At the beginning of the song, the other reindeer are nasty to Rudolph.

All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games

But later, when Santa promotes Rudolph to lead reindeer, all the other reindeer, start sucking up to Rudolph and behaving as if they are his friends.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa came to say,
Rudolph with your nose so bright,
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight

Then how all the reindeer loved him,
As they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nose Reindeer
You'll go down in history

Santa is supposed to know whether one is naughty or nice, but he seems ignorant of how the other reindeer were nasty. He never rebukes the other reindeer or addresses their hypocrisy.

Does this song take place in a universe where Santa is not omniscient or do his powers only work on humans?


3 Answers 3


The "naughty or nice" reference, whilst widely accepted as canon, is from "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town", a Christmas song written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie and was first sung on Eddie Cantor's radio show in November 1934. The story of Rudolph was created by Robert L. May some years later in 1939 and was written as a poem in anapestic tetrameter before later being adapted into song by May's brother-in-law Johnny Marks in 1949 and is also widely accepted as canon but there is evidence to suggest that "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" and "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" are stories in the same universe and that have been amalgamated by popular culture.

Haven Gillespie's inspiration for the lyrics was the recollection of his mother reminding each of her children that Santa not only knew when they were sleeping but also knew when they were good or bad so that idea does pre-date the song but the origins are unclear. It is apparent , however, that Mrs Gillespie employed the idea to willfully control and manipulate minors. The song itself implies that Santa Claus has the ability to observe every action and listen in on every conversation which effectively robs children of privacy and freedom and makes the song rather dark.

As well as being dark and Orwellian in nature, "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" does not anthropomorphise reindeer (or mention reindeer at all) whereas the original story of "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" portrays reindeer living in houses and sleeping in beds and does mention that he "always knew which children were good" indicating that the "omniscience" that you are referring to regarding children exists in both stories. Neither story nor lyric provides evidence of Santa expressing sharp disapproval or criticism to anyone so there is no reason to question why he didn't rebuke the other reindeer. According to May's story in fact, all the reindeer who verbally abused Rudolph were his peers and were fast asleep when Santa visits the abode where Rudolph resides (in the story Rudolph isn't promoted, he is enlisted and is only awarded the title "COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF" on future dark trips). It is important so say that Santa's regular reindeer had no involvement in the abuse of Rudolph and there is no evidence to indicate that Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixxen, Comet, Cupid, Donnen or Blitzen have ever been abusive or even unfriendly to Rudolph or anyone else for that matter.

As a further note, it is often the case that abuse is a learned behaviour and it could well have been the case that Rudolph's peers could have adopted the attitudes of their parents and elders when regarding an individual with a red and bulbous nose - a condition that was often attributed to drunkenness and alcoholism.

As evidenced by both songs and by the Rudolph story, one can conclude that the story does take place in a universe where Santa is "omniscient" and that his powers work on children of all species. However, Santa reserves the right act on his knowledge (or not to act) as he sees fit.

Original Rudolph the red Nosed Reindeer Manuscript

  • Donnen? Do you mean Donner?
    – RedCaio
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 1:26

Based on the original "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" comic/poem by Robert L. May (on which the song was based), it should be noted that the reindeer that teased poor Rudolf were not the same reindeer who pulled Santa's sleigh. It was, in fact, a completely different set of reindeer his own age.

Rudolf was selected after Santa had begun his journey and merely happened to be visiting Rudolf's house in order to bring him a present. When he noticed how bright Rudolf's nose was, he invited him to lead his sleigh.

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As an aside, it should be pointed out that Rudolf was in full expectation of receiving presents and seems to have thoroughly anticipated that his peers would not.

  • "there's no specific indication that they were nice to him afterwards" they loved him! Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 16:12
  • 10
    @wikis - They loved him because his nose was bright, in much the same way that my cat loves me when I'm opening his cans of food, then goes back to treating me like crap as soon as I'm not needed.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 16:14
  • 1
    Not entirely accurate, Valorum. According to the story, Rudolph is a calf, a young reindeer that is, to all intents and purposes, a child and who is visited by Santa on Christmas Eve. If the question wasn't on hold, I would post a full answer.
    – Kerr Avon
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 20:49
  • @KerrAvon - Rudolf may well be a calf, but the other reindeer most certainly aren't, as you can see from the book cover of the original Rudolf poem; upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/38/…
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 20:52
  • 2
    @KerrAvon - Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Editmas.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 21:06

Your question appears to be based on a false premise. According to the song, he's:

"Gonna find out who's naughty or nice."

Since he does not know that but must find it out, he cannot be omniscient.

  • so how do the Reindeer keep their nastiness secret from Santa, Ms. Claus, and the elves and ensure Rudolph doesn't tattle.? Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 16:07
  • 5
    @Clint Eastwood - Reindeer mafia.
    – Radhil
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 16:08
  • 5
    Santa's wife? Do you mean Mary Christmas?
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 16:09
  • 3
    But he also "knows when you've been bad or good"
    – b_jonas
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 16:39
  • 4
    @b_jonas: that's a good point! I'm beginning to think this whole thing might not be as water tight as my parents would have me believe. Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 18:23

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