Backstory — Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a classic underdog story, but maybe not the way you think. In this episode, we discuss the unlikely journey of Robert L. May from workaday copywriter to creator of an icon.

Rudolph began his life as the subject of a story told in rhyming verse, that was given away to shoppers at the Montgomery Ward department stores. Millions of books were handed out over several seasons at all of Montgomery Ward’s stores.

Robert May eventually owned the rights to the character and his brother in law, a prominent songwriter, wrote the familiar song. The story and song would later be adapted into a full length television special that introduced characters and plotting not included in May’s original.

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