By Danielle Prostrollo
With the snowy weather around Norwich, it seems more and more appropriate to break out the Christmas tunes. And while we may not get enough snow to merit a fort or even a substantial snow angel, one of my favorite tunes is the classic, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
But the rosy nose has an interesting history that most people don’t know.
The concept of Rudolph was first published in a 1939 booklet by Robert Lewis May for Montgomery Ward. May was a secular Jew from Upstate New York and the story was reworked into song-format in 1949 by May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks (the man behind many of our Christmas hits – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, and Holly Jolly Christmas, for example) and recorded by Gene Autry.
In the 1964 stop-motion TV special, Rudolph is a social outcast born to Donner (or Donder, if you prefer) and goes through many travails until he finds the elf who will become his close confidante – if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend searching it out on TV or streaming service!
But not everyone agrees that Donner is Rudolph’s father. Another retelling of the story places Rudolph directly under Blitzen in the family tree.
This TV special, made for America’s NBC network was filmed in Japan and other post-filming work done in Toronto, Canada. So it was a truly international undertaking.
The special veers away from the original 1939 book by May – and this is because the filmmakers didn’t have a copy of the original book to go off of, so they instead had to glean a story line from the song.