Many know the story of Santa Claus and his eight Reindeer, but no one ever wonders who his first Reindeer was? Before he became Santa Claus he was Nicholas Claus, the Toymaker, who lived in a small town, but had dreams too large to contain or ignore. This is the story of the Reindeer sent to make sure his dreams would live on in every boy and girl…
“She needs you more than I,” he explained, as he held down his shimmering red cape that shone silver under the moonlight, while we walked down a dirt road. We stopped at a small cottage, nestled among others in a long row, in a town that didn’t look prosperous, but I could tell was very promising.
“You’ll be the best medicine for her. As I hear it, she has precious little time. I'm counting on you to make it the best she'll ever have,” he said as he pat me on my head, making sure to avoid the baby antlers I had growing already. “You understand me, girl?” I nodded vigorously, excited for the opportunity to bring joy to someone’s heart, especially a child. “From now on those who need to understand you, will.” He tapped lightly on the door, gave me one last pat, and was gone. But I knew I would see him again.
A gentleman, who looked very different from the one who brought me here, came to the door. Not being expected, he looked right over my head at the empty streets before him, then started to go back inside. I huffed loudly which made him look down right at me. His startled reaction caused a woman inside the cottage to join him.
“Honey, who is it?” she asked as she stood by the door, just as frail. He gestured down to me and she gasped, exclaiming “is that a Reindeer?”
He put his finger to his lips to get her to keep her voice down, but it was too late, the reason why I was there had heard all. “A Reindeer? Really? Let me see papa.”
He opened the door wide, letting me inside their tiny home. The room I entered looked like it was a living room at one time, however, their daughter occupied it now. Of the three of them she looked the weakest. She was barely able to smile as her eyes widened upon seeing me. As she lay on the tattered couch I knew right away she was very sick.
Both her parents continued to look around outside, expecting whoever owned me to be hiding somewhere just up the road. After several minutes, they gave up their search and re-entered the house to sounds of giggles and laughter unlike any they'd heard in a long time. They quickly realized I must have been sent to keep their daughter happy for as long as she lived. I knew it too, but I had no idea how little time there would be.
“Her name is Noelle, papa,” she exclaimed, as her parents held each other tightly, tears in their eyes.
“How do you know that Daisy?” her papa asked.
“She told me!” Daisy announced. Both noticed right away color returning to her cheeks as she continued to smile at me, with a twinkle in her eye. She kept that twinkle for two years more before she was gone. No one told me where she went, but while she was here I made sure she spent every day laughing.
Her parents were concerned, once their daughter was gone, with how they would continue to care for me. They’d never say it, but as I grew up my size dictated the amount of food I needed to eat. I tried to cut back on my intake, but the more I tried the more I failed. Until one night there came a knock on the door that muffled the sounds of my stomach.
I knew who it was even before the door was opened. The one who brought me here had come back for me. I had another, very important job to do. The little girl's parents didn't question my leaving, knowing in their hearts I was going to share the joy I brought to their daughter with someone else.
“You did very good Noelle. But this next home I send you to does not have any children. He’s just a humble toymaker,” he explained, as we walked along a different dirt road, to my next, and what would become my final, destination. "He needs someone to guide him along his special path, and your time with the little girl, we think, has prepared you for him.”
“We?” I asked, for the first time realizing there were more of him in the world.
“Who we are isn't as important as what we do. You won't see me again, but I'll always be watching, Noelle. Now go, and spread as much joy in the world as you possibly can.”
When I approached the toymakers door I turned back briefly and just as before, he was gone. I raised my front hoof and knocked. I could hear sounds within of someone scrambling to answer, bumping into things on his way.
“Yes, I'm coming,” he shouted through the closed door just as he started to open it. “Who's—,” he said, then stopped short when he saw me, a Reindeer, standing on his doorstep.
“Hello,” I replied, hoping he could understand me the way Daisy could, “my name’s Noelle.”
“Whoa, easy there boy, I hear you loud and clear, you want to come in?” he replied, stepping aside. He didn’t have to give me too much room since I was rather small for my age and for an average Reindeer. I like to think I stayed small so I could live inside the small cottage for the two years I was there. As I entered his tiny home I knew two things; first, he could not understand me and second, my work here would not be an easy one.
I looked around his humble home at what was primarily his workshop. There were toys of all shapes and sizes everywhere. Nestled between the completed toys were models he had started. They didn't look like much, but I could tell by his finished toys, any little boy or girl would be excited to own them, once done.
