Legend of Rudolf. Page 2 of 22
(This is an ancient tale, and its beginnings are lost deep in the mists of long ago times. At that time, the world was colder, and the wild places were strange and wondrous. The great remembrance that is Christmas was part of that world, and one of its greatest workers was Santa Claus. And while this tale takes place in the far north, where Santa lives, few of the farmers and herders in the region could speak of him except in terms of magic, rumor and dream. Most had never seen him, just as we have never seen him – even though they were closer to the magic of the world than many seem to be in more recent times. But they, too, experienced the sudden surprise of Christmas morning: where once there had been empty spaces on hearth or floor, now there were toy dolls and sleighs, miniature reindeer, and other, practical gifts provided to help the people survive in a hard world.
Through occasional contacts, and through tales learned from the wanderers, who ventured into the far north and returned to sing of what they had seen, people of the region discovered that Santa Claus lived in a remote valley whose location seemed to shift, moved by forces deeper than any could imagine. They learned that he had a magical team of eight flying reindeer, whose names had come to the people, cried on the cold wind:
Wise children of today’s world might ask about Comet, who is Cupid’s partner today. They might also wonder who Courage is, and why she flies in the lead with Dasher. They might also ask whatever became of Courage, and why she is no longer on the great team.
While the magic reindeer can live a very long time – seeming to live forever, in human terms – sickness may take them away, just as magic brings them their great powers of both flight and speech. In another tale is told the origin of Comet and the passing of Courage. This tale is yet older, and perhaps more mysterious, for it tells of the origin of a small creature whose young magic and sense of purpose transformed Santa’s flying team. This, then, is the Legend of Rudolf.)