|Robert L. May created Rudolph in 1939 as
an assignment for Montgomery Ward. The retailer had been buying and giving
away coloring books for Christmas every year and it was decided that
creating their own book would save money. May considered naming the
reindeer "Rollo" and "Reginald" before deciding upon using the name
"Rudolph". In its first year of publication, 2.5 million copies of
Rudolph's story were distributed by Montgomery Ward. The story is
written as a poem in the meter of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas".
Publication and reprint rights for the book Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
are controlled by Pearson Plc.
Of note is the change in the cultural significance of a red nose. In popular culture, a bright red nose was then closely associated with chronic alcoholism and drunkards, and so the story idea was initially rejected. May asked his illustrator friend at Wards, Denver Gillen, to draw "cute reindeer", using zoo deer as models. The alert, bouncy character Gillen developed convinced management to support the idea.
Maxton Books published the first mass-market edition of Rudolph and also published a sequel, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Shines Again in 1954. In 1991 Applewood Books published Rudolph's Second Christmas, an unpublished sequel that Robert May wrote in 1947. In 2003, Penguin Books issued a reprint version of the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with new artwork by Lisa Papp. Penguin also reprinted May's sequels Rudolph Shines Again and Rudolph's Second Christmas (now retitled Rudolph to the Rescue).