In defence of Donder – redux

by DaniGirl on December 22, 2009 · 8 comments

in It IS all about me, Rants and rambles

The other day, I was on the phone at work and giving my last name to someone. They missed it and I repeated myself, “Donders, like the reindeer.” After I hung up, because the cubicle farm provides not a scintilla of privacy, a colleague asked me, “What was that you said about the reindeer?” And so I launched into my seasonal tirade, which reminded me that I almost forgot to repost it again this year. (Hey, if CBS can air How the Grinch Stole Christmas every year for 45 years, I’m entitled to a seasonal repeat too!)

And because I understand that the beauty of the Christmas special repeats is their familiarity, here’s last year’s post, verbatim:

“Oh no,” lament the bloggy peeps who have been around for a while. “Not the reindeer thing again!”

Why yes, as a matter of fact. It’s the reindeer thing again. If I can educate one misinformed soul every year about the correct names of Santa’s reindeer, my mission will be a success.

“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen;
Comet and Cupid and DONDER and Blitzen…”

As you might know, my last name is Donders. As such, it has been my lifelong quest to set the record straight and right the wrongs entrenched by Johnny Marks and Gene Autry.

Here’s a little history lesson for you. The poem “A Visit From St Nicholas”, commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas”, was written back in 1823 and is generally attributed to American poet Clement Clarke Moore (although there have been recent arguments that the poem was in fact written by his contemporary Henry Livingston Jr.) The original poem reads, in part:

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name.
“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on Dunder and Blixem!

As explained on the Donder Home Page (no relation):

In the original publication of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” in 1823 in the Troy Sentinel “Dunder and Blixem” are listed as the last two reindeer. These are very close to the Dutch words for thunder and lightning, “Donder and Bliksem”. Blixem is an alternative spelling for Bliksem, but Dunder is not an alternative spelling for Donder. It is likely that the word “Dunder” was a misprint. Blitzen’s true name, then, might actually have been “Bliksem”.

In 1994, the Washington Post delved into the matter (sorry for the noisy link – it’s the only copy I could find online) by sending a reporter to the Library of Congress to reference the source material.

We were successful. In fact, Library of Congress reference librarian David Kresh described Donner/Donder as “a fairly open-and-shut case.” As we marshaled the evidence near Alcove 7 in the Library’s Main Reading Room a few days ago, it quickly became clear that Clement Clarke Moore, author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” wanted to call him (or her?) “Donder.” Never mind that editors didn’t always cooperate. […] Further confirmation came quickly. In “The Annotated Night Before Christmas,” which discusses the poem in an elegantly illustrated modern presentation, editor Martin Gardner notes that the “Troy Sentinel” used “Dunder”, but dismisses this as a typo. Gardner cites the 1844 spelling as definitive, but also found that Moore wrote “Donder” in a longhand rendering of the poem penned the year before he died: “That pretty well sews it up,” concluded Kresh.

So there you have it. This Christmas season, make sure you give proper credit to Santa’s seventh reindeer. On DONDER and Blitzen. It’s a matter of family pride. (Or, for more fun with the true meaning of Donder, you can read this post from the archives, too!)

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mary Lynn December 22, 2009 at 9:31 am

YES! Yesterday my daughter asked me to name all the reindeer and when I said “Donder” she said, “No, Mom! It’s Donner.” And then I was all, “Nuh-uh-uh!” And then we argued back and forth for a while and she stubbornly refused to believe me in that delightful way that five-year-olds refuse to believe their mothers.

Still, it makes me feel better that there’s at least one other person out there who knows that the name is supposed to be Donder.

2 Valerie December 22, 2009 at 9:39 am

one of the books we have says “Dunder” and I thought – weird, isn’t it Donder? Thanks for clearing that up. But does that mean it should be Blixem not Blitzem?

3 A Crafty Mom December 22, 2009 at 1:44 pm

I stand corrected!! I did NOT know this and will address him properly from here on in. Off to cross off the wrong name in a couple of our Christmas books, lol!!

4 Scott Paterson December 22, 2009 at 2:09 pm

RT @DaniGirl: This holiday season, get your reindeers straight. It's DONDER, not Donner!

5 Mary Lynn December 22, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Word! RT @DaniGirl This holiday season, get your reindeers straight. It's DONDER, not Donner!

6 L_e_e_ December 22, 2009 at 3:58 pm

RT @DaniGirl: This holiday season, get your reindeers straight. It's DONDER, not Donner!

7 Barbara Dundas December 23, 2009 at 5:08 pm

@danigirl I've got ur back re: donder, correct it as we read

8 Shannon December 23, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Me too RT @OttMomGo: @danigirl I've got ur back re: donder, correct it as we read!

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