Mental Floss

The Quick 10: Rudolph Turns 70

Stacy Conradt
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I saw that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was on the other day and I refused to watch it. It just seems so early! But I probably should have tuned in for two reasons: it might have been my only shot this season, and it would have been nice of me to acknowledge everyone's favorite Christmas misfit on his 70th birthday. To make up for neglecting our crimson-nosed friend, we'll dedicate today's Q10 to him.

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2. Although the song has become synonymous with Christmas at this point, "Rudolph" is actually still copyrighted.

3. He could have been Rollo the red-nosed reindeer or Reginald the red-nosed reindeer. Those were two of the names considered before May settled on the name we know today. Rollo was rejected for sounding too sunny and happy; Reginald sounded too British.

4. If you grew up in Finland, you're probably be more familiar with Petteri Punakuono than Rudolph. Peterri is Rudy's Finnish counterpart. The Finnish legend of Santa Claus (AKA Joulupukki) doesn't name his reindeer the same way we do - Dasher, Dancer Donner and so on - so the beginning of the song doesn't start out the same way. Instead of running through the laundry list of reindeer the Finnish version translates to something like, "You remember Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding hood, and the grey wolf, but this reindeer is often forgotten."

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6. Although the character came out in 1939, the song wasn't recorded until 1949. It was May's brother-in-law who wrote the lyrics for it; Gene Autry recorded it. He actually almost passed on the song, but his wife urged him to go ahead and give it a shot. The song hit #1 on the charts during the week of Christmas, then plummeted right off them entirely. It's the only song in history to ever hit #1 and then just disappear.

7. In addition to being named Reginald or Rollo, Rudolph almost guided Santa's sleigh much differently. Instead of having a red, glowing nose that could cut through the fog, May considered giving Rudolph large, headlight-like eyes that would light the way. After much consideration, he decided that mean kids would be more likely to make fun of a red nose than huge eyes. Which is a good thing... that would have changed the song drastically! "Rollo, the bug-eyed reindeer, had very large protruding eyes." No??

8. Speaking of the song, songwriter Johnny Marks specialized in Christmas songs. We have him to thank for Rudolph, obviously, but also "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Run Rudolph Run" and "A Holly Jolly Christmas" (in addition to a bunch of lesser-known Christmas songs). The irony? Marks was Jewish.

9. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the stop motion animated T.V. special, is the longest-runing Christmas T.V. special of all time.

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Will you try to catch a viewing of Rudolph this year, or do you have another must-see Christmas special? We're a Grinch household, but if I happen to spot Rudolph on T.V. again, I won't pass him up next time.

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