Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rudolph Guides More Than a Sleigh

"Do you want to talk to Ruby?" asked Mike. She had been watching 'Rudolf the Red Nosed Raindeer' on television and was willing to talk because the show was paused. I told him that I'd like to  and she came on the phone full of reindeer and reindeer games. She explained with the zeal of a scientist who'd made a discovery, that Rudolph was born with his red nose. We talked, and she occasionally sang, through the story. Then she said that most of the kids in her school like Rudolph because he helped Santa get through the storm and deliver presents.

In Ruby's view of the world, the important part of the song, isn't the end. "The other reindeer laughed at him, and called him names, they wouldn't let him play with them when they played their games!' she explained to me. "Just because his nose was different. They were bullies and they hurt Rudolph's feelings."

I'm afraid I didn't handle this discussion well, as I was unprepared for it and so I focused on the ending. "But in the end they all loved him, and shouted out with glee!" There was a pause, "But Rudolph will always remember that they called him names, he will always remember they wouldn't play with him. When that girl was mean to me, she likes me now, but I still remember."

I turned more serious and said, "Yes, it's nice that they came to see Rudolph as having something to offer, but he will always be different from them and will always remember what they did."

The conversation took a sudden shift. Ruby told me that she'd bought for her Dad a tall Rudolph decoration and it has a red nose. She said it wasn't Rudolph when he was a boy but when he's a Dad. "Do you think that any of Rudolph's children have red noses?" I asked, and she said, certainly, "No." And then the conversation trialed off.

Just before I hung up she said, "Um, Dave ..."


"If Rudolph has a child with a red nose too, he'd have to love him a lot at home because he's going to get teased a lot at school, right?"

"Yes, Rudolph's little reindeer child would need to know that he was loved for his red nose and he'd need to understand why the other reindeer teased him."

"That's right!" she said.

After we hung up and I told Joe about the conversation, he said, "You know exactly where your next conversation with her will start, don't you."

I nodded.

It's time Ruby realized why bullies bully, and I'm ready for the question.


wendy said...

Rudolph won't forget his earlier treatment just because they're nice to him now.
WOW. What a girl that Ruby is. She is going to be an amazing woman one day!

scribe said...

i'm with ruby.
i've always been ambivalent about the whole rudolph thing for that very reason - perhaps, especially, how they came around in the end, which didn't ever seem to indicate they had any sense of acting badly before.

happy christmas!

CapriUni said...

When I was Ruby's age, I really hated the Rudolph song for precisely the same reasons as she outlined; I used to put my fingers in my ears when the song was played over the school's or hospital's P.A. system.

And it was the ending of the song that truly bothered me: the others "loved" him, the story goes, but only because they could use the very same difference that they abused him for, at the beginning. Rudolph's identity and value as a person was still defined (and limited) by his difference.

If his difference hadn't been useful to others (if his antlers had been crooked, or he had a long tail instead of a short one), would that have meant their teasing and bullying was justified?

Which, in some ways, makes the herd's conversion at the end even more hurtful.

Rachel in Idaho said...

I never thought about Rudolph that way; I think the worst of the bullying I endured was when I was in that in-between too old to care about kiddy stuff but not yet adult enough to see what's under the surface -- when I was CapriUni's age the bullying hadn't started so I didn't even notice any problems in the song. The Christmas stories that bother me are the ones with the Tiny Tims. You all know the schtick I'm talking about. Kind of wrecked watching Amahl and the Night Visitors a few nights ago with friends; the singers were amazingly good (if I could only sing half as well as the woman playing his mother) but the climax of the story bugged me while everybody else I'm sure thought it was so lovely and sweet. At least he was a bit of a brat...Arrrrrgh!

Ruby is a very astute girl. And she's totally right. That's not going to be an easy conversation, but I have faith in both of you to make it through.

(I changed the name I post this under to distinguish myself from another Rachel who posts here!)

Anonymous said...

wow that girl is amazing Dave, a treasure beyond all price. Good luck with that conversation, it has taken me 40 years and several incidences of being bullying and losing a baby in the process to figure it out. Maybe if someone had told me as a child I would have figured out my own responses.

Ettina said...

I used to like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer mainly as rejected kid wish=fulfillment, but at some point I came to the same realization that CapriUni described - that the other reindeer only accepted Rudolf because his difference turned out to be useful. I hate that song now for that very reason.