“Welcome to my home. It isn't much but it keeps me fairly warm in the winter,” he replied, as he watched me closely. “Listen to yourself Nicholas Claus, you're talking to a Reindeer like he can understand you.”
I picked up a girl doll off the desk closest to where I stood, with my mouth, and held it out to him.
“What are you trying to tell me boy?” he asked as I shoved the doll into his hands with as much urgency as I could. “Are you a ‘she’? Is that what you're trying to tell me?” I nodded my head. It was then I knew, at least, our friendship would be a long lasting one.
That night, as he did every night, I discovered, he’d spend at one of his tables crafting the perfect toy for a child. The next day, however, I noticed he stayed home, never going out to sell all he had made. This concerned me as I knew of many children in the town that would love and appreciate them.
Finally, on the third day, I decided I had to say something, because the food he had was less than what I was getting in my previous home, and my hunger increased. He ate less than I. Soon we both would waste away to nothing if something wasn’t done. But the strangest thing happened on this night. He began to gather up all the toys he had completed and placed them inside a large brown sack I hadn’t noticed when I first arrived, hanging on a hook by the front door. It was large enough to fit practically all the toys he made.
“How about we take a late-night walk, girl?” he asked, holding the door open for me to follow him outside. Once in the blistering cold he looked both ways before sprinting at top speed down the road, carefully holding the bag full of toys over one shoulder. I followed closely behind, wondering what he was about to do.
After walking for what seemed a long time, he finally stopped at a row of houses all with their lights off. He crept up to one, and lowering the sack, reached in and pulled out a toy. He then proceeded to place one toy inside each pair of tiny shoes left just outside the front door. He repeated this all night, passing from house to house, putting toys in shoes and baskets. He even slipped one through a little girl’s bedroom window. When his sack was empty we walked back, getting home just as the sun had begun to rise. Both of us exhausted from being up all night, we promptly fell asleep, sleeping the day away.
I soon discovered Nicholas’s purpose and mine; to bring joy to children everywhere. But first, we needed to sort out the food situation. If he was going to continue working endlessly with little sleep, he'd need food for energy. And if I was to be of help to him I’d need my energy as well. So, one day, while he was too busy designing a new toy, I went to visit my previous owners. I knew they didn't have much by way of food but perhaps they'd have a solution. Plus, I missed Daisy and they were my only connection to remember her.
Her mother was happy to see me as she ushered me inside. In one corner of the room they placed everything that once had belonged to their daughter neatly on a table. I recognized all of her favorite things, including, a toy I realized was made by Nicholas. I picked it up carefully in my mouth and used it to urge her to follow me. I hoped in her seeing the toy maker and the good he was trying to do; she’d come up with a solution to our food shortage.
After a few days had passed the time had come for us to do another delivery of the toys Nicholas made. This time, however, I noticed there were a bit more than usual.
“Tonight girl, I think you're ready to help me bring joy to all the little boys and girls in our town and the next.”
When we went outside, there in front of the house was a sleigh that wasn't in the best shape, but looked like it could at least hold Nicholas and his toys while I pulled. He hitched me to the front and gave me the following instructions, “pull me to the next town and while I leave the toys, follow close behind. We aren't expected, and in case we should be spotted I'll need a quick escape.”
That night we made it into and out of the town without anyone noticing us. Even happier news was upon returning home there were bundles on his doorstep. He carried them inside and found they contained various food items, all fresh, and all anonymous. I had a feeling who they were from, but when Nicholas asked me, I pretended not to know.
Ever since then we never went hungry, coming home to so much food each time we went out we’d take some with us on the journey, leaving food for families we knew needed it more.
Our next trip took us to a town we’d never been to before. I was feeling particularly energetic in my youth and decided to go further than we’d ever gone.
As Nicholas walked away from a home where all was quiet, a young woman holding books in one hand and reading in the other, almost bumped into me, as she crossed the road, without once ever glancing up. I took several steps backward, pushing the sleigh back as well. Nicholas shushed me as he feared the sound would be heard by those sleeping. I huffed in the direction of the woman who never slowed her stride, oblivious to the fact she almost got trampled by a Reindeer. I didn’t notice the piece of paper she dropped from her open book, but Nicholas did, and promptly went to return it to her.
