Thursday, December 17, 2015

True Story of Rudolph

A man named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night. His 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bob's wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home from the hospital. Barbara looked up into her Dad's eyes and asked, “Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?”

Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves of grief...but also waves of anger. It had been the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob. Small when he was a kid...bullied by other boys...too little at the time to compete in sports...and often called names he'd rather not remember.

From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. Bob did complete college...married his loving wife...and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all of their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums.

Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938. Bob struggled to give hope to his child...for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas gift. But, if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to make one ~ a storybook!

Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal's story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again, Bob told the story...embellishing it more with each time he related it to her. Who was the character? What was the story about? The story Bob May created was his own personal biography in fable form. The character he created was a 'misfit outcast' like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph...with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time
to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day.
But the story doesn't end there.

The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph.

That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book. In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a 'best-seller'.

Many toy and marketing deals followed...and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter. But the story doesn't end there.

Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success...selling more records than any other Christmas song...except for 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 Bob May learned the lesson...just like his dear friend, Rudolph,
that being different isn't so fact, being different can be a blessing!

(with many thanks to Marlene and Sydney for the above)

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say,
Rudolph, with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?”

Then, all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,
you'll go down in history!”

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Merle Baird-Kerr...written December 27, 2014
To comment about


  1. JEANNE COMMENTS: "I think a lot of people have sung
    that song since they were children...and never knew
    the origin of it."

  2. Thanks Jeanne for your comment...I was also surprised when I read the 'story behind the lyrics'...and now to me the Rudolf song is much more meaningful.

  3. JEFFREY WRITES: In reference to Rudolph, Steve Cutts
    (an illustrator and animator from London, England) stated,
    "The insanity of humanity is an endless pool of inspiration."

  4. So true, Jeffrey. As you know, the essence of cartoons is actually a display and illustration of daily human behaviour...and of course, we smile when we read some of them. Thanks for a few of Steve Cutts' cartoons!

  5. MEG COMMENTS: "I didn't know that ~ learning again, lol.
    It is a sad but loving story ending with hope. The best kind!"

  6. Yes, is the best kind when something good and beneficial results from unhappy experiences.