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Rudolph’s Revenge

Samantha Neave tells a good old-fashioned tale of Christmas scheming.

Not many people know that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a keen philosopher. He is known throughout the world as Santa’s favourite reindeer, and as legend has it he is a sweet and bashful helper, his red nose lighting up the night sky at the helm of the sleigh on Christmas Eve. But at the North Pole, where everyone has a better grip on the deer himself, he has a reputation for quick appraisals, a dry, cynical humour, and a sharp wit. Most of the other deer think he makes a brilliant companion down at the Seal & Otter, and the elves find him endearingly cheeky. And under all the bravado and sarcasm lies a genuine curiosity for knowledge and thirst for thought. Of all the deer at the North Pole, Rudolph is indeed the most well-read, and is recognised to have a keen eye for spotting flaws in a train of thought, as well as producing varied and inventive thoughts of his own. Perhaps this is what contributed to his brilliant academic resume and led to his stint as an honorary member of the elves’ debating team (he does love to argue his point, especially after a glass of carrot juice). So the other deer, the elves, even the Santa Impersonators who are whisked south for the holiday season, love him, because outwardly, he’s just a frank, fact-dispensing, lovable, Christmas-loving rogue. But that persona couldn’t be further from the truth.

Unfortunately for Santa, Santa is the only one who knows the truth.

* * *

Two years on from Santa rallying the elves for his new website venture, Rudolph sat alone in an igloo at the Pole’s Western border, staring out of a small porthole at the bears in the distance, waiting. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War lay neatly on his desk. It was almost time to kick his Plan B into action… He took a sip of cold water, contemplating patiently.

Finally, there was a knock at the door.

“Yes,” he murmured. Then, looking round to discover that the door hadn’t opened, he concealed his irritation with a calm but raised: “Come in!”

“Sorry I’m late!” The Easter Bunny hopped in, squeezing snow from his long ears and shaking violently. “There was a delay on the Northern Line, then all those damned Impersonators started jostling me as they headed south… No respect these days…”

“What happened to your coat?” Rudolph asked politely, feigning concern.

“Ahh… I got in a fight with a beluga whale. It’s okay, I don’t think she followed me.”

“Have you got what we need?”

The Easter Bunny unclipped his briefcase. Rudolph noticed a large, beluga-whale-snout-shaped dent in its side. “Drink?” Rudolph offered pleasantly.

“No, no thanks, I have to dash after this. Strikes are making things so awkward for all of us, you know…” But as the Easter Bunny rabbited on about irrelevant nonsense, Rudolph fazed out and reached for the contents of the briefcase, smiling and nodding at his visitor. ‘Ahh! – There…!’ he thought. ‘This is the key… a barrage of books by some of history’s greatest thinkers… This will throw Santa off course, once and for all!’ He flicked through some pages, considering, ‘What if I could manipulate the entire workforce into re-thinking their loyalty to ol’ Saint Nick? I could have a quiet word with them about their freedom – or lack of it!… Or – what if I set Santa an impossible paradox to solve? Surely that would stump his limited brain so much that he’d be bound to capitulate to a myriad conflicting thoughts, leading to his timely demise!’

Rudolph hatches a cunning plan
Rudolph © MrYgg 2011 Creative Commons 1

Rudolph grunted a low laugh to himself, then paused suddenly over a mix tape he and Santa shared back in the day which had accidentally made its way into the case. If anyone had been looking, they might have detected a touch of mournfulness on his face… But nobody was looking – at least nobody apart from the Easter Bunny, and he was lost in his own pointless meanderings. Which now came to a halt.

Rudolph looked up, and noticed the Easter Bunny had stopped chattering away and was instead frozen to the spot, twitching his nose, focused entirely upon the ceiling.


“What was that?” the Easter Bunny asked, anxiously.

“Oh nothing,” Rudolph brushed aside his companion’s fear: “Just a polar bear.”

A polar bear!” The Easter Bunny exclaimed, his fears not at all allayed. “Quick! Where’s your panic room?”

