Saturday, 15 December 2018

C Columns

Rudolph the Reindeer (a true account)

By  Evelyn  Horan

When  he  was  young,  life  was  difficult  for  Bob  May.  He  was  often  bullied  by  other  boys,  and  at  the  time,  he  was  too  little  to  compete  in  sports.  Sometimes,  he  was  called  names  and  he  didn't  seem  to  fit  in.      

When  Bob  completed  college,  he  married  and  was  grateful  to  get  a  job  as  a  copywriter  at  Montgomery  Ward  Department  Store.  Then,  he  was  blessed  with  his  little  girl,  Barbara.  Bob  and  his  family  lived  in  a  small  apartment  in  Chicago,  but  his  wife  became  ill  and  the  couple's  savings  was  used  to  pay  medical  bills.  Bob's  wife  passed  away  just  a  few  days  before  Christmas  in  1938.

Montgomery  Ward  had  asked  Bob  to  write  a  “cheery”  Christmas  book  that  they  could  give  away  at  Christmas  to  shoppers,  and  asked  that  an  animal  be  the  star  of  the  book.  Due  to  the  loss  of  his  wife,  Bob  struggled  to  give  hope  to  his  daughter  Barbara.  He  decided  to  make  a  storybook,  as  suggested,  with  a  deer  character,  especially  since  Barbara  loved  the  deer  in  the  Chicago  zoo.    

Bob  drew  on  memories  of  his  childhood  struggles  and  not  “fitting  in”  with  the  other  children  as  he  wrote  the  book.  The  main  character  was  a  little  reindeer  named  Rudolph,  who  had  a  big,  shiny  nose.  Bob  finished  the  book  just  in  time  to  give  it  to  his  little  girl  on  Christmas  Day.

The  “Rudolph  Poem  Booklet,”  as  it  was  called,  was  distributed  by  Montgomery  Ward  during  the  1939  holiday  season.  The  department  store  offered  Bob  a  small  fee  to  purchase  the  rights  to  print  the  book,  which  then  went  on  to  become  known  as  “Rudolph,  the  Red-Nosed  Reindeer.”  Montgomery  Ward  distributed  it  to  children  visiting  Santa  Claus  in  all  its  stores.  By  1946,  the  company  had  printed  and  distributed  more  than  six  million  copies  of  “Rudolph.”  

In  a  gesture  of  kindness,  the  president  of  Montgomery  Ward  returned  all  rights  back  to  Bob.  The  book  became  a  bestseller.  Many  toy  and  marketing  deals  followed,  and  Bob  May  became  wealthy  from the  story  he  created  to  comfort  his  grieving  daughter.

Bob’s  brother-in-law,  Johnny  Marks,  made  a  song  adaptation  to  “Rudolph.”  It  was  recorded  by  the  singing  cowboy,  Gene  Autry.  “Rudolph,  the  Red-Nosed  Reindeer”  was  released  in  1949  and  became  a  great  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  back  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.

Evelyn  Horan  is  a  former  teacher  from  California  who  has  published  articles  in  a  number  of  faith-based  publications.  She  may  be  reached  at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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