...But do you recall, the most famous reindeer of all...
We all know the song about the reindeer beloved by millions, but few know the private pain that has haunted Rudolph all of these many decades. Now in his retirement years, Rudolph speaks for the first time about his abusive childhood and his time as a runaway. "Look, there were some tough years when I was a kid, it's true, but I wouldn't trade any of it, because then I might not be where I am today. Surrounded by my family, living like a king. What more could I ask for?" Rudolph asked, picking up a photograph of his late father and staring at it intently for a moment before returning to his usual upbeat self.
Looking at Rudolph sitting in his palatial estate, surrounded by his children, grandchildren, and his beautiful wife Clarice, it is difficult to remember a time when the most famous reindeer of all was a lonely, abused calf who felt out of place in the world.
From the moment Rudolph first came into the world, he did not fit in. Moments after his birth, Rudolph's crimson nose began glowing, setting in motion a chain of events that would forever change that part of the North Pole known as Christmas Town. Rudolph's father, Donner, captain of the sleigh team, and Alpha-male extraordinaire, immediately rubbed his dirty hoof all over his newborn's nose in an attempt to conceal its true appearance. It would be Donner's first of many efforts to hide his son's secret, and a tense father-son relationship was spawned.
When Santa saw the infant reindeer's nose glow for the first time, Donner assured him that the boy would outgrow it. "I hope so, if he wants to make my sleigh team," An irritated Santa told him, before leaving.
A few of the old-timers gathered recently at the local watering hole, Frosty's, to reminisce about Rudolph's pre-fame days. "Christmas Town is very political, you have to kiss a lot of ass, and it's very unforgiving toward misfits. It's the dirty little secret that nobody talks about," Blitzen remarked before sullenly finishing his drink.
As Rudolph entered adolescence, Donner took to making Rudolph wear a black, prosthetic nose when out in public. When Rudolph protested that the fake nose was uncomfortable, Donner told his son, "There are more important things than comfort! Self Respect!"
Dr. Joanne Spiro, Dean of The Kristopher Kringle Institute of Advanced Psychiatry, says that this type of paternal rejection may have had long-term ramifications for Rudolph. "Donner's abuse was really a double-edged sword. Not only did he reject his son, but he intimidated him into altering his true appearance to look a way that he deemed more socially acceptable, sending the destructive message, 'You are flawed and I am ashamed of you.'"
Some believe that Donner's attitude toward his son was connected to his own insecurity. "Everybody knows that Donner had the smallest antlers in town. That's why he was such a condescending jerk sometimes. Overcompensation. Textbook small antler syndrome," commented Cupid. "Agreed!" confirmed Vixen, toasting Cupid before quickly adding, "God rest his soul," making the sign of the cross with her hoof.
...All of the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names...
The pressure of concealing his "secret" weighed heavily on Rudolph during adolescence. Finally the day came when the fake nose came shooting off during flying lessons, and his shame was exposed. The other reindeer went into bully mode, mocking and humiliating Rudolph. Even his close friend, Fireball, turned on Rudolph, shouting, "Get away! Get away from me!" The only person really in a position to smooth the mess over was Santa Claus, and sources say that he only exacerbated the situation.
When asked to comment, a Spokesperson for Santa said simply: "We have no comment on this matter. It's The Christmas Season, Mr. Claus is very busy right now." But, many claim that Santa made "insensitive remarks" regarding Rudolph's nose, openly dismissing any notion that he would ever make the sleigh team. He was overheard telling Donner, "...you should be ashamed of yourself," before allegedly locking himself in his castle with a case of Weight Watcher's butterscotch pudding.
"Santa only fueled the fire. Rudolph and Donner always had a rocky relationship, but Santa didn't help. Don't get me wrong, Santa's a good guy, but he can be a bit myopic at times. It's tough for him to see past the sleigh team, he is very controlling of their image," said a source, wishing to remain anonymous out of fear of ending up on the naughty list. "Plus, I believe he was on a diet at the time. Everyone knows not to cross Santa when he's traded in butter muffins for egg whites. Let's just say he's not exactly Jolly Ol' Saint Nick if he can't carbo-load."