Rudolph sighed. He almost wished that irritating little robin who dropped by sometimes were here instead. At least he had an IQ north of sixty. “There is no panic room. Igloos don’t have panic rooms…”


“Are you sure it’s not Santa?” The Easter Bunny tried consoling himself with this unlikely idea in true Ostrich syndrome style: “I mean, that would be better, wouldn’t it? Maybe he’s come to visit. On your rooftop. A little before Christmas. For a sherry, perhaps?”


“Nope. Definitely a polar bear.”

Rudolph closed the case and sat back down by the breeze emanating from the porthole. He glimpsed a little snow fall off the roof, and the last of four huge paws heave itself up as the polar bear clambered again over his ice-bricked house. He continued staring out of the hole while the Easter Bunny, shivering now in terror, watched as a long claw appeared through the roof.

“He’s coming in! I’m off!! I’m off, Rudolph! Don’t worry about the money, I’ll accept a cheque through the post!” And off the Easter Bunny dashed. Rudolph shouted after him: “Watch out for the stampeding seals…”

As the ceiling hole enlarged and the large paw reached down into the igloo, Rudolph smiled. “Afternoon, Barnaby! I hope you’re able to join me for a sandwich this time?”

A ferocious roar echoed down from above: “I’ll be having more than a sandwich, you arrogant deer!” Barnaby snorted as he fumbled blindly around the room with his paw.

“Okay then – you leave me no choice!” Rudolph shouted, and whistled. A parliament of snowy owls immediately flew over from the nearby pines and carried the surprised bear off. “Stick to ice-skating!” Rudolph chuckled, then returned all his attention to the small library contained in the case.

* * *

Meanwhile, a robin was winging his way north-east. He flew over a multitude of rivers, ice, and igloos, until he made it all the way to Santa’s abode.

He perched on the gate and tweeted. Santa noticed his newly arrived companion as he went out to do his recycling: “Hello, little one! How are you today?”

“He wants to see you,” the robin replied. Santa reached into his pocket and held out a pink palm full of seed and berries: “Who?”

The robin delicately grazed upon the mix: “The Philosopher.”

Santa scratched his head. “That doesn’t really narrow it down around here, I must say…”

“He of Rare Acclaim.”

“We have a celebrity? A philosophical celebrity?” Santa was doubly disbelieving.

“He Who Hates You.”

“Ahh!” Santa’s face fell into a crumpled, wistful ball of sorrow. “What does Rudolph want?”

“To see if your wisdom is as far-reaching as your generosity,” the robin replied: “If your intellect matches your reputation!… If your belt reaches all around your stomach…”

“Look, would you mind not talking in riddles? I can’t quite keep up… What does he want?”

“How should I know?” the robin shrugged: “He just pays me to relay messages.”

“Does he pay you by the word?” Santa withdrew his hand, and the robin flew onto an icy shelf, fluffing his feathers as he preened. “I wish… Well, what shall I tell him?”

Santa stared into the distance, westwards. After a while, sighing, he said sadly: “Tell him I’ll ready the sleigh.”

* * *

It took a while for Santa to reach Rudolph’s abode in the pitch black, as it was the winter solstice and he had no lamp or red nose to guide the sleigh. After a few wrong turns, he finally dismounted, and, patting each of the deer in turn, instructed them to fly around a little to keep warm while he was inside. He didn’t expect to be long. As the sleigh took off and he turned his attention towards the large igloo he noticed a trail of smoke wending its way towards the stars from a hole in the top.

Santa rang the bell, noting a wreath of holly decorating the door. He heard a slight shuffle, the holly wobbled, and the entrance opened. Rudolph greeted him enthusiastically: “Santa! How good to see you!”

His visitor frowned a little. “Hello, Rudolph.” Santa wiped his feet on the mat as the reindeer grinned his welcome and motioned for him to come through. “Have you lost weight?” Rudolph smiled.

Err… maybe a couple of pounds,” Santa muttered despondently. He really didn’t want to get embroiled in Rudolph’s trickery again.

