Santa Claus's reindeer

In traditional festive legend, Santa Claus's reindeer pull a sleigh through the night sky to help Santa Claus deliver gifts to children on Christmas Eve. The commonly cited names of the eight reindeer are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. They are based on those used in the 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (commonly called "The Night Before Christmas"), arguably the basis of the reindeers' popularity.[1]

The enduring popularity of the Christmas song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" has led to Rudolph often joining the list, bringing the number of Santa Claus's reindeer up to nine.


In traditional lore, Santa Claus's sleigh is led by eight reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder (variously spelled Donder and Donner) and Blixem (variously spelled Blixen and Blitzen), with Rudolph being a 20th-century inclusion.[2][3]

The names Dunder and Blixem derive from Dutch words for thunder and lightning, respectively.


Single reindeer

The first reference to Santa's sleigh being pulled by a reindeer appears in Old Santeclaus with Much Delight, an illustrated children's poem published in New York in 1821.[4][5] The names of the author and the illustrator are not known.[5] The poem, with eight colored lithographic illustrations, was published by William B. Gilley as a small paperback book entitled The Children's Friend: A New-Year's Present, to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve.[6]

Eight reindeer

The 1823 poem by Clement C. Moore "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (also known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas") is largely credited for the contemporary Christmas lore that includes eight named reindeer.[7]

The relevant segment of the poem reads:

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
with a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:
"Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer, and Vixen!
"On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Dunder and Blixem!

"To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
"Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

In An American Anthology, 17871900, Edmund Clarence Stedman reprints the 1844 Clement C. Moore version of the poem, including the German spelling of "Donder and Blitzen," rather than the original 1823 version using the Dutch spelling, "Dunder and Blixem".[1] Both phrases translate as "Thunder and Lightning" in English, though German for "thunder" is now spelled Donner, and the Dutch words would now be spelled Donder and Bliksem.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph's story was originally written in verse by Robert L. May for the Montgomery Ward chain of department stores in 1939, and published as a book to be given to children in the store at Christmas time.[8] According to this story, Rudolph's glowing red nose made him a social outcast among the other reindeer. Santa Claus's worldwide flight one year was imperiled by severe fog. Visiting Rudolph's house to deliver his presents, Santa observed Rudolph's glowing red nose in the darkened bedroom and decided to use him as a makeshift lamp to guide his sleigh. Rudolph accepted Santa's request to lead the sleigh for the rest of the night, and he returned home a hero for having helped Santa Claus.

Rudolph's story is a popular Christmas story that has been retold in numerous forms, most notably a popular song, a stop motion television special and an animated feature film. The television special departed significantly from Robert L. May's original story, depicting Rudolph as Donner's son, who lived among Santa Claus's reindeer from birth. In 1998, a film titled Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie was released that depicted Rudolph as Blitzen's son.

In comics

  • The comic strip Over the Hedge (which debuted in 1995), added a character named Ralph, the Infrared Nosed Reindeer, who is Rudolph's brother and has a nose that emits infrared radiation.

In film

  • The feature film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie (1998), introduces Mitzi as Rudolph's mother and Blitzen's wife (as opposed to the Rankin/Bass version, wherein Donner is Rudolph's father and his mother is unnamed). It also features two other reindeer: Rudolph's love interest Zoey and his cousin and rival Arrow, the latter of whom is Cupid's son.
  • The animated movie Annabelle's Wish tells the story of Annabelle, a young calf who dreams to fly after meeting Santa and his reindeer. Many years later in her old age she is granted her wish and is transformed into a reindeer herself as she leads Santa's team.
  • Chet is a young reindeer-in-training who is introduced in the 2002 feature film The Santa Clause 2 (2002).
  • In the film Blizzard (2003), the title character is Blitzen's daughter. The film also includes Delphi, Blitzen's mate and Blizzard's mother.
  • In the 2011 film Arthur Christmas, Arthur and his grandfather Grandsanta use a team of reindeer who are the great-great-grandchildren of the original eight to pull Grandsanta's old sleigh.

