The Story of Rudolph

"Being different can be a blessing." by Evelyn Horan

A man named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his apartment window into the chilling December night. His four-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap wondering why her mommy had to go away to be with God in heaven. She looked up into her dad’s eyes and asked, “Why isn’t Mommy just like everybody else’s Mommy?”

From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in. He was often bullied by other boys. He was too little to compete in sports. He was often called names he’d rather not remember.

Bob completed college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward Department Store. Then they were blessed with their little girl. But his wife’s illness took all their savings, and now they lived in a small apartment in Chicago. His wife went to heaven a few days before Christmas in 1938.

Bob struggled to give hope to his child. Although he couldn’t even afford to buy her a Christmas gift, he was determined to make one—a storybook!

Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animal’s story to little Barbara repeatly.

The story Bob May created was the story of his life in storybook form. The character he created was a misfit outcast. The character was a little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose.

Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day. But the story doesn’t end there. The manager of Montgomery Ward heard about the little storybook and offered Bob May a small fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Montgomery Ward went on to print “Rudolph, the Red–Nosed Reindeer” and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores.

By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph. That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights to print an updated version. In a gesture of kindness, the president of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller. Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter. But the story doesn’t end there either.

Bob’s brother–in–law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. It was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. “Rudolph, the Red– Nosed Reindeer” was released in 1949 and became a great success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas.”

The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter blessed him again and again. All because he, like Rudolph, knew that being different isn’t so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.

This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of The War Cry.

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