Rudolph tried his charm still: “It suits you.”

“Nice chimney,” his old friend commented, motioning to the smoke curling out of the hole in the roof, as well as the flakes of snow occasionally falling in. The reindeer gritted his teeth and grimaced nicely. “Unfortunately, the roofers can’t make it ‘til the day after Boxing Day. Though I must say, I am enjoying the warmer temperature in here now!” he laughed, indicating his newly-lit log fire. Santa observed the water trickling down the sides and dripping from the top. “The walls are melting.”

There was an awkward silence.

“What’s this all about, Rudolph?” Santa sighed finally. He knew where all that hate mail to the website had been coming from, though he had no proof.

“Well…” Rudolph drew over a seat for his former friend, and took out two glasses.

Santa slumped into the chair and waited glumly. It wasn’t his wont to be depressed, but he couldn’t stop his thoughts from racing in a downward spiral ever since the robin had come to deliver his invite earlier.

“I wanted to run a few things by you, Santa, seeing as you’re the North Pole’s pin-up boy for success!” Rudolph chuckled.

“Hardly,” his companion replied gloomily, studying Rudolph’s frail frame, noticing with concern that he hadn’t been eating enough lately… Rudolph never ate when he was scheming. The red on his nose seemed duller, too – as if all the joy, hope and peace had flown out of it. Instead a muddy crimson lump just stood there.

Rudolph placed the jug of mulled wine on the table, and then started to pour, but Santa covered his glass with his hand, objecting, “I’m flying… So, how can I help you?”

Rudolph poked and fanned the logs in the fire a little, then he smiled and slid the case across the table: “I’ve been working on something. It’s a philosophical proof, but it could be revolutionary. I was just wondering if you’d take a look at it for me?”

“I don’t know anything about philosophy,” Santa sighed, trying to push the case back across the table, but Rudolph was persistent: “But Santa, you don’t need to. Honestly, it’s just a few words and a little logic. And who better to ask about these things than yourself? The way you’ve turned yourself around these past few years is…” – he emitted a delicate laugh – “quite amazing. Since you launched the website your thought-processes are teeming with logic! Please, just take a look?”

“Very well.” Santa sighed once more and unclipped the case on the table. Books by Kant, Schopenhauer, Sartre and Nietzsche all popped out at once. Santa picked them up and started leafing through them, thinking, ‘How is anyone meant to comprehend this stuff – let alone agree with what they wrote?’ But it was no use – trying to read these works was very depressing. Such heavy reading always made him very sad.

Baffled, and making a mental note that he should ask for his money back on that speed-reading course, he replaced the books and rummaged around the case a little more. “Where’s the philosophical proof you mentioned?” he asked, still searching.

“Sorry – here all along.” Rudolph placed a hoof into a pocket, then, pulling it out, slid a piece of paper towards Santa. It read:

Rudolph Reindeer’s Anti-Christmas Proof by Contradiction

1) Suppose that happy reality exists. (Reading this, Santa smiled to himself: “Yes, that’s right, happy reality really does exist…”)

2) Reality is only determined by concrete events.

3) Happy reality is determined by concrete events [from 1,2].

4) Happiness is only determined by thoughts.

5) Thoughts are not concrete events.

6) Therefore, happy reality is not determined by concrete events [1,4,5].

7) Therefore, happy reality both is and isn’t determined by concrete events [3,6].

This is a contradiction.

8) Conclusion: Therefore, happy reality does not exist. Therefore, Christmas is a scam.

Santa read and re-read it. At first he was confused: it seemed to make sense when it was laid out like this, but still his gut told him it wasn’t true. He became briefly despondent: what if his joy had never been real? What if it was based on wishful thinking? Finally, he was annoyed. “What is this, Rudolph? What are you trying to do? You can’t break me. I’m stronger now…”

His host looked surprised. “Break you? No! I was just wondering what you made of the proof?”

“It’s rubbish! I don’t agree with it at all!”

