The one with her annual reindeer rant

by DaniGirl on December 14, 2010 · 10 comments

in Happy holidays

Hmmm, something’s just not quite right. The tree is up, the stockings are hung, the malls are filled with frantic holiday shoppers and Magic 100 has switched to all-Christmas-music-all-the-time format. I’ve blogged about Santa parades and the Portable North Pole. I’ve got all my bloggy holiday traditions covered, but it feels like something is missing.

Oh riiiiiiiight. It’s time for the annual reindeer rant! 🙂 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.

Reindeer TtV

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 by sending a reporter to the Library of Congress to reference the source material. (In past years, I’d been able to link to a Geocities site with the full text, but sadly, Geocities is no more.)

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.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 L_e_e_ December 14, 2010 at 3:08 pm

RT @DaniGirl: It's DONDER, not Donner, and it's personal!! http://bit.ly/fhAbpR #annualreindeerrant

2 l e e December 14, 2010 at 3:08 pm

RT @DaniGirl: It's DONDER, not Donner, and it's personal!! http://bit.ly/fhAbpR #annualreindeerrant

3 Coco December 14, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Lest we forget!

4 Paula December 14, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Do you think it was possibly Donder that ran over Gramma coming home from our house Christmas Eve? LOL

Great clarification post. The record has been set straight.

5 solemom December 14, 2010 at 6:38 pm

RT @DaniGirl: It's Donder, dammit. Not Donner, DONDER! http://bit.ly/fhAbpR #annualreindeerrant

6 Carly December 14, 2010 at 9:20 pm

The Little Man recently taught himself “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and sings it with the slightest of provocation. Every time I hear it, I think of you and just this past weekend wondered if there’d be an annual reindeer rant this year. 🙂

7 jennyandtim December 15, 2010 at 8:41 am

Glad to see the “reindeer rant”. It is a Christmas tradition.

8 Lee-Ann Sleegers December 15, 2010 at 11:16 am

My daughter has a book from the 70s about Rudolph and it clearly states that the lead reindeer were Dasher and Donder. Of course she’s invented a new reindeer Dashaway.

9 Mel Gallant December 17, 2010 at 10:15 am

I swear by all that is holiday-ness that I have always said or sung out Donner’s name appropriately. I did not know this misnomer is so widespread. Yay to reindeer rants! (I’m sure Donner thanks you). 🙂

10 moosilaneous January 19, 2011 at 10:38 am

I am completely won over. Just so you know, my kids have never heard the reindeer called anything other than DONDER – despite what’s printed in our family’s 1949 vintage Golden Book edition of “A visit from St. Nicholaus”

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