1939 Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen—the list continues on—but Rudolph didn't arrive until 1939. (This segment first aired on Morning Edition on December 25, 2013.) Montgomery Ward in Chicago commissioned one of its admen to create a story for the department store's own children's book in 1939. The writer took inspiration from his own kids and their friends to come up with a story about a reindeer who flies through the sky delivering Christmas gifts to good boys and girls.
That story became famous. It has been told and retold throughout the world ever since. As you might expect, there are some differences between the original story and the character we know today. For example, in the original story, Rudolph doesn't have any family of his own; he just lives at the North Pole. Also, in the original story, Santa isn't called "Santa," he's just referred to as "Mr. Claus."
But those are minor details that don't change the core of what makes the story work so well: a father figure who travels around the world delivering gifts to good children, led by a reindeer with a special talent. In other words, it's a story about humanity, optimism, and friendship that has lasted more than 80 years now just waiting for you to bring it to life in your own writing project.
So go ahead, give it a try!
History of publication Rudolph was developed by May in 1939 as a commission for Chicago-based Montgomery Ward. Every year, the shop purchased and distributed coloring books for Christmas, and it was thought that developing their own book would save money.
Rudolph is an anthropomorphic character who is represented as a red fox. He is named after the fourth-century Roman Catholic bishop of Prague, who was known for his love of children.
In addition to being a popular subject for painting and sculpture, Rudolph has also been used extensively in literature and entertainment. There are many stories told about his adventures, some of which have been adapted into films and television shows. One of the most famous stories tells how Rudolph became friends with Santa Claus. Another story tells of how he met his wife Lucy van Pelt.
Rudolph has appeared in several comic books and cartoons. Some of the more notable appearances include: The Simpsons episode "Homer's Night Out" where Bart meets him on the roof; Charles M. Schulz's classic cartoon series where he appears every Christmas season; and Disney's animated film Rudolf II: A Lifetime of Love where he plays himself.
Today, Monty Python's Flying Circus features a sketch called "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" where all the characters take on different personalities to tell a story about Rudolph.
Rudolph was developed by May in 1939 as a commission for Chicago-based Montgomery Ward. May stated that his daughter was fond of reindeer, and he stated that he was treated like Rudolph as a youngster. The name "Rudolph" came from one of May's friends who told him that her son called her "Goody."
In response to this story, many people claim that they created Rudolph before May or Walt Disney, but they never received any credit for it.
There are several versions of how Rudolph became associated with Christmas. Some say that since he appeared before Ward sold its products during Christmas time, that they decided to make him the Christmas mascot. Others say that since he was adopted by St. Nicholas himself, that he became associated with Christmas even before he made his debut at Ward's.
Regardless of how he got his start, Rudolph has become a part of Christmas tradition everywhere he flies. At least three different companies have produced Rudolph toys over the years, most recently Kmart and Hasbro.
Rudolph's popularity is so great that he has been included in other merchandise such as clothing and candy. In fact, there is even a Rudolph convention every year where fans can meet up with others who love the reindeer too.