Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing

Arts & Literature

The Story of Rudolph

by Evelyn Horan

A man named Bob May, depressed and broken-hearted, stared out of his apartment window into the chilling December night. His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap wondering why her mommy had to go away to be with God in heaven. Little Barbara couldn’t understand why her mommy could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad’s eyes and asked, “Why isn’t Mommy just like everybody else’s Mommy?” Rudolph,_The_Red-Nosed_Reindeer_Marion_Books

Bob’s eyes filled with tears. Life always had to be different for Bob. Small when he was a child, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was often called names he’d rather not remember. From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in.

Bob completed college, married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward Department Store. Then he was blessed with his little girl. But his wife’s illness took all their savings, and now Bob, his child, and wife 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, but he couldn’t even afford to buy her a Christmas  gift. But if he couldn’t buy a 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 to give her comfort and hope. Again and again Bob told the story. Who was the character? What was the story all about?

The story Bob May created was the story of his life in story book form. The character he created was a misfit outcast, like he was. 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, and Wards 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 from Wards to print an updated version of the book.

In a gesture of kindness, the president of Wards  returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a bestseller. 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 so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like his dear friend Rudolph, that being different isn’t so bad.  In fact, being different can be a blessing.

About the Author

Evelyn Horan is a former teacher/counselor. Her articles and stories have been published many times in periodicals for children and adults in both secular and religious publications. She holds General Elementary, General Secondary, Pupil Personnel, and also School Psychologist life credentials in the state of California. Horan is the author of a number of books including Aging Requires a Gentle Attitude. Learn more about her work at

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