Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gotta Love Ol' "Rudolf"...!


What would Christmas time be without Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer?

Seems like he's been around for a long, long time...and he almost has! Do you want to know exactly where Rudolf actually came from? Pretty interesting story in it's own right!

Here is a little history about the little critter that has become an integral part of our Christmas celebration right up to the modern times!

The Chicago based Montgomery Ward company had a tradition of handing out children's coloring books as Christmas gifts for their customer. In 1939, the company decided that creating a coloring book of their own would be cheaper. They asked Robert L. May, one of their copywriters, to write a Christmas story that they could give away to their customers.

May wrote the story, drawing in part from his own childhood experiences and in part on the story of the ugly duckling. He settled on the idea of a misfit reindeer who was picked on by the other reindeers because of his glowing red nose. He finally decided on Rudolph as his reindeer's name after discarding names such as Rollo and Reginald. He wrote the story as a series of rhyming couplets and tested it out on his four year old daughter Barbara, who loved the story.

Montgomery Ward handed out 2.4 million copies of the Rudolph booklet that first year and by the end of 1946 a total of six million copies had been distributed. Mays wife had died around the time he was creating the Rudolph story, leaving him deeply in debt from medical bills. Since he had created the story as an employee of Montgomery Ward, they held the copyright and May received no royalties. He was able to persuade Sewell Avery, Montgomery Ward's corporate president, to turn the copyright over to him in January 1947. With the rights to his creation in hand, May's had his financial security assured.

In 1947, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" was printed commercially for the first time. There was also a short cartoon shown in theaters the following year. The story didn't really take off until May's brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, adapted the lyrics and wrote the melody for the song "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer".

The song was turned down by many artists before, at the urging of his wife, Gene Autry recorded it in 1949. Two million copies were sold that first year and it went on to become one of the best selling Christmas songs, second only to Bing Crosby's "White Christmas". In 1964 a television special about Rudolph was produced with Burl Ives as the narrator. Rudolph has become a much loved Christmas icon and the popular TV special remains a holiday favorite to this day.

Don't you just love a good under-dog story? Any story where the good guys manage to win one in spite of all the odds is a memorable one! And the good guys do win from time to time! That's the story behind the story, so to speak.

Now, my friends, let's get some fresh coffee and sit outside before it turns cold again! We'll raise a toast to the little guys of the world winning one from time to time!

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks HermitJim - I was a child in the 70's, and well remember that every Christmas season, watching that 'Claymation' version was a yearly event. I wondered where that Rudolph legend came from. Who'd a thunk Monkey Wards had something to do with it.

Off topic kinda sorta, but does anyone else remember that similarly 'Claymation' TV movie of the Little Drummer Boy? The one where the kid's sheep was run over by a chariot, but on playing his song for The Child, it was brought back to life. It used to show at the same time as well, but have not seen in in some time - maybe they stopped showing it - I haven't watched TV very much these past years.

Thanks again for this topic - have a great day.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

HermitJim, I just read about Rudolph recently in a compedium of CHristmas "facts" so it was great to read your post. Thanks for sharing.

Merry Christmas and our best wishes to you for a wonderful New Year. Looking forward to seeing you here in 2011.

JoJo said...

Good Morning My Special One,
Thanks for the story on Rudolph I didn't know the history.
As for the Drummer Boy I remember that now but had totaly forgotten that one. I just wish they would shoe the orignal Christmas Carol again. I guess that film must be long gone. I saw a newer version the other day and it wasn't anywhere near as good.

Coffee sound great on the patio

HermitJim said...

Hey Anon 5:18...
Haven't seen either of the features very much in the last couple of years! Guess the time is being used to show something deemed "more important"!

About time the folks in charge started giving a little less thought to profit and start spreading some joy with the children again!

Thanks so much for coming by today!


Hey Beatrice...
Isn't it something how a story from such a humble beginning has become a major part of our Christmas tradition?

Pretty amazing, when you stop and think about it.

Here's hoping that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season!

Be safe and thank you for coming by today!


Hey JoJo...
You just never know when they might decide to bring back some of the original older stories!

I think that a lot of people are sort of missing the traditional versions of the great stories at Christmas time! Maybe more will find their way back into the season!

I sure do appreciate the visit today, sweetie!

Dizzy-Dick said...

I hate to admit it, but I was already in school when that song came out, and we didn't have a TV yet. I think we got our first TV in 1950. Still like the song and movie.

thecottagebythecranelakeolof1 said...

I´ve always wondered where from that story came! Now days all kids thinks Santa has reindeers. But over here, before that story book, he came by horse or with a goat pulling a sled with presents.

The goat was actually the one giving away presents here before Santa (or the Yule gnome as we call him). One of the stories about the Yule goat is that it´s actually the devil forced by God to do good things for one day every year :-) :-)

Have a great day now!
Christer.

Marjie said...

...and I'm finding it a little sad that several of the comic strips this year are showing Rudolph displaced by Santa's new GPS! BTW, I don't have a GPS; I just refuse to buy one. It's not for me to aid in putting the atlas folks or Rudolph out of jobs!

HermitJim said...

Hey Christer...
Interesting, isn't it, how Christmas customs change from country to country?

That's one of the more interesting things about the history of holidays!

Thanks for the information...and for stopping by today!


Hey Marjie...
Next thing you know, they will be looking for a replacement for Santa Claus!

Just can't leave well enough alone!

I don't have or use a GPS unit either! Doing my part to keep ol' Rudolf working!

You have a great day, and thanks for coming by today!

Gypsy said...

I had never heard this story before. The thought came to mind that today a large company would never hand over a copyright that they had legal rights to, even if it was the moral thing to do. Too bad Montgomery Ward went out of business. Thanks for the story of how Rudolph came to be.

HermitJim said...

Hey Gypsy...
Nice to know that the little guy at least can win one from time to time!

Sort of restores your faith in mankind, doesn't it?

Thanks so much for coming by today!

Tatersmama said...

What a cool story - and thank you for sharing it with us!
I have fond memories of shopping with my nana at "monkey-wards" and what I wouldn' give to do it again!
Especially now that I know they did the decent and moral thing by giving Mr. May the copyright - something that I seriously would happen nowadays.

Have a Merry Christmas my friend, and may your New Year be filled with nothing but the best and brightest!
xoxo

Baby Sis said...

Bubba -

I do remember the claymation of both those stories, and do you remember the one starring Jacklyn Smith (lots later, I guess in the 80's) called "The Night They Saved Christmas"? It was about some kids on site with their drilling dad in Alaska and the blastin disturbs the Noth Pole. Gave some good "explanation" that Rod uses in his Santa persona.
But, back to Rudolph - I have the Geny Autry 45 record of that! Wonder if it's worth anything....