He tapped her on the shoulder which caused her to jump with fright as she nearly dropped everything she was holding. He caught her by the arms and helped to steady her. They looked into each other’s eyes smiling. The only time I ever saw him smile that way was after he’d finish one of his many toys. At that moment I knew she would be joining our family of two.
“Who are you? What are you doing out here at this time of night? I don’t recognize you,” she managed to get out, not stopping to take a breath.
“I’m Nicholas. And this is my Reindeer,” he said as he introduced us. It didn't take long after seeing me for her eyes to widen, reminding me of the way Daisy looked at me when she first saw me.
“You have a Reindeer? Where did you get her?” she asked as she walked up to me and made to pat me on my side, but stopped short. “May I?” she asked, looking me right in the eye. I nodded and she gasped, “She understood me.”
“Yes, she is a rather special Reindeer,” he replied with a wink. I winked back and she gasped again, amazed.
“What’s her name?” she asked him, and I realized perhaps I should try again, after many failed attempts with Nicholas, to get her to understand me.
“I don’t know actually. She just showed up on my doorstep one day. Don't know where she came from and she won't tell me.”
“My name’s Noelle,” I answered. She slowly turned towards me and smiled as she laughed to herself in amazement. She understood me.
“Won't or can't?” she replied winking at me. I winked back knowing from then on she would understand me best. “My name’s Jessica. I'm the school teacher here. What were you doing at the Sanderson’s house just now? Their boy is a handful at school,” she said as she continued to pat my stomach gently.
“I was just leaving a toy,” he answered, causing her to gasp again.
“A toy? Oh no, get it back this instant. I just had to reprimand him this morning for breaking little Sally’s toy. How would it look if for his punishment he wakes up to a new toy? Who gives you the right to walk into a town and leave toys anyway?”
“No one. I leave toys for all boys and girls. I want to bring them some happiness in an otherwise gloomy world,” he replied as he climbed into the sleigh.
“Happiness is great Nicholas, but respect, responsibility and good manners is what’s most important to impart on the hearts and minds of young children,” she countered, as she peeked in his sleigh at the toys he had yet to deliver. “Better let me come with you. I know all the children here. Who's naughty and who's nice. I won't have you undoing all that I've been working to instill in these children in just one night.”
“If you insist,” Nicholas replied, making room for her to sit beside him.
“Your Reindeer’s name is Noelle by the way,” she said as she climbed into the sleigh next to him.
“Noelle. That’s a beautiful name. I should have known that. Did she tell you?”
“Yes, and one more thing, did you know she’s pregnant?” Jessica asked. I knew she was talking about me and I tried to look back to get an explanation from her as to how she knew and how it was possible.
“No, I didn’t. Are you sure?”
“I am,” she said as she leaned forward in the sleigh to try and relax me with her reassuring words. “But don’t worry, my family owned a farm and I’m familiar with assisting in births. You’ll be fine Noelle. I promise.” And with that, the three of us continued our journey through the town, only leaving toys for those children most deserving of them.
Soon after they were married and Jessica became known to everyone in our town as Mrs. Claus. She started to befriend the local school teachers of any town Nicholas planned to visit to get a list of all the nice children. After a few times, she found it was easier for her to organize our late-night trips if she stayed home, while Nicholas and I went out. She felt she slowed us down. I think she felt more at home with her nose in a book, especially when it got colder. Although she loved the cold too she preferred to remain indoors with her cup of cocoa and her ledger. This was the place where she kept track of all the toys Nicholas made, who he gave them to, and who wouldn’t receive toys unless she heard they changed from naughty to nice. She took her role as his wife, but most importantly his partner, very seriously. So, she made a point to remember all the children in every town. And when one would do something worthy of being taken off the naughty list she made sure Nicholas brought them a toy.
On such an occasion, we were sent with explicit instructions not to forget Little Tommy, whose mother proudly reported had been surprisingly good. On our way back from our deliveries we took a detour to leave him a toy. She’d plot our route as well as each stop we made. She showed me the map beforehand, not bothering to show Nicholas, who cared more about the toy giving than how we got there. On this particularly cold and icy night, I found myself slipping and sliding down a hill, right off a cliff. I was powerless, or so I thought, to try and put a stop to what was happening, when suddenly there came a miracle. I started to fly.
