Setting the reindeer record straight

by DaniGirl on December 8, 2005 · 14 comments

in Uncategorized

It’s time to use this little soap-box of mine to do some real good for a change. There’s something that you need to know.

Take note, and spread the message: the names of Santa’s reindeer are as follows: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, DONDER and Blitzen. That’s right, DONDER. Not Donner. Donder.

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.


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Louise December 8, 2005 at 12:57 pm

Embarrassingly, I have to admit that I didn’t know that. Thanks for the clarification.
BTW, good luck with the Canadian Blog Award contest!

2 andrea December 8, 2005 at 1:53 pm

Just for the record, I have always known it was DONDER and have been correcting people for years. 🙂

3 nancy December 8, 2005 at 1:54 pm

Thank you! Now I can FINALLY sleep at night.

4 Marla December 8, 2005 at 4:18 pm

I suppose you’re going to argue next that it was the Donder Party that ate people? And that we should “Dond we now our gay apparel?” And that “Dond” King has funny hair?

5 Batman December 8, 2005 at 4:32 pm

Let it go Dani…let it go…

6 Yuriy December 8, 2005 at 5:26 pm

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If I find something else I’ll inform you.
Best Regards, Yuriy

7 Renee December 8, 2005 at 8:06 pm

Donder. Seems like I’d heard that before. Hmm . .interesting. I feel so educated. Should I go vote for you again? ;^)

8 Running2Ks December 9, 2005 at 1:52 am

So, no sleepy, dopey, and suzie?

9 Ktcakes! December 9, 2005 at 2:54 am

always been a pet peeve of mine, as well…
atta girl!

10 Marla December 9, 2005 at 4:29 am

I think Yuriy was glad to hear about the Donder thing too.

11 Danigirl December 9, 2005 at 1:25 pm

Hmph. I’d delete Yuriy’s comment, but somehow I think it adds something to the discussion. What, I’m not sure, but…

12 Yoda's Papa December 9, 2005 at 8:36 pm

D, I am so sorry to hear that Donner is not Dunder nor Dunner – but Donder. Ya know, I can remember people who took their names from the work they did – hence my ancestors called Masons (actually the Free type..) and others called Smith etc.
Have you considered the possibility that a few generations back your ancestors were Lapplanders who once a year did some sleigh driving for the local toy-obsessed philanthropic fat guy named Nick?

13 Yoda's Papa December 9, 2005 at 8:41 pm

And in follow up, Bliksem sounds an off lot like the German word Blick – meaning view. Not sure how that fits in – maybe he was the guy who led the way…which I would know if I could remember the lyrics in entirety.
But to your conundrum, Donner seems to roll off the tongue better than either Donder or Dunder – and isn’t the latter the stuff that you put in pillows?

14 Sara December 11, 2005 at 10:06 am

I’d never heard that. Thanks for passing it along. I will list Santa’s reindeer correctly from now on.

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