I never wanted to be the Grinch who stole Christmas (though I have fantasized about it at times). So, it is with some trepidation that I bring up for discussion one of the most beloved icons of the holidays, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Actually, the focus of this discussion is not so much the beloved little creature himself, but the song written in his honor — although, after much study, I would say dishonor. This time of year, “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” is played millions of times a day for millions of little children, who gleefully sing it while dancing around the Maypole (or is that on May Day?) or whatever they do at Christmas to bring peace and joy to the mall.

But should we be teaching kids this song?

Let’s carefully examine the life of Rudolph on which the tune is based. Here we have a little fellow who was different from the rest. His nose was quite shiny; you could even say it glowed. Some say it shined like a 60-watt GE lightbulb; others say it stood out like a tail light on a ’59 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Some say it even blinked, though we have no solid evidence of that. Whatever the case, the lustrous schnozzle caused many stares to come Rudolph’s way. He felt more like a lizard than a proud reindeer. (I once knew an editor whose nose glowed, but it was due mostly to his regularly sipping from a bottle of Evan Williams, which he called his “medicine.” But that’s another story.)

What happened to Rudolph on the playground was really sad. As will so often happen when someone funny-looking shows up, all of the other reindeer laughed and called him names. “Here comes Day-Glo,” they would sneer. “Been sniffing the plutonium?” others would taunt. Oh, how they derided him. Why are children so cruel?.

Worst of all, though, they would not let Rudolph join in any reindeer games, though we are not certain what those games were. Poor little Rudolph, rejected and dejected, would go off by himself and work the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle.

Then, one Christmas Eve, it was foggy as all get-out. Thick, gray fog lay over the land. “What the hell am I gonna do?” said Santa Claus. “I can’t make my way through this pea soup. The stupid reindeer will be going around in circles.” (There were no GPS systems in those days.) Nevertheless, Santa was under long-term contract to get the goodies to all the boys and girls, and he had no choice but to head out. He walked down to the reindeer quarters and told them to hitch up to the sleigh. They were heading out, fog or no fog, he said.

Then, through the extra-dense muck, Santa saw something glowing. “What the hell?” he said. He walked over to it, and there was little Rudolph, his nose shimmering like a lighthouse. Then, Santa, according to the song, had a brilliant idea: “Rudolph with your nose so bright, want you guide my sleigh tonight?” Rudolph, of course, immediately said yes; he knew his ship had come in.

But when word reached the other reindeer, there was much shock and dismay. OMG, they said, here is this little creep we’ve been calling names all this time, and now he’s going to be our leader. So, what did they do? They did what we all do when faced with such a situation. They immediately started sucking up, kissing ass. As the song goes, “Then how the reindeer loved him, as they shouted out with glee, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, you’ll go down in history.”

Yeah, right, the reindeer really loved him. What they probably really were thinking was this: “I hope the little bastard screws up royally. The only reason he got this job is because he has a flashlight for a nose.”

But did Rudolph care? Not in the least. As he told the reindeer behind him: “Just keep your antlers out of my ass.”

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Charles Seabrook

Charles Seabrook

A South Carolina native, Charles Seabrook has been a long-time environmental writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His books include Cumberland Island: Strong Women, Wild Horses and Red Clay, Pink Cadillacs and White Gold: Georgia’s Kaolin Chalk Wars. A resident of Decatur, Georgia, Seabrook also was one of the first reporters in the world to write about the mysterious disease that would soon be known as AIDS. He has written extensively on global warming, air and water pollution, and songbird decline.