Monday, December 23, 2013

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May (1939)

I always though the song came first, but in 1939, Montgomery Ward put out a booklet - a coloring book, really, by an advertising copywriter.  The song was written ten years later (I thought it was far older).

 The illustrations have an advertising feel to them, and I'd never read the poem aloud - I think I will stick to the movie.  It's amazing that something sort of cheesy and temporary feeling created this Rudolph industry.  Rudolph, Santa, Blitzen and company look like they should be hawking some 1930s product  in Montgomery Wards.  "Santa and his 8 Tiny Reindeer ALWAYS smoke Lucky Strike!  It's the choice of the North Pole."  Or "As he drove out of sight, I heard him exclaim, I only use, Burma Shave."  Bad rhyme, I know.

Interesting only for the history behind Rudolph.


Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerRudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert Lewis May
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is most interesting as an stylistic piece of 1930s advertising, and also as a historical piece.  Robert May and the good folks at Montgomery Wards must have had no idea back in 1939 that a color book would launch a reindeer revolution.  Rudolph feels like he's been a part of Christmas since the baby Jesus was born (his nose was the star that led the Wise Men from the east, right?) but this book only dates from 1939, and the song from 10 years later!  The illustrations feel like 1930s advertising - you half expect as some point for Santa to tout the wonders of Lucky Strike, or for Burma Shave to rhyme with something in the poem.  The story of Rudolph is here, though, in all its glory.  This wouldn't be my first choice of a Christmas read aloud, but it's fun and harmless.


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