“Did you know Rudolph is an orphan?” Oka’s long beard twitches as he talks. As Rudolph’s handler and interpreter, he is with Rudolph when we meet for an interview.
“He doesn’t talk about it much. Apparently Santa found him as a young deer in the forest. He was hanging out with some dodgy Arctic wolves and they had got him involved in an illegal marketing scheme selling bark disguised as musk ox to the polar bears. It was lucky Santa came along when he did. Polar bears are not pleasant to be around when they realise they’ve been tricked or when they’ve just eaten a belly full of bark.”
Rudolph’s red nose bounces up and down as he nods. There are a few words of English he understands – apparently polar and bears are two of them.
Rudolph stands 1.3 metres tall but appears even bigger due to his massive antlers. And his red nose glows brightly, even during the day.
Rudolph nuzzles Oka and makes a low deep rattling noise.
“Rudolph says he’s grateful to Santa for giving him a second chance and can’t wait to help deliver presents again this year,” Oka relays to me.
I ask Oka the burning question on everyone’s lips – how do reindeer fly?
Rudolph’s face breaks out into a grin. He recognises that question. He rattles and grunts and at the same time his knees start to click. Clicking knees is another way a reindeer communicates.
“There’s a little science to it and a little magic,” explains Oka. “Reindeer are one of the fastest creatures on earth. They can reach speeds of over 80kms. It’s a combination of speed and a special blend of magical herbs that Santa sprinkles that enables the reindeer to lift off and fly.”
I ask Rudolph about his management style and how he has managed to keep Santa and the other reindeer’s on track during their long flights.
“As you know, it hasn’t always been easy for Rudolph. The others used to laugh and call him names,” said Oka.
Rudolph hangs his head, obviously still feeling the sting of past rejection.
“But his nose and his incredible sense of direction has helped him become the skilled leader he is now.
“Rudolph is a popular member of the team. He takes the time to visit with all the reindeer before the big trip and helps motivate them. He can often been heard giving them pep talks in their stalls.”
Rudolf grunts and nuzzles his handler.
Oka laughs, “Ok, I’ll tell her. He wants me to tell you that he recently discovered the other reindeers will do almost anything for chocolate covered carrots – he now keeps a stash of them on hand!”
Rudolph gives me a warm and slightly smelly hug as he leaves.
Rudolph may have had a rough start to life, but he is now happy and has become a very important member of Santa’s team. Rudolph the ‘red nosed reindeer’ is a true Christmas miracle.