“Nothing like a bit of debate, Santa,” Rudolph smiled wryly. “Which bit don’t you agree with?”

“All except Point 1. It’s all just drivel. A collection of words masquerading as an intellectual argument. It’s nonsense!”

“But don’t you agree that thoughts are not concrete?”

“In what sense?” Santa retorted, incensed: “I think they’re very real. Thinking is how I know I exist! Read a bit of Descartes!”

“Friend of yours?” Rudolph shot back bitterly. He hadn’t counted on this reaction: Santa was meant to get depressed, not fired up! The deer’s nose grew brighter, until soon it was blood-red. He shouted, “Then again, what do you know about philosophy? Or friendship, for that matter! I don’t know why I bothered asking you, of all people!”

Santa was shocked into silently staring at the smoke wafting up through the hole in the roof.

Rudolph pressed on: “You know, when I first worked for you, I thought, there’s a man I can respect. We were different, sure, but I always knew that you – aaargh!” Rudolph screamed as a large paw grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and jammed him against the inner roof until the ice gave way and he disappeared out the top.

Horrified, Santa rushed outside: “Rudolph!” he exclaimed – then he caught sight of the reindeer dangling at his captor’s mercy, his hooves barely scraping the icy surface of the igloo’s roof, the polar bear’s jaws wide open. “Wait! Wait, my friend!” he addressed the polar bear – who turned, glowering: “What?” Barnaby snarled.

“It’s just… I thought you might like some sauce with that?”

The bear looked puzzled.

“And a knife and fork. A beer, perhaps? Might warm you up…?”

“Now you come to mention it,” the bear pondered, “I am quite cold. And despite what my friends think, I am rather refined. A knife and fork will do nicely, thank you.” He continued lifting a petrified Rudolph further off the rooftop as the deer stared into his growling jaws.

“Wait!” Santa persisted: “Aren’t you part of that ice-skating troupe?”

Barnaby turned once more, irritated: “I’m trying to have dinner here, Santa.”

“I know, I know, but – fantastic display last week, by the way – at all restaurants affiliated with us, well, you and your friends can eat for free!”

Barnaby looked puzzled once more. “But I can eat for free – right now!”

Santa looked around surreptitiously, then lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper: “You should know, it’s off. The whole herd. They’ve caught, errr… a horrible disease, SARS or something. Horrible! Are you up to date with all your jabs?” Barnaby looked from Santa to Rudolph, then dropped Rudolph, who fell so fast that he crashed through the hole in the roof, plummeting straight into the flames below.

“Eat for free, you say?” Barnaby asked.

Santa smiled at the bear.

* * *

Once Barnaby had meandered off towards his troupe, free lunch vouchers in paw, Santa rushed into Rudolph’s igloo and got out the first aid kit.

“You’re an awful liar,” Rudolph grumbled as Santa tended to the burns on his legs.

“You’re welcome…” Santa sniffed the air: “Is that venison I can smell??”

Rudolph couldn’t suppress a sad smile. “Where did it all go wrong for us, Santa?”

“I don’t know,” his old friend replied, equally sorrowfully. “Why did you change, all those years ago?”

Rudolph didn’t have to think for long: “It was the hypocrisy of it. That in every song, every story, we’re so close, you and I; and yet the reality is…”

Santa waited patiently. Rudolph turned his eyes up towards the ceiling and sighed in exasperation: “It was all false PR. You sacked me!” He sounded genuinely wounded.

Santa frowned a little: “But Rudolph, I only suggested we part ways at work because we were so close… My authority was becoming untenable.”

As Rudolph’s mistake dawned upon him, he stole a glance at Santa. His old friend smiled, and said softly: “Happy now?” Rudolph nodded ever so slightly.

“And no more tricks; this… this is real?” Santa asked.

Another barely perceptible nod. Santa slapped his knee and roared with laughter: “So happy reality does exist! I knew it!”

© Samantha Neave 2023

Samantha Neave graduated from the Open University, and enjoys reading and writing poetry, philosophy and fiction.

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