Sunday, December 26, 2010

The True Story of Rudolph

A man named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night.

His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Bob's wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad's eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?" Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. 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.

Small 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. Bob did complete college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with his little girl. But it was all short-lived. Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums. 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 to make one - a storybook! Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal's story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling. 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 outcast like he was. The name of the character? A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose. 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. By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards 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.


MERRY CHRISTMAS 2010

21 comments :

  1. Very interesting story. The part about giving the rights back is not only a touching part of the story, it is almost unprecedented.

    Thanks so much

    http://timkeen40.wordpress.com

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  2. Hi Tim. I agree. When I read that part I was so moved that I decided then and there to post it on my blog. It's that kind of generosity that makes the world a better place. What a tragic story this would have been had they not returned the rights.

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  3. So nice to find goodness amidst tragedy! That's a lovely story. My DD gave me a book some years ago that has the story behind many of our favourite hymns and it's interesting to read of their backgrounds. I hadn't thought about the possibility of the Rudolph song having a special story, so thanks for sharing.

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  4. Thanks for stopping by, Carol. I'm very fortunate because so many friends, you included, send me these wonderful stories. I didn't know the story behind the song either. Warmed my heart.

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  5. This is lovely, Joylene. I had never heard this story. I'm so glad you shared it. One more reason I love bloggers.

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  6. Thank you, Jeannine. Hope your Christmas was wonderful. Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. Hi Joylene .. how fascinating .. being different, daring to be happy at a time of immense grief, perseverance paying off, and compassionate generosity by the CEO .. thank you - loved it .. Hilary

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  8. Extremely touching and heart-warming, Joylene. Even big corporations sometimes do the right thing. Wouldn't it be nice if that were the expected thing rather than a surprise...Maybe someday it will be. - Judy

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  9. Thank you, Hilary. It warms my heart when I hear stories like this. I'm so glad you liked it. Hope your Christmas was wonderful.

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  10. Hi Judy. You said it! What we take as generous should often be the norm. I think of that a lot and hope I see signs of it in my lifetime. Hope your Christmas was fabulous.

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  11. I never knew this story until one year, when Montgomery Ward's Christmas catalog theme was Rudolph, and they told this story. It gives me chills, to know the history behind the story.

    Thanks for sharing it!

    And Happy, Happy Holidays to you and a Wonderful New Year!

    --hugs

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  12. I'd heard this story before, but it was still as touching to read again. Thanks for sharing.

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  13. Dear Joylene,
    A bitter sweet yet heart warming story. Whenever I hear the story of Rudolph, or listen to the song, I shall think of the deeply moving story behind it. Thank you for this.
    In peace and warm wishes for a positive New Year, to you and your loved ones, Gary.

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  14. Hi Susanne. Yes, some stories are worth reading again. Hope your Christmas was wonderful. See you at Deadly Prose in the New Year.

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  15. Hi Gary. Warm wishes and peace to you, dear buddy.

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  16. That was wonderful...I had no idea that this was the true story behind Rudolph...Thanks for sharing!

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  17. Whoah! You mean Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer is actually a fictional character? Hey I always thought the nose was red cuz he was Irish! (Like *hic* my father-in-law *hic*)I'm so conflicted this season. First Santy Clause, y'know, the one workin' 34th Street, gets hauled off to court on a bum rap (holiday term would be "wrap"). Then the Grinch turns over a new leaf before he gets all the toys to the pawn shop, & now this. The holidays just ain't what they used to be.

    Nice story - really. Thanks.

    Donner & Blitzen n' Comet n' those other reindeer guys are real though.... right?

    Hope you had a nice Christmas.

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  18. Dave, now I'm depressed. I ruined your Christmas. I'm terribly sorry. I don't know what to say. I'll try not to submit anymore of these revealing, tradition-breaking stories. At least not until next year. LOL.

    Of course Donner and the boys are real! Holy deer patties!

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  19. Well, of course Rudolph is real, who do you think gave May the idea to write a story for his daughter? :)

    Lovely story, thanks!

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  20. Fascinating. I'd been wondering where the story came from.

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  21. Hi Tara. Well said! Happy New Year.

    Hi Sheila, glad you could stop by. Hope your New Year is the best.

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