Friday, December 23, 2011

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer



Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been around since 1939, when Johnny Marks wrote it based on a story published by the Montgomery Ward company. It is a classic story of a bullied reindeer coming out on top and saving Christmas.

But who were "all of the other reindeer"? Santa Claus to the rescue!

Dasher, it turns out, was so named because he insisted on racing all the other reindeer every day, which seriously started to annoy them. His job is to clean and wax Santa's sleigh and to make sure that the directional radar is working right.

When Dancer was a faun, he just wanted to dance. Santa observed this and named him accordingly. Dancer even put on tap dancing shows, and Santa suggested that he go to Broadway...but he decided he would rather pull the sleigh. When he isn't pulling the sleigh, he's doing nightly shows for the elves.

Prancer is the activities coordinator of the reindeer. He especially enjoys organizing games of hide and seek, although they have to be careful hiding in the forest, due to hunting season. He also sponsors Friday night movies and makes popcorn and hot chocolate for everyone.

Vixen is in love with Cupid. She's a bit of a neat freak, and makes sure the reindeer are clean...much to the annoyance of everyone but Cupid. Imagine having one of your peers make you take a bath every night! Most of the reindeer generally avoid her as much as they can.

Comet, named after the comet Blorouis, is a straight-A student, and the pride and joy of his parents and Santa. He wants to be a teacher when he grows up. (If he was around in 1939, it must take a long time for reindeer to grow up!)

Not surprisingly, Cupid was born on Valentine's Day. Santa named him Cupid due to his annoying habit of trying to arrange dates between reindeer. To that end, he even published his own newspaper, The Cupid Times. Blitzen works in his office, and Rudolph delivers the papers, which cost 25 cents.

Donner (a.k.a. Donder) is the fitness expert. He drills the reindeer and makes sure they're in excellent shape for the annual flight around the world. Training starts November 8, when reindeer try out for spots on Santa's team.

Blitzen brought back memories for Santa, back when Santa was in high school football, and their team used to blitz their opponents. Whenever Santa's team runs into a blizzard on their annual flight, Blitzen takes the lead and pulls them through.

Rudolph was always the underdeer. The other reindeer always made fun of him, shunned him and bullied him due to his shiny nose. When he was young, he even tried to make it not shine, but nothing worked. On that fateful Christmas Eve, the fog at the North Pole was so thick that you couldn't even see your hand in front of your face. Santa very nearly canceled the trip due to the weather conditions, until he realized that it might be worth a shot to put Rudolph in the lead. The rest, as they say, is history.

But wait! Claus has a different tale to tell.

Dasher comes from Los Angeles and has his own movie studio. He spends most of his time making movies with Venison Studios and hanging out on the beach. He is notorious for flying to the North Pole on his own private jet with only minutes to spare before the annual flight with the other reindeer. If he weren't so good at the Santa gig, Santa would have fired him years ago for his chronic lateness.

Dancer and Prancer are twins. They had a great traveling act going many years ago, but their dream of stardom was brought to a tragic end by a hunter who fired on the stage. Out of work, they found an ad for a job at the North Pole, requesting anyone with talents useful at Christmas.

Both sites agree that Vixen is neat, and that she's in love with Cupid. She is known for her graceful flying skills. Vixen was leading a group of trainee reindeer when they got into a dangerous situation. Cupid came to the rescue, and ironically, Vixen was smitten with the other Cupid's arrow. Vixen and Cupid are happily married, and they still hold hooves.

Comet was leading the team through the fog one night, when tragedy struck and they had a serious accident. It evidently caused brain damage because he's been "spacey" ever since (thus the name). He thought he saw the lighthouse light at the tip of the North Pole, but unfortunately, it turned out to be a comet. He heroically saved the rest of the team by headbutting it out of the earth's atmosphere, but he has never been the same since.

Both sites agree that Cupid is the matchmaker of the team. Once, he saw a group of reindeer trainees spinning out of control in a sudden updraft of wind and on a collision course with a nearby mountain. He dove in and grabbed the lead rein, guiding them back under control. A young doe named Vixen took note of that, and he has been her hero (and husband) ever since.

The two sites disagree about the gender of Donder. Weird. However, they agree that Donder keeps the reindeer fit. She has a friendly rivalry with Dasher, mainly because she thinks she should be Captain rather than him. She's also in charge of the reindeer games.

Blitzen was so named due to his proclivity to being struck by lightning. It's happened so much that he has an electrical charge now! He can get radio and TV signals on his antlers, and they even point north. He is Santa's compass, radio and lightning rod on the annual trip.

Sadly, Claus.com, like the other reindeer's initial reaction, discriminates against Rudolph and leaves him out. Such a sad commentary on reindeerkind. Hopefully they learn the error of their ways. They paint such heroic pictures of the bully reindeer that it makes me wonder if these stories are true. Perhaps all the heroics were actually done by Rudolph and everyone else is jealous.

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I also find the side comments in the song interesting.

His nose was shiny "like a lightbulb." I hope so, if it's gonna get the reindeer through the fog.

One of the names the reindeer called him was Pinocchio. How mean can you get? Comparing him with a puppet who very nearly turned into a donkey and was known for lying. However, like Rudolph, Pinocchio came out on top, and he learned his lesson. The comparison breaks down, though, in that it is the other reindeer, rather than Rudolph, who learn their lesson.

It suggests that the reindeer enjoy playing Monopoly. Really? Very few games bore me, but Monopoly is quite possibly the most boring game I have ever played. The only time I enjoyed it was when we played it in class in high school once, and it had to be split into segments due to limited time.

Rudolph will go down in history, like Columbus. That is an apt comparison, as Columbus and Rudolph, one could say, were/are both famous explorers who dreamed of circumnavigating the globe. Columbus didn't succeed at that, but Rudolph does it every year! I hope that Rudolph's navigation skills are better than Columbus', though, and Rudolph doesn't land in Cuba thinking he's in China! That could lead to some embarrassing situations.

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I also find it interesting that the reindeer are not that different from humans. They tend to shun, bully, and generally mistreat anyone who is different from them, whether or not they can help it. Then, only when it turns out there's something in it for them do they accept the person that is different. I think the lesson of this song is that we need to value each other's differences and realize that, as they say, "what makes us different makes us strong."

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