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A History of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in a Musical Format

By Sarah Malburg

Everyone loves that cute Christmas reindeer, Rudolph, but do you really want to know the history behind the name? This is a great Christmas legend that is a favorite of children all over the world and it's one that will be loved in a musical format by any audience.

The Legend of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

As an elementary Music teacher, I always use the lovable story of Rudolph in my instruction around the holidays for its moral value is quite significant in my students' lives. We all know that Rudolph has a uniqueness about him (his shiny red nose) that makes him different then the rest of Santa's reindeer. I feel it is an important lesson for my kids to know that no matter how they differ from others, that they are still special in their own way. We all have different talents and strengths and this is the lesson I strive to teach through this wonderful tale. Peer pressure is a hardship many students face and this story often encourages them to have better self-esteem. In addition, the Christmas carol is a fun one to sing and perform as well!

The Legend/Story Itself

For many years Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer has been one of the most beloved Christmas characters and has been a cultural icon for children all over the world. Many of these children, however, are not aware of how the Christmas legend of Rudolph came about. What was its original purpose?

I decided that for the musical, I would research the history behind the "most famous reindeer of all", for every story has a story behind it...right? I wanted my students and their parents to understand why this character has brought such joy to our faces every year since they were little. What is it about this story that makes it so emotional? I found two versions of the story that are very similar, one is just a shorter version.

Here is an excerpt from one version of the origin of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer:

..."Bob May knew only too well what it meant to be 'different'. As a child he had been weak and delicate. With the innocent cruelty of children, his playmates had continually goaded the stunted, skinny lad to tears. Later, at Dartsmouth, from which he graduated in 1936, Bob May was so small that he was always being mistaken for someone's little brother.

Nor was his adult life much happier. Unlike many of his classmates who floated from college into plush jobs, Bob became a lowly copy writer for Montgomery Ward, the big Chicago mail order house. Now at 33, Bob was deep in debt, depressed and sad.

Although, he didn't know it at the time, the answer he gave the little child on his lap was to bring him fame and fortune. It was also to bring joy to countless thousands of children like his own Barbara. On that December night in the shabby Chicago apartment, Bob cradled the little girl's head against his shoulder and began to tell a story . . ."

(To view the full version of this story you can go to www.youthonline.ca or www.beliefnet.com for a longer version.)

The Presentation

The presentation for this Christmas legend is simple. I chose two students from the 8th grade to narrate the legend because it is a little longer. I provided them the legend on paper and they stood at a podium for this was the longest portion of the musical.

I then chose the 7th and 8th grade classes to sing of course, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, for I figured it would be the most fun for them and they would get the audience involved the most.

Costumes

Costumes for this legend were very easy. All I did, was make antlers out of brown poster board. I used an antler pattern for all of them and then just measured them to fit their heads and stapled them together. I then chose one student to wear all brown and to wear a huge red clown nose that I had borrowed from one of the teachers. He then danced around the audience while the students sang the song. It was very cute and it got the audience to clap to the music and participate. The younger children loved it as well! If you had a little extra money, you could get nicer reindeer antlers made from cloth and a suit from a costume shop or Music K-8 Magazine's website.

Choreography

The dancing for this number was simple and mostly hand motions again and a little bit of turns and shaking. The students actually helped me choreograph it which made them more willing to participate (especially the boys-you know how young teenagers can be). I also let them add the "extras" in the lyrics i.e. "like Monopoly" and ""Ho Ho Ho".

This is a great musical idea and one of the most famous Christmas songs of all time. Your audience will love hearing the story behind old Rudolph, especially when narrated by their own children. It is definitely a performance that will "go down in history"!

Additional Christmas Legends

Here are the websites where you can find other traditional Christmas legends including those I have used as interludes in this musical:

The Legend of The Candy Cane: http://www.homeschooled-kids.com/candycanelegend.html

The Legend of Tinsel-www.lifeissues.net

The Legend of Holly-www.pennyparker2.com

The Legend of the Poinsettia: http://www.pauleckepoinsettias.com/history/legend.aspx