The Story Behind Rudolph

A child's innocent question sparks a father to create 'the most famous reindeer of all!'

 

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.
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  • Continued on page 2: »

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