How Rudolph Came About....
On a December night in Chicago several years ago, a little girl climbed
onto her father's lap and asked a question. It was a simple question, asked in
children's curiosity, yet it had a heart-rending effect on Robert May.
"Daddy," four-year old Barbara asked, "Why isn't my Mommy just like
everybody else's mommy?"
Bob May stole a glance across his shabby two room apartment. On a couch lay
his young wife, Evelyn, racked with cancer. For two years she had been
bedridden; for two years, all Bob's income and smaller savings had gone to
pay for treatments and medicines.
The terrible ordeal already had shattered two adult lives. Now Bob suddenly
realized the happiness of his growing daughter was also in jeopardy. As he
ran his fingers through Barbara's hair, he prayed for some satisfactory
answer to her question.
Bob May knew only too well what it meant to be "different." As a child he
had been weak and delicate. With the innocent cruelty of children, his
playmates had continually goaded the stunted, skinny lad to tears. Later at
Dartmouth, from which he was graduated in 1926, Bob May was so small that he
was always being mistaken for someone's little brother.
Nor was his adult life much happier. Unlike many of his classmates who
floated from college into plush jobs, Bob became a lowly copy writer for
Montgomery Ward, the big Chicago mail order house. Now at 33 Bob was deep in
debt, depressed and sad.
Although Bob did not know it at the time, the answer he gave the tousled
haired child on his lap was to bring him to fame and fortune. It was also to
bring joy to countless thousands of children like his own Barbara. On that
December night in the shabby Chicago apartment, Bob cradled his little
girl's head against his shoulder and began to tell a story...
"Once upon a time there was a reindeer named Rudolph, the only reindeer in
the world that had a big red nose. Naturally people called him Rudolph the
Red Nosed Reindeer." As Bob went on to tell about Rudolph, he tried
desperately to communicate to Barbara the knowledge that, even though some
creatures of God are strange and different, they often enjoy the miraculous
power to make others happy.
Rudolph, Bob explained, was terribly embarrassed by his unique nose. Other
reindeer laughed at him; his mother and father and sister were mortified
too. Even Rudolph wallowed in self pity.
"Well," continued Bob, "one Christmas Eve, Santa Claus got his team of
husky reindeer - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen ready for their yearly trip
around the world. The entire reindeer community assembled to cheer these
great heroes on their way. But a terrible fog engulfed the earth that
evening, and Santa knew that the mist was so thick he wouldn't be able to
find any chimneys.
Suddenly Rudolph appeared, his red nose glowing brighter than ever. Santa
sensed at once that here was the answer to his perplexing problem. He led
Rudolph to the front of the sleigh, fastened the harness and climbed in.
They were off! Rudolph guided Santa safely to every chimney that night. Rain and
fog, snow and sleet; nothing bothered Rudolph, for his bright nose
penetrated the mist like a beacon.
And so it was that Rudolph became the most famous and beloved of all the
reindeer. The huge red nose he once hid in shame was now the envy of every
buck and doe in the reindeer world. Santa Claus told everyone that Rudolph
had saved the day and from that Christmas, Rudolph has been living serenely
Little Barbara laughed with glee when her father finished. Every night she
begged him to repeat the tale until finally Bob could rattle it off in his
sleep. Then, at Christmas time he decided to make the story into a poem like
"The Night Before Christmas" and prepare it in bookish form illustrated with
pictures, for Barbara's personal gift. Night after night, Bob worked on the
verses after Barbara had gone to bed for he was determined his daughter
should have a worthwhile gift, even though he could not afford to buy one...
Then as Bob was about to put the finishing touches on Rudolph, tragedy
struck. Evelyn May died. Bob, his hopes crushed, turned to Barbara as chief
comfort. Yet, despite his grief, he sat at his desk in the quiet, now lonely
apartment, and worked on "Rudolph" with tears in his eyes.
Shortly after Barbara had cried with joy over his handmade gift on
Christmas morning, Bob was asked to an employee's holiday party at Montgomery Wards.
He didn't want to go, but his office associates insisted. When Bob finally
agreed, he took with him the poem and read it to the crowd. First the noisy
throng listened in laughter and gaiety. Then they became silent, and at the
end, broke into spontaneous applause. That was in 1938.
By Christmas of 1947, some 6,000,000 copies of the booklet had been given
away or sold, making Rudolph one of the most widely distributed books in the
world. The demand for Rudolph sponsored products, increased so much in
variety and number that educators and historians predicted Rudolph would
come to occupy a permanent place in the Christmas legend.
Through the years of unhappiness, the tragedy of his wife's death and his
ultimate success with Rudolph, Bob May has captured a sense of serenity. And
as each Christmas rolls around he recalls with thankfulness the night when
his daughter, Barbara's questions inspired him to write the story.
The Christmas Story /
Another Christmas Story
How Rudolph came about... /
A Letter to Santa from Mom
Words for Silent Night in German and English /
My StartPage /
Created by: madebychar