Nicholas had his eyes closed the whole time, refusing to look as he thought we were falling to our deaths. After several seconds passed he finally peeked over the side of the sleigh and saw we were several hundred feet above the ground. He let out a hearty laugh that was heard throughout, causing some in their homes to wake, and look to the sky for the source of the noise. In a flash, I carried us higher as I tried to get us out of sight. We were home the fastest we’d ever done it, almost as if time had slowed down for both of us to do all we needed to in one night.
News of a mysterious man and his Reindeer spotted flying at night began to spread through neighboring towns. Mrs. Claus grew worried that people would discover who the man was and through human curiosity want to steal his magic Reindeer. The thought worried us both as my stomach grew larger. The second miracle in my life would be soon.
We didn’t want to stick around till the townsfolk came to our door, so Mrs. Claus made some inquiries into a group of toymakers she’d heard rumors of in a faraway land. They had previously reached out to Nicholas, wishing to offer him assistance when they heard of all the good he was bringing children around him, but he always turned them down. He believed moving to the North Pole would put him much too far away from what he was born to do. But his wife was insistent. She felt I could not be expected to give birth to Reindeer in a town that would soon become unsafe for us all. Besides, we needed a new place anyway, ever since Nicholas began making more and more toys. His small workshop was no longer big enough for the three of us and all his toys. Finally, after a lot of convincing that he would not be giving up his ability to deliver them, he relented and we began what would end up being good training for me. While pregnant, I flew us all to the North Pole.
The second we arrived we were greeted by the smallest people I had ever seen. They numbered in hundreds, or so I assumed, and surrounded us straight away. The climate was well below zero but it didn’t bother me one bit. I couldn’t say the same for Mr. and Mrs. Claus who were thrilled to be shown inside what would later become the most famous and largest Toy Factory in the world. These tiny toymakers were called Elves. They were always toymakers, sending their toys throughout the world, but never at a rate and speed they wanted. Which is why they were so excited when we arrived.
Mrs. Claus went right to work, organizing and planning as she always had. I spent most of my time resting. Becoming a mother when I wasn’t expecting it I knew wouldn’t be easy, but I had an entire legion of Elves all willing to help.
One cold wintry night, not too long after we arrived, while everyone was indoors trying to stay warm, I gave birth to two beautiful Reindeer, and named them Comet & Cupid. This worried Nicholas as we had been planning to do our first delivery since arriving at the North Pole, and he couldn’t help but wonder if I would be able to do it? So, the Elves nursed me around the clock till I was ready to fly on the seventh day.
The night before our flight our first piece of mail arrived, addressed to ‘Santa Claus.’ None of the Elves knew who ‘Santa’ was but recognized the last name so they handed it over to Nicholas to inspect its contents and determine what to do with it. Upon opening the bundle, he found the most beautiful red jacket with white lining he’d ever seen. He quickly put it on, as if he knew instinctively it was meant for him. It fit a bit loose on him but it kept him warm and was just what he needed for the journey we were about to make. The Elves worked tirelessly, with Mrs. Claus as their leader, making sure they had everything ready for our first official flight, with the most number of toys we’d ever delivered.
As I took off, Nicholas stuck his hands in the pockets of his jackets to warm them, finding a note that was put there. He read it aloud:
Dear Santa Claus,
An Angel, wearing a shimmering red cape, and holding my Little Girl Daisy’s hand, came to me last night, with a message that I believe is meant for you:
Bringing joy to the little children of the world is the best gift you can give them. Don’t ever stop. They need someone to believe in.
Love, Daisy’s Mother
P.S. Tell Noelle “Thank You” for the joy she brought to our little family.
In just twelve months after our first flight my Reindeer children grew faster than anyone thought possible, but we never questioned the miracles bestowed upon us. I taught them all that I knew about flying and on Santa Claus’s second flight he used them instead, this time leaving me behind. I knew I would live forever same as Santa and Mrs. Claus, but I also knew I needed to step aside and make room for the team that would forever be remembered in the hearts and minds of children everywhere.
Mrs. Claus took charge over reading through the many letters we began receiving once our address was known to all the children around the world. I took on the role of mentor and teacher to the eight Reindeer that would become Santa’s team. The remaining six arrived much later, two by two, to join Comet & Cupid. They were given the most important task of them all, the responsibility of carrying the toys safely to their destination.
To honor me, Santa’s very first Reindeer, he decided to deliver the toys to all the good girls and boys, once a year, on the date I gave birth, December 24th.