Opprinnelig hadde julenissen bare åtte reinsdyr. Rudolf som vi kjenner best her i Norge, ble nummer ni først i 1939. I dagens luke bringer vi diktet om nissens åtte reinsdyr på originalspråket.
Clement Clarke Moore var professor i orientalske og greske språk ved det som senere ble Columbia University i New York. Han skal visstnok i 1823 ha skrevet diktet “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, der alle de åtte reinsdyrene opptrer ved navn.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
Source: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (Random House Inc., 1983)
Og så kom Rudolf: Stormagasinet Montgomery Ward i Chicago delte årlig ut fargehefter til kundenes barn. I 1939 var det krisetid, og man kom ikke utenom innsparinger. Derfor spurte stormagasinet en av sine egne ansatte, Robert L. May, om han kunne formgi årets fargehefte.
Med inspirasjon fra H.C. Andersens Den stygge andungen fant han opp Rudolf som blir mobbet av de andre reinsdyrene på grunn av den røde nesen.
Historien, som ble fortalt i form av små dikt og ledsaget av tegninger som barna kunne fargelegge, ble en suksess. Montgomery Ward delte ut cirka 2,4 millioner eksemplarer av heftet, og på tross av papirmangelen i krigsårene som fulgte, hadde man i 1946 nådd opp i over 6 millioner utdelte hefter. Siden har Rudolf vært helt sjef.