The story of Rudolph is primarily known to us through the lyrics of Johnny Marks’ song (which provides only the barest outlines of Rudolph’s story) and the 1964 television special.The story Robert May wrote is substantially different from both of them in a number of ways.However, the glurgified account of that event reproduced above, while essentially correct in its broad strokes, erroneously inverts a key aspect of the process: The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was not developed by a man who was seeking to bring comfort to his daughter as her mother lay dying of cancer and who subsequently sold his creation to a department store chain.Instead, the Rudolph character and story was developed for commercial purposes by a Montgomery Ward copywriter at the specific request of his employer, and that copywriter then tested the story out on his own daughter during the development process to ensure it would appeal to children.Barbara looked up into her dad's eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mommy just like everybody else's Mommy?" Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Small when he was a kid, Bob was often bullied by other boys.Looking for an alliterative name, May considered and rejected Rollo (too cheerful and carefree a name for the story of a misfit) and Reginald (too British) before deciding on Rudolph.He then proceeded to write Rudolph’s story in verse as a series of rhyming couplets, testing it out on his 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, as he went along.
Deeply in debt from the medical bills resulting from his wife’s terminal illness (she died about the time May created Rudolph), May persuaded Montgomery Ward’s corporate president, Sewell Avery, to turn the copyright over to him in January 1947, and with the rights to his creation in hand, May’s financial security was assured.A man named Bob May, depressed and brokenhearted, stared out his drafty apartment window into the chilling December night.His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing. Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mommy could never come home.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.