Sunday, December 11, 2011

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER...Every Child’s Fantasy.


Who was Rudolph?
We all know that Rudolph is the endearing little red nosed reindeer, with nose shining so bright that he has been guiding Santa’s sleigh through snow and blizzard for many many decades. Rudolph is the Ninth Reindeer..... The most famous reindeer of all....he was ‘born’ many decades after his eight flying mates.


Legend goes that many years ago the Christmas that year would have become a void if Santa had not found a way to guide his sleigh through a fierce blizzard. Fortunately for him, there was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph becomes a hero when he guides Santa through the storm with help of his red glowing nose to deliver Christmas presents to children all over the world.


Who invented Rudolf?

All children like to believe that Rudolph was born at North Pole.




Well I did as a little boy....And that was a long long time ago. I was born in British India, what we popularly call ‘The Raj’..... Christmas was colloquially called ...the Baraah Din. ... The Big day. Christmas spirit was even more evident then....rather more unmistakable in the ‘Chawni’s....the cantonments’. There was always a picturesque church with stained glass windows ...Christmas bazaars.....Church soirees and so much more with lilt of Jingle Bells and Rudolf the red nosed Reindeer being carried on the breeze. Mostly the day was spent in the homes of our family friends...the Inglewoods, the Clarks or the Bartons, sharing the festive spread....and likewise Diwali was a resplendent affair at our house.


One of my most memorable memories are of a traditional white Christmas in Shimla...hill stations have stayed behind  as  some of the most curious monuments to the British colonial presence in India .


Since the nineteenth century they have exercised a powerful hold on the imagination of Indians and Britishers alike....and of all of the Indian hill stations, Shimla is the most well-known and the most-frequented.
Can't remember the last time we had a White Christmas in Shimla in the recent past..... My own memory of a white Christmas goes back to early 1940’s.... Sparkling flurry of snowflakes, and then later, pile upon pile of snow as far as the eye could see. Trudging through in our little snow boots over walls of crunchy snow all the way from our cottage to the Mall.






And then on to the Christ Church.....This church was built over a span of 11 years (1846-1857) and I remember the well tuned old organ... and the Hymns .


I am told that it is the second oldest church of Northern India. The beauty of the church is enhanced by the multi hued stained glass windows. 


It looks even more grand in the reflective moon off the pristine snow.....as kids we thought Rudolf with his shiny nose would really swoop in near the church on The Mall....


It was heavenly to sit together toasting chestnuts and drinking hot chocolate waiting for Santa’s sleigh.








Perhaps there is story I can tell you..... A story of a very special reindeer at the North Pole.


One Christmas Tens of years ago Rudolph, a little deer, was standing alone and sad...it was the day before Christmas. He watched as the other reindeer ran and played together, they had such fun. Rudolph was small but that wasn't the reason the others didn't ask him to join the reindeer games.

 Rudolph had a big, bright red nose. ...It was not a regular reindeer nose at all; it was so bright that it seemed to glow.
The other deer teased him, and they laughed about Rudolph's nose. They rolled in the snow with delight as poor Rudolph walked back to the stable, lonely and very, very sad.
It wasn’t much fun being alone... Rudolph sighed.

Soon the light faded from the day and everyone was scampering to load Santa's sleigh. It was getting darker and darker by the minute, and to top it all fog was making matters worse. The atmosphere was dismal and even the reindeers began to quarrel about who would be the best one to lead the team this evening. Soon all was set and Santa climbed into the sleigh and he set off.
He was already delayed, and it was so dark he couldn't even see the lead reindeer...... Time was passing and it became clear that no headway was being made. Santa was flying in circles. Santa was Lost!!!

  
What would happen to Christmas?
Santa was quite worried, he didn't even know how to get back to the North Pole, then dimly at first, and he could see a faint red light. Santa moved the sleigh towards the light and it grew steadily stronger and brighter.
What could it be he thought?
It was ever so bright. ....Carefully Santa brought the sleigh to rest close to the light.
And what did Santa find?


He found Rudolph playing by himself trying to enjoy Christmas Eve.

Santa asked Rudolph if he would mind helping out with the sleigh, that big shiny nose is just what he needed to stay on track....It would be like a ‘headlight’. Rudolph was thrilled, and jumped at the chance. The other reindeer knew this would save Christmas and they smiled their approval as Rudolph went to the front of the team. Jingle bells rang out crisply on that dark night as Rudolph and his shiny nose lead Santa and the sleigh full of toys around the world.
 From that day forward Rudolph came to be known as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer ... Santa’s Ninth Reindeer.
Coming back to.......Who created Rudolf.....After all now that I am an old man I know that he was not born at North pole....How did come to be????
There are two versions of the origin of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" — the "official" one, as told in innumerable news articles over the past 50 years.....and the other which has the popular pathos...It was circulated on and off the Internet since the early 2000s.




