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The Origins of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

Santa would never have thought one of his reindeer would be as famous has he was in only a few decades. Rudolph, who could light the way through fog, snow, and night, became famous almost overnight in 1939.

Created by Robert L. May who worked for American catalogue retailer Montgomery Ward, Rudolph first came out in a storybook that was inspired by May’s childhood (no, May was not a four-legged mammal), a time when May would get bullied for his size. The Ugly Duckling was another muse. The books were part of Montgomery Ward’s holiday giveaways, six million prints of which were handed out in just eight years, despite paper being a precious commodity due to the wartime years.

Rudolph continued his descent into history with the advent of the song, 'Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,' which was authored by May's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks. It is second only to 'White Christmas' in terms of copies sold.

Rudolph, who was meant to be called either Rollo or Reginald, also had a film, a TV show, and his own comic book series under DC Comics. He had two sons, Robbie and Rusty, who had their respective BBC animations. Although his brother Ralph the Infra-Red nosed Reindeer (in the Over the Hedge comics) continues to be jealous of his popularity, Olive, the other reindeer, can thank Rudolph for giving him his claim to fame.

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