12 Shiny Facts About “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
You probably don't know these facts about everyone's favorite reindeer.
Did you know that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer wasn’t a character in Clement Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas? And that he didn’t even exist until 1939? With random Christmas facts on the mind, Mental Floss has compiled a list of 12 other facts your probably don’t know about Santa’s red-nosed righthand man. Here they are:
Rudolph was created for Montgomery Ward. In 1939, execs for the Montgomery Ward department store decided they needed a character for the freebie coloring books they were handing out to kids who visited Santa. That character ended up being Rudolph.
The writer who invented the character was going through a rough time. Robert May, a copywriter for Montgomery Ward’s mail order catalog division, started this story shortly after his wife died from cancer.
He could have been Rollo or Reginald instead of Rudolph. Rollo was rejected for sounding too sunny and happy, while Reginald sounded too British. Romeo and Rodney were also in the running.
May’s original story is a bit different than the song. In the story May told in that original coloring book, Santa finds Rudolph while delivering presents to the reindeer village. When he discovers Rudolph and his glowing nose, he invites Rudolph to help him with the rest of his drop-offs.
Rudolph almost used a different method to guide Santa’s sleigh. Instead of having a red, glowing nose, May considered giving Rudolph large, headlight-like eyes that would light the way.
Finlanders know Rudolph as “Petteri Punakuono.” Petteri is Rudy's Finnish counterpart. The Finnish version of the song also translates to something like, "You remember Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood and the Grey Wolf, but this reindeer is often forgotten."
He has a son named Robbie. The BBC developed three cartoons based on Rudolph's offspring, but the name of Robbie's famous dad is never actually mentioned.
The Rudolph song was recorded a decade after the character was invented. Gene Autry nearly passed on the tune, but his wife urged him to give it a shot. Since Autry recorded it, the tune has sold more than 150 million copies.
Songwriter Johnny Marks specialized in Christmas songs. Marks, who was Jewish, also wrote “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Silver and Gold," and "A Holly Jolly Christmas"
Rankin/Bass weren’t the first to feature Rudolph onscreen. That honor goes to Fleischer Studios, which copyrighted a cartoon in 1948 as more advertising for Montgomery Ward.
The puppets used in the 1964 Rankin/Bass show were rediscovered in 2006. The Santa and Rudolph puppets were featured on an episode of Antiques Roadshow and have since been displayed at the Center for Puppetry Arts.
The song is still copyrighted. “Rudolph” is still copyrighted and his image is trademarked. The makers of Rudolph’s Reserve ale found this out the hard way in 2003. They later changed the name to “Rude Elf’s Reserve.”