Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yiddish Rudolph

Oy Vey!  You know you can find just about everything you're looking for - and plenty you're not - on the Internet these days.  While looking for something else (of course), Abq Jew discovered this Yiddish rendition of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".

Which is really quite charming and irresistible.  So -
Return to the great Jewish themes of outsider-ness & redemption with "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"--- in Yiddish! The greatest klezmer Christmas song ever! A Yiddish "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," performed by San Francisco's Kugelplex. Vocals by Jewlia Eisenberg of Charming Hostess. Yiddish translation by David Rosenfeld, grammatical guidance by Gerry Tenny.

And how about Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen?  What are they - chopped liver?  No - they are the bullies who "never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games."  Abq Jew has always wondered about this verse.  What, exactly, are reindeer games?

After pondering for years, Abq Jew has finally figured this out.

Rudolph was, literally, the odd reindeer out.  He was Number 9.  Bridge partners had been determined long before Rudolph showed up.  Any other reindeer games also paired opponents - with no place for Rudolph.  Even a tennis tournament would have no way to fit Rudolph in.  Unless the other reindeer learned some new games - they could all go bowling! or start their own baseball team! - Rudolph was left out of the fun.

To Abq Jew, this makes Rudolph the Jewish Reindeer.

And - you remember the story? - it turns out that Rudolph has yichus, and he ends up out in front of Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen.  Case closed.

You can learn  more than you ever wanted to know about the Elite Eight (and Rudolph) here. Some interesting Rudolph / Reindeer facts:
  • The 1823 poem by Clement C. Moore "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (also known as "The Night Before Christmas" or "Twas the Night Before Christmas") is largely credited for the contemporary Christmas lore that includes the eight flying reindeer and their names.
  • In An American Anthology, 1787–1900, Edmund Clarence Stedman reprints the 1844 Clement Clarke 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."  Both phrases translate as "Thunder and Lightning" in English, though German for thunder is now spelled Donner, and the Dutch words would nowadays be spelled Donder and Bliksem.
  • 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.
  • L. Frank Baum (of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)'s 1902 story "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" includes a list of ten reindeer, none of whom 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, Pacer, Fearless, Peerless, Ready, Steady, Feckless, and Speckless. When the story was remade into a television special in 1985, the television producers scrapped Baum's reindeer and replaced them with those found in "A Visit from St. Nicholas."
What can we learn from this?  Those who celebrate Reindeer have their traditions and stories, some old, some new.  But we Jews? We have traditions and stories - midrash - too, but our traditions and stories are exegesis!

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