09 December 2011

Day 10 of Christmas Nightlight Readings: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The year was 1939, the Great Depression continued, and the Montgomery Ward department store was feeling the economic stress. Every year at Christmas time, they had given coloring books out to children, but they decided that it would be cheaper and more efficient to make their own book. So they hired one of their copywriters, Robert L. May, to write a story that can be given to children as they visited Santa Claus. The story of the 9th reindeer, Rudolph, was born. This little retail gimmick turned into something bigger than they could have imagined. During the first year of publication, over two million copies were sold.

In 1947 a cartoon short based on the book was released, and ten years after the book was first published, a song written by May's brother-in-law Johnny Marks was sung by Gene Autry. The song became even more popular with the renditions of Bing Crosby and Burl Ives. The story has expanded to every generation with the Rankin/Bass stop motion movie made in 1964 (which is more based off of the Johnny Marks song than the actual book), which we all know and love (it will be on CBS tomorrow night at 8).

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