be their power. That’s a matter of perception.

While some reindeer were mocking Rudolph for his red nose and refused to play with him, Santa asked Rudolph to join his crew and guide his sleigh.

Rudolph received the recognition he always deserved by chance, but for us to change our lives, we should first change our perception of ourselves. We should learn to convert our weaknesses into strengths, even if it seems impossible.

No matter what someone says about us, we should believe in ourselves to succeed. And if we can’t believe in ourselves, we should have someone else who will – be it our parents, friends, or partner. In Rudolph’s case, it was Santa.

In the last verse of the song, all reindeer shout out with glee, telling Rudolph that his name would go down in history. We don’t know which reindeer shouted it – whether it were Santa’s eight reindeer or those who mocked Rudolph at first.

Assuming it were Santa’s reindeer, the author’s goal may have been to give listeners hope that everyone finds their place eventually.

One group may not accept us, but it doesn’t yet indicate we aren’t worthy of love. Perhaps, we just haven’t yet found our place in life.

Instead of settling and accepting that we’ll be lonely forever, we should continue our life journey until we find our destiny.

The second version suggesting that the reindeer that used to mock Rudolph suddenly changed their attitude also makes sense. Perhaps, everyone has seen people who always seek profit, regardless of their real attitude.

This scenario teaches us to accept people as they are and not judge them. Who knows – maybe the trait we find odd and unappealing in someone will help them succeed later in life? Maybe we should get to know the person better and see their strong sides?

In its essence, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a light-hearted Christmas song about a miracle. But its goal isn’t solely to make children (and adults – no discrimination here) believe in wonders.

The meaning of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, is to make people believe in themselves and not lose hope in finding their special place in life.

Hit the like button!
1
1