On my 66th celebration of Christmas I am reminded of the storybook I owned so long ago on the shore of Maryland in the early 1940s. The memories came flooding back when I received one of those Internet emails that makes the rounds during these days of mass email messages.
As a little girl I loved reading the poem and following the illustrations about the outcast red-nosed reindeer. However, that was all I knew about the book. I did not know that the story was written by a 34-year-old employee of the Montgomery Ward’s department store, Robert L. May, and published by Ward’s store in 1939, for distribution as a promotional gift.
That had to have been how the book came to be in my possession, as every Christmastime, my parents motored the fifteen or so miles to Baltimore to do holiday shopping at “Monkey Wards” while my brother and I excitedly told Santa Claus our Christmas wish list. By 1946, Montgomery Ward’s had given away more than six million of the storybooks, one of which most certainly had been a Christmas gift to me from the Monkey Ward’s Santa.
In the old book , except for his shiny nose, Rudolph was just an ordinary reindeer somewhere with his parents in an ordinary reindeer village. Rudolph was taunted and laughed at by the other reindeer youngsters for his luminous snout. Santa discovered the young reindeer’s glowing nose quite by accident one foggy Christmas eve, when he saw light coming from Rudolph’s bedroom whilst delivering presents to Rudolph’s reindeer family. Worried about the thickening fog and reduced visibility for his air-born sleigh, Santa requested Rudolph to lead his legendary team of reindeer. By the end of the journey Santa proclaimed Rudolph with his shiny nose to be the hero of that Christmas Eve night: “By YOU last night’s journey was actually bossed. Without you, I’m certain we’d all have been lost!”
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