Rudolph Unveiled

An essay of my interpretation of the Rudolph story can be found under the original lyrics (below). Comments welcome!

Original Lyrics:

"You know Dasher, Dancer,
Prancer and Vixen,
Cupid, Donner and Blitzen,
but do you recall
the most famous reindeer of all?
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.
Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"
Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in history!"

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Unveiled

When “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” came out in 1938, sung by the legendary Singing Cowboy Gene Autrey, I still lived in Holland and heard the music on Radio Luxembourg, the US Army network in 1946.  
Much later I began to see this evergreen song in a different light.  Could it be Robert May, who wrote the lyrics, had a hidden meaning? (The music was composed by Johnny Marks.) 

Robert May was an American advertising executive.  I am not sure how well he knew the Bohemian heartbeat and environment in which most artists dwell, but I feel this song is pure poetry.  Over the years, this message never left me.  
Now, deep in the winter of my life, and many years after hearing that happy tune, the flash of intuition from long ago has been distilled in me. But especially the lyrics.

During a recent gathering at friends, we were having a lively conversation about the origin and meaning of Christmas.  The consensus was Christmas evolved from a combination of pagan traditions, ancient mythologies and historic facts, blended together.

Seventeenth century pilgrims brought to the New World their tradition of Sint Niklaas. In 1823, Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem “The Night before Christmas” which, so the story goes, heralded Santa Claus in America.

Much earlier, Bishop Nicolas, 280-342 AD and who loved children, handed out presents to needy youngsters on December 6th, his birthday. He later became Saint Nicolas or Sint Niklaas.  The British accent morphed this into the “Santa” Claus we know today.
When I mentioned to my friends of all the Christmas songs, my favourite was “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, their reaction was one of surprise. “Why that one?”

To begin with, for me the song has a deeper meaning. We know that of all the reindeer - Dasher, Pranzer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen, the most famous of them all was Rudolph

And Rudolph had a shiny red nose.  And if you’d come a bit closer, you would even say it glows.   He was not included in playing any reindeer games. 

Rudolph was different.  He stood out from the herd.  Just like anyone who is different is often left out, considered eccentric or not taken seriously. (Not an unfamiliar story for many artists throughout history.)

When Santa notices this particular reindeer with a red and shiny nose that glowed, he figured Rudolph would be perfect to guide Santa through the foggy night with his sleigh loaded with treasures.

Rudolph appears with his illuminating nose, and becomes a pathfinder, a shining light in the darkness.  Then, all the other reindeer love him.  Just like today, when we “love” the works by great artists long after they have left us. 

Vincent van Gogh and here in Canada, Emily Carr, are perfect example of artists who were called names and ostracized during their lifetime

It was Santa who noticed the talent and worth of Rudolph so that he could be the guiding light in space, through the fog and darkness, enabling him to bring those gifts and treasures for all to enjoy. 

Rudolph is a symbol.  He represents those who leave a legacy, a treasure-trove of Music, Letters and Art.   Santa? Well, he is Space & Time of course, for only through time, greatness is recognized.

Rudolph not only pulls a sleigh loaded with treasures, but guides  other reindeer (the Human Family, the flock) from the darkness of ignorance into the Light.

So that’s why Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is my favourite song of the holiday season.  It has now become universal, like “Jingle Bells” or “Silent Night” and many more, together with the hymns and great choral works which brighten the hearts of us all. Still, the glowing red nose of Rudolph stands out.

And as the song goes, “He is the most famous of them all!”
Henri van Bentum

 Rudolph also has his own site:  Click here to visit.

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