Rudolph’s origin story

Robert May, the father of Rudolph.

Robert May, the father of Rudolph.

Uroob Saeed, Web Editor

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is one of the most popular and beloved symbols of Christmas. Here is the story of how our beloved reindeer was born…

It all started with the man named Robert May. He was given an assignment to write a story book for his advertising department of the company he worked for. However, he did not take part in the cheerfulness and joy of the holiday season because of his wife’s diminishing health. She was diagnosed with cancer and her health was decreasing rapidly. In addition, the Great Depression and oncoming of war did not help to lift his spirits. Desperate to cover the medical bills, May knew he had to come up with an idea that would greatly appeal the public.

May chose a reindeer to be the star of his book because his 4-year-old daughter was particularly fond of these creatures whenever they went to the zoo. May had brainstormed numerous names, including Rollo, Romeo, and Reginald. Among the names he had thought of, however, Rudolph was his favorite. Unfortunately, his wife died in July of the year 1939. “I needed Rudolph now more than ever,” he wrote. Burying his grief, May finished the story in August. The idea of a reindeer with a luminescent red nose on a particularly foggy day symbolized the hope and optimism he had when things in his personal life were difficult. Just as Rudolph Red-Nosed Reindeer guided him through the fog while leading Santa’s sleigh, he got through his own hardships and found happiness later on. May also saw himself as Rudolph. “As a child I’d always been the smallest in the class. Frail, poorly coordinated, I was never asked to join the school teams,” he said.

By the time he had completed his book, 2.4 million copies sold during the first year. After the war ended, an astonishing 3.6 million copies were sold in 1946. Since May was still in debt, even after his success, he began to sell other merchandise, like puzzles, snow globes, mugs, and slippers. Three years later, Johnny Marks- May’s brother-in-law- made a song about Rudolph, which sold over 2 million copies the first year. Today, it is one of the best-selling holiday tunes. May’s perseverance and love for writing paid off in the end, creating one of the best stories for children and their families to enjoy for generations to come.