Jeanne's Bliss Blog

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Various scenes around our home and area this December

On a December night in Chicago, a little girl climbed onto her father's lap and asked a question. It was a simple question, asked in childlike 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 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 tousle-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 chimney.

"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 and happy."
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 Christmastime, he decided to make the story into a poem like "The Night Before Christmas" and prepare it in book 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. His hopes crushed, Bob 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. Barbara cried with joy over his handmade gift on Christmas morning.

Shortly after, Bob was asked to an employee holiday party at Montgomery Ward. 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 with laughter and gaiety. Then they became silent, and at the end, broke into spontaneous applause. That was in 1938.

The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught 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 Ward's had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Ward's 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 either.

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, with the exception of "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 bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.


At 3:42 AM, Blogger Miss Eve said...

Love the illustration!

In case I'm running out of time, I wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season dear Jeanne, much love: Evi

At 4:21 AM, Blogger Jeanne said...

Much love and many blessings

At 5:31 AM, Blogger Namine said...

I have never heard this story before. So wonderful!

At 6:33 AM, Blogger Sea Angels said...

That has left me weeping ..but it is such a story, of such hope, I am totally fantastic how magical oh my goodness you have made my day, its beautiful thank you xx
Have a wonderful Christmas
Here's to Rudolph xxx
Love Lynn xxxxx

At 8:30 AM, Blogger sonia a. mascaro said...

Dear Jeanne,
Just lovely video!
I wish you and yours a Happy Christmas and a Wonderful New Year!

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Jeanne said...

Love to you all
Your kind words and visits mean so very much to me
Love you

At 9:59 AM, Blogger Iva said...

I have never heard this story before! Thank you so much for sharing! I hope you had a great weekend! Have a great Monday!

At 10:06 AM, Blogger fairmaiden said...

Wow I never knew that. Rudolph was always my favorite Christmas movie to watch as a child. Now I understand more fully why.

Thank you for all the love you always send my way. You are a precious friend.

Merry Christmas<3

At 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew a little about Mays but not the whole story. Sometimes wonderful things can come from sadness and grief.
Many Blessings and hugs))

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Jeanne said...

Thanks to you all for your lovely visits and kind words
Love Jeanne


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