"It wasn't until the weather got foggy, and Santa thought he may have to cancel Christmas that Rudolph was even considered. Suddenly, the nose became an advantage. If it wasn't for that storm, I guarantee he would still be mocked ruthlessly by his peers, excluded from any and all reindeer games," Blitzen commented, before adding, "That's Christmas Town for you."
Not everyone agrees with Blitzen's assessment of Christmas Town. "It's actually gotten a lot more progressive over the years. They let that elf open up a dental office. That would have been unheard of in the old days," said Cupid.
Blitzen, scoffed at Cupid's comments, saying, "Believe me, dentistry was the least of that kid's troubles!"
"Don't start with the gay stuff again, you've had too much to drink. Elves are asexual; everyone knows that! Even if he were gay, no one would care. Look at Prancer!" Cupid fired back, outraged. "I swear to God, you never change!" she added before grabbing her purse and heading out the door.
"She doesn't listen. I could give two craps about that elf. My point was that if it weren't for the fact that Santa needed him, Rudolph would have ended up nothing more than dinner party fodder like Marvin the One-Hooved Moose or Prescott the Purple Pawed Polar Bear. It's a rough town is all I'm sayin'."
When asked about his tough upbringing, Rudolph seems to harbor zero resentment. "Look, my childhood was what it was. I wouldn't be who I am today, if I didn't face the challenges that I did. I love my life and I have no regrets." When asked to recall the emotions he felt when forced to wear the prosthetic nose, Rudolph wiped away tears and then excused himself. Clarice explained, "To this day he can't talk about the fake nose. It is still too painful." From the beginning, Clarice has been the one consistent supporter of Rudolph, and she is very protective of him. "The things he has lived through, the pain, the rejection, almost dying at the hands of the Abominable Snow Monster, any one of those things could have made him bitter, but Rudolph is pure good. Even after King Moon Racer told him he couldn't live at the Island of Misfit Toys, Rudolph still made sure that Santa rescued those toys. I would have told that pompous a**hole to go eff himself. But Rudolph took the high road. That's why I love him."
Dr. Spiro believes that Rudolph's decision to leave the Island of Misfit Toys in the dead of night, leaving Herme the Elf and Yukon Cornelius behind, was a combination of virtue and self-hatred. "He was afraid that his blinking nose would give them all away and Bumbles (the Abominable Snow Monster) would kill them all. But if you listen to the language he used when speaking with his friends, 'It's my nose. It keeps giving us away...it's my nose again. It's ruined us.' Those are the words of a reindeer struggling with major depression and self-esteem issues."
...Then how the reindeer loved him, as they shouted out in glee -
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, you'll go down in history.
After regrouping, Rudolph rejoined his family in the living room. He was not eager to speak anymore about his time as a runaway, stating simply, "Let's just say I grew more than a set of antlers on that journey." When asked if he misses the limelight and the thrill of leading the sleigh, Rudolph answered, "Nah, I got out at just the right time. Santa's got Doppler, He's got GPS, I wish I could say those were names of reindeer, but they're not. He's got the best computers and lights in that sleigh that money can buy. There's no need for a guy like me anymore." Rudolph looked off into the distance for a moment before adding, "You know, after my father died, I really took stock of what was important. There's nothing more important than family." Just then, Rudolph's grandson, Scamper, galloped over with a request, "Blink your nose, Poppy!" Rudolph happily obliged and for a moment he looked like the wide-eyed, young reindeer from his teen heartthrob days.
Later that night, at a dinner party for Clarice's elderly father, Rudolph and his clan laughed, joked and made merry. No one would ever guess that many years earlier, Clarice's father had angrily scolded her for her public outings with Rudolph, shouting, "No doe of mine is going to be seen with a red-nosed reindeer!" They say that time heals all wounds, and as Rudolph paused to sign an autograph for a young buck, it appears that here in Christmas Town, that old cliche couldn't be more true.