To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

Heartbreaking story behind Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Heartbreaking story behind Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

The popular Christmas song is sung every year

We know he has a very shiny nose, one you might even say glows, but do you know the story behind our beloved Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

His name is one sung in households and heard in supermarkets across the country at this time of year, but chances are you don't know much about the creature beyond the fact that 'all of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names'.

As it turns out, Rudolph is one old reindeer. He was created in 1939 by Robert L. May, a copywriter from Chicago who was given the task of coming up with a new character for an annual promotional colouring book released by the retail and catalog company Montgomery Ward.

May's work is reflected in songs, toys and films.
batchimages 2 / Alamy Stock Photo

The character he came up with was, of course, Rudolph; a reindeer who had an abnormally large red nose which caused him to get teased by the other, black-nosed reindeer.

May had been inspired to come up with a character who was 'shunned by others but vindicated some way in a happy ending' after reading the story of the Ugly Duckling; a tale which had appealed to May as a child, TIME reports.

Growing up, May described himself as being a 'shy', 'small' boy who had 'known what it was like to be an underdog'.

When he received the assignment to create a character, he was feeling 'glum' and generally down about the whole thing, later recalling: "Here I was, heavily in debt at [nearly] 35, still grinding out catalogue copy. Instead of writing the great American novel, as I’d once hoped, I was describing men’s white shirts."

His mood was also impacted for another, more serious reason - his wife had been diagnosed with cancer.

As he continued with his work, her condition only worsened and in July of 1939 she passed away.

May's boss offered to pass the assignment on to someone else, but the writer explained: "I needed Rudolph now more than ever. Gratefully I buried myself in the writing.”

The writer came up with the name Rudolph after trialling other R-names for alliterative purposes, casting off Rollo because it sounded 'too happy' and Reginald because it was 'too sophisticated'.

Rudolph is a reindeer who had an abnormally large red nose which caused him to get teased by the other, black-nosed reindeer.

Rudolph 'rolled off the tongue nicely', and his glowing nose was inspired by one foggy night in Chicago when May imagined Santa trying to do his work in the haze.

About a month after losing his wife, May read the story to his daughter Barbara and his in-laws, recalling: “In their eyes I could see that the story accomplished what I had hoped."

The story was published as a booklet in 1939 before the small publishing house Maxton Publishing Co. offered to print it in hardcover.

May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks then decided to write the musical version of the story, which topped the charts in 1949 and helped Rudolph live on to this day.

Featured Image Credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo / AJ Pics / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Christmas, Life, Health