How Does Rudolph’s Red Nose Glow?

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa’s famous deer with a nose that glows, has been the subject of much discussion lately, mostly in our house.

The boys are intrigued by a nose so bright, and they want to know how it is that a regular flying reindeer could be born with such an abnormal honker.

An extensive two minute search of the Internet produced a number of possibilities. One, that I won’t go too far into, involves the instinctual eating of Amanita Muscaria fungi, which is predominately red, by certain breeds of reindeer and the subsequent markings (allowing time for proper digestion) made across the muzzles of young males in the herd. Apparently there is redness involved. Also, hallucinations.

I decided not to follow this line of explanation with my boys as most of their stories tend to end in potty humor and I didn’t really care to give them such an obvious opening.

The second possibility, and the one I believe the most likely, is that Rudolph was born with a genetic mutation causing him to be bioluminescent, like a firefly.

If this is the case then Rudolph’s nose is filled with thousands of photocytes that release an enzyme which, when mixed with oxygen, makes light.

I’m not sure where it was, exactly, that I lost the boys. One minute they seemed amazed by the idea of Rudolph being a mutant (“Like Wolverine?”) and related to the firefly (“Like the fireflies in Pirates of the Caribbean? How do they make those?”), then they were quiet.

I looked up from my charcoal sketch of an angler fish (also bioluminescent) and a series of rough equations that I had prepared to prove my theory, and they were gone.

I found them beneath the Christmas tree, coloring holiday pictures of Santa and talking about something other than the conversation we had been having.

“Don’t you guys want to learn more about what makes Rudolph’s nose glow?” I asked.

“No,” said one. “We figured it out.”

“Yeah,” said the other. “He takes batteries.”

I glanced at the stuffed Rudolph toy keeping watch from the sofa, his nose as bright as it has ever been. He would be guiding sleighs for many Christmases to come.


A big thanks to Energizer for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.


Read more from Whit Honea at his site Honea Express and the popular group blog DadCentric. You can follow Whit on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).

Article Posted 6 years Ago

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