I had never really thought about the origin of Rudolph until yesterday. Then yesterday - one foggy Christmas eve (I could not resist) I heard about it on the radio and then confirmed about.com.
The story of Rudolph, Santa Claus' special ninth reindeer, was written in 1939 by Robert L. May. He was an employee of Montgomery Ward, and the store created a book about Rudolph to give away to children on Christmas.
May's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, turned the story of Rudolph into a song in 1949. It became a hit for Gene Autry and has since become so enmeshed in American culture that it's considered a folk song despite the fact that it's not in the public domain.
"Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" Lyrics
The lyrics to "Rudolph" are based largely on May's story about Santa Claus and his magical reindeer. Its theme is similar to the story of the ugly duckling who grew up into a beautiful swan. Rudolph is teased and rejected by the other reindeer until he proves himself useful and industrious. It's a very American dream-like story line about how everyone can be special and important when they use their gifts and talents (isn't that what many of us look for in our personal and professional lives):
Then one foggy Christmas Eve Santa came to say:
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,won't you guide my sleigh tonight?
Merry Christmas. Enjoy a safe and healthy holiday weekend.