Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Real Story of Rudolph

Bob May was depressed and brokenhearted. His 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap sobbing. Her mother, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara looked into her daddy's eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mommy like everybody else's Mommy?" Bob's eyes filled with tears. He was overcome with grief and he was angry because it had always been different for Bob.

Bob was small as a child and was often bullied. He was too little then to compete in sports and he was frequently called names. He had always been different and couldn't seem to fit in. Bob completed college and married a loving wife. He took a job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with Barbara. Things seemed to be going well, until cancer struck Evelyn. Evelyn's illness robbed them of all their savings. Now Bob and his little girl were forced to live in two rooms in the slums. Evelyn died a few days before Christmas in 1938.

Bob tried to give hope to Barbara, but he couldn't even buy her a gift. He decided to make one - a storybook. He had created an animal character in his mind and would tell the story to little Barbara over and over to give her comfort. The character was patterned after his own autobiography and was a misfit outcast just like him. The character was a little reindeer with a big shiny nose named Rudolph. Bob finished the book in time to give it to Barbara on Christmas Day. However, that's not the end of the story.

The general manager of Montgomery Ward heard about the storybook and purchased the rights to print it. It was distributed to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946, Wards had distributed more than six million copies. That year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights to print an updated version. The CEO of Wards generously returned all rights to Bob May. The book became a best seller, which resulted in many toy and marketing deals. Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became a wealthy man. But that is still not the end of the story.

Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. It was turned down by Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, but was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal 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 so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.


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