The Real Rudolph Story

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. Bobs 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 a 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.


Neat story. I had never heard this before.
Terry said…
Dear Sioux...Just want to stop by and wish for you and Raf and Turtle a very happy rest of the holidays greeting!
I am so happy that you come so much to my blog and here I am so few times here!
It is always nice to see you!
We spent Christmas eve at Betty's.
Every year the whole Golden clan, kids and all go over to Betty and John's. I think that there must have been about fifty people there this where to sit!
Thursday, Christmas day Bernie and I and Betty's family and my sister, Sandra, her son and her son's girlfriend and two of Teddy's [Ted lives in Iowa] kids went to Rachel's for Christmas dinner. There were also four dogs involved!
I will be posting Christmas pictures probably Monday.
Tomorrow it is Grandpaw Ron's birthday so I will have to post him a birthday greetings.
How come I never knew when yours and Raf's birthdays are Sioux. Can you tell me when?
Well I will say by for now and wishing for you all the best for the New Year.............Love Bernie and Terry
Sue, It's nice to hear that story again--after many years. There are so many great Christmas stories and memories. Sometimes they get lost in all of the hustle and bustle.

Michelle said…
That was a really great story.
Gail said…
Thank you for sharing this story, I had never heard it before. I copied it to share with my ten year olds in Sunday School. Sounds like you had a very Merry and Blessed Christmas.
yoon see said…
My friend Sioux,
Thanks for sharing Sioux.
Actually you are not alone.
You still have your great family and us here...I am glad that I found you as my dear friend:)

This story is so touching.
Yeah, I always believe in miracles. This stoty is not exceptional.
I cried when I read this post.
You know father and mother's love are the greatest in the world. And also God love is the Greatest too:)
But now, I smile again. Seems like the sorrow had overed and good news came along....triumph
Have faith!

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