Fantastic 13th – A Chronicle of Magical Creatures: Reindeer

Dear Readers,

In case you missed last month’s post, Buck Off Magazine is presenting a monthly series for which we post the story of a mythical creature on the 13th of every month. We’ll share the history and popular tropes as well as include some writing tips on how to give that month’s creature a unique twist.

If you have a mythical beast you want us to explore, leave a comment below! In the meantime I give you the reindeer, a holiday treat! What a buck!

WHAT IS IT?

A real reindeer, also known as a caribou: the animal that symbolizes Christmas

Reindeer, or Rangifer tarandus, are famously known as magical creatures that pull Santa’s sleigh every year on Christmas Eve. In real life, they do live in northern regions. The cows and bulls both grow antlers, which are the second largest in the deer community after the moose. These deer have the ability to see ultraviolet wavelengths, which enables them to distinguish predators from the snowy background and helps them see in foggy weather. Perhaps this is what made them a strong candidate for late night sleigh pulling, along with their winter hooves that prevent them from slipping on ice, an important characteristic to stop them from sliding off of rooftops during delivery night.

ORIGIN

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) Poster
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) Poster

So how did these creatures become known to pull Santa’s toy-stocked sleigh every year? It all started with Clement Clarke Moore, who published (anonymously at first) the 1823 poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” better known as “The Night Before Christmas,” which mentions a sleigh pulled by “eight tiny reindeer.” Rudolph wasn’t introduced to the group until 1939 by Robert L.

MODERN USE

Today, stories with Rudolph are where the reindeer get an active portrayal in the telling of Christmas tales. In others, they are background characters, not given much attention. Probably the most popular reindeer movie today is the 1964 classic Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. There are moves that star other reindeer, like the 1989 film Prancer. Watch any Christmas movie and you’re sure to see these deer flying around.

Prancer (1989) Poster
Prancer (1989) Poster

UNIQUE IDEAS

The reindeer don’t have a strong voice in many Christmas movies. Rudolph has been done time and again. What about giving the other reindeer a voice? Maybe Dancer got his name from his love of dancing. Perhaps you could enter him in a dancing competition. Or maybe you want to focus on Vixen, a doe-eyed darling searching for love in the bucks on her sled team. Speaking of love, what’s Cupid’s story? Why not try making his a Valentine one? He is named after the Greek god of erotic love. What would happen if he and Vixen hooked up? They could breed a new generation of Santa’s reindeer.

What makes reindeer fly anyway? In Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970), the Winter Warlock gives Nick magic feed corn. Try giving the story a science fiction twist and give Santa the power to lower the gravitation field around the reindeer. The possibilities are endless. I hope you’re inspired to give one of these ideas a try, or come up with your own! Let us know how it turns out. Until then, happy writing!

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