In literature

  • L. Frank Baum's story The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1902) includes a list of ten reindeer, none of which match the names of the versions found in "A Visit from St. Nicholas". Flossie and Glossie are Santa's principal reindeer in Baum's story. Claus gathers eight more reindeer, named in rhyming pairs: Racer and Pacer, Fearless and Peerless, Ready and Steady, Feckless and Speckless.

In music

In television

  • The stop-motion animated TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) features Fireball, son of Blitzen, as one of several reindeer trying out for the sleigh team. Another reindeer is said to be the son of Dasher and struggles at flying, along with two other reindeer fawns of the same age. A young fawn named Clarice is also featured and eventually becomes Rudolph's love interest. Donner is portrayed as Rudolph's father, while his mother is left unnamed.
    • A stop-motion animated sequel, Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979), features an additional antagonist reindeer named Scratcher, who was originally planned to lead Santa's team before Rudolph was chosen.
  • In the animated television special Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966), the Grinch disguises his dog Max as a reindeer.
  • Lightning, from the Sesame Street Christmas special, Elmo Saves Christmas (1996), is a reindeer-in-training.
  • In the TV special Robbie the Reindeer (1999), the eponymous Robbie is ostensibly assumed to be the son of Rudolph. His special feature is his nose, which has supernatural powers that allow him to jump and fly farther and faster than most reindeer.
  • The South Park Christmas special "Red Sleigh Down" (2002), Santa's sleigh is shot down over Iraq, killing the eight famous reindeer. The protagonists go to rescue him with Santa's backup team: Steven, Fluffy, Horace, Chantel, Skippy, Rainbow, Patches and Montel.
  • In the TV special Holidaze: The Christmas That Almost Didn't Happen (2006), Rusty is said to be Rudolph's younger brother. Unlike the other reindeer, Rusty is flightless, so instead he assists Santa and the other reindeer from air traffic control.
  • The TV series, My Friends Tigger & Pooh, introduced a special Super Sleuth Christmas Movie (2007) that included Vixen's husband Frost and daughter Holly.
  • The television special, The Flight Before Christmas (2008), features Niko, a wild reindeer whose mother Oona claims he was fathered by one of Santa's team. After a falling out with his herd, he runs away to try to meet his father, learning to fly in the process. His father turns out to be Prancer. A sequel titled Little Brother, Big Trouble: A Christmas Adventure was released and featured Niko gaining a stepbrother named Jonni, after Oona marries a reindeer named Lenni.
  • Thrasher is a top-secret, oversized reindeer introduced in the Disney TV special Prep & Landing (2009). He leads the titular "prep and landing" team of elves in a sleigh ahead of Santa Claus' main sleigh and is Dasher's second cousin.
  • In the premiere episode of The Simpsons, Homer misremembers Donner and Blitzen collectively as "Donna Dixon".[13]

See also


  1. 1 2 Moore, Clement C. (2 December 1823). "An Account of A Visit from St. Nicholas". Troy Sentinel. p. 2. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
  2. Jeffers, Harry Paul (2001). Legends of Santa Claus. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications. p. 85. ISBN 9780822549833.
  3. Triefeldt, Laurie (2008). People & Places: A Special Collection. Sanger, CA: Quill Driver Books. p. 77. ISBN 9781884956713.
  4. Bowler, Gerry (2000). The World Encyclopedia of Christmas. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. p. 199. ISBN 0-7710-1531-3.
  5. 1 2 Bowler, Gerry (2005). Santa Claus: a biography. McClelland & Stewart Ltd. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-7710-1668-4.
  6. "A New-Year's present, to the little ones from five to twelve". The Children's Friend. Broadway, New York,: Gilley, William B. III. 1821.
  7. Siefker, Phyllis (1997). Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, Spanning 50,000 Years. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. p. 4. ISBN 0-7864-0246-6.
  8. Wook Kim (17 December 2012). "Yule Laugh, Yule Cry: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Beloved Holiday Songs (With holiday cheer in the air, TIME takes a closer look at some of the weird stories behind our favorite seasonal tunes)". Time."Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (p. 3)
  9. "Loretta Lynn - Shadrack the Black Reindeer/Let's Put the Christ Back in Christmas (Vinyl)". Discogs. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  10. Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Mr. Christmas - Joe Diffie - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  13. "16 of the greatest Simpsons Christmas jokes", by Alex Nelson, The i

Further reading

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.