The main difference between the two is how they explain what prompted Bob May to create the character of Rudolph in the first place. According to the official version he did it at the behest of his supervisor in the catalogue copy department of Montgomery Ward. However as per the popular version he did so to comfort and console his 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, whose mother was dying of cancer.
Rudolph's story begins sometime in 1939. The nation was still in the midst of the Great Depression but that didn't prevent people from celebrating and enjoying the good times of life. Times may have been difficult but that just meant that people had to be more careful with their money.

In the Chicago headquarters of department store giant, Montgomery Ward, that summer, executives were making plans for the coming Christmas season.


In those days cities were more compact and commerce was centred in the downtown. Scattered amongst the big banks and office buildings were the large, multi storied department stores. During the Christmas season shoppers would flock downtown and these stores competed fiercely for these people's shopping dollars.
To attract customers the stores put up abundant colourful decorations and, in their toy departments, they would create elaborate Christmas kingdom displays with Santa Claus enthroned in the middle. The highlight of the Christmas shopping season for children was a trip downtown with Mom and Dad to visit Santa Claus.

They would stand in a line and patiently and when their turn came, would sit on Santa's lap. After assuring Santa that they had been good, or had at least were trying hard to be good, they would tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas. Santa would then assure them that he would do his best to give them the toy they most desired and then, after making their requests and got up to leave, Santa would reach into the big sack next to his chair and, reminding them to be good, give them a little parting gift.
For many years Montgomery Ward had filled their Santa's sack with a Christmas colouring book that they had specially printed each year. .....But this year the Montgomery Ward executives wanted something new and different. ....They also wanted to save money. So, instead of calling upon an outside firm to create the new item, as they had done in the past, they decided to have their own advertising department create the new giveaway.
Thus it so happened that Robert L. May, a 34 year-old copywriter for Montgomery Ward, found himself charged with coming up with a new gift for their Santa to give to the little children.
Bob May went to work on developing a Christmas story for children.
 As a child, May had always been small for his age and this had brought forth taunts and ridicule from the other children. Drawing upon his experiences of being somewhat different and an outcast, May set about creating a character with similar problems who, in the end, rises above his problems and is transformed.
Who was the character?


What was the story all about?
The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form. The character he created was a misfit an outcast like hi. ....Himself. He created an animal story with a main character like Ferdinand the Bull....in this he was partly inspired in part by his daughter's fascination with the deer at the local zoo, he invented a tale about an outcast reindeer with a shiny, red nose who dreamed of pulling Santa's sleigh.

And thus a little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose came to being.
In the popular version ... Bob May depressed and broken hearted sat staring out his apartment window into the chilling December night. His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bobs wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home.
Barbara looked up into her dads eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?"
Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger. It had been the story of Bob's life. Life always had to be different for Bob. Slight of build when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he'd rather not remember.
From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in.
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 a make one - a storybook!
Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animals story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope.


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.
The booklet given out by the Montgomery Ward was an immediate hit with children and their parents with Montgomery Ward distributing 2.4 million copies the first year. The popularity of the story continued in the years immediately following 1939 but, because of war time paper shortages, Montgomery Ward was only able to produce and distribute 6 million copies between 1939 and 1946. Because the booklets were simple giveaways for children printed on newspaper stock very few of those original 6 million booklets produced by Montgomery Ward survive to this day.
Despite the immediate success of his creation, things did not go well for Robert May. His wife died about the time the Rudolph story first came out. The medical expenses of her illness left May deeply in debt. Further, even though May was the author of an immensely popular work he did not benefit financially from it. First of all, it was a giveaway and did not produce any revenue directly..., secondly Montgomery Ward was the owner of the work since the story was produced as a part of his job at Montgomery Ward .


Robert May Gets Rights to His Creation and Gene Autry Agrees to Record the Song

In late 1946, the financially strapped May approached Sewell Avery, President of Montgomery Ward and asked for the rights to publish the story commercially. Avery granted his request and in January 1947 the copyright to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was given to May by his employer. May then published the story commercially as a book in 1947 and also authorized the production and release of a nine minute cartoon version of the story.....May then teamed up with his brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks to turn May's story-poem into a song
May and Marks originally had some difficulty finding a singer for the But finally Gene Autry, the singer and actor best known for his role in westerns agreed to record the song. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was first sung commercially by Gene Autry in 1949 and instantly became a smash hit and had its place assured in the cannon of traditional Christmas music.

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!

 

The rest is history.


Rudolph himself turns 73 in January 2012.


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