Donder vs Donner – That’s right Santa’s reindeer

In 1823 Clement C. Moore wrote a poem naming Santa’s reindeer. He named one of the reindeer “Donder.” In the 1950s Gene Autry made the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” popular but the song incorrectly used Donner. Ever since there has been a public debate about which is correct. This page attempts to address that topic.

(Talking about Santa’s reindeer on a computer knowledge site may seem strange. Suffice it to say–it’s personal. :-))

Without repeating the debate, the definitive answer appears to have been published in the Washington Post on 11 January 1994. That article is titled: Corrections Roll In Like a Clap of Donder. You’ll have to visit the Washington Post site to read the entire article; they become a bit like Scrooge if you quote it without paying them.

Basically, the article described a trip to the Library of Congress where the reference librarian pointed the reporter to evidence indicating that Moore wanted the reindeer called “Donder.” As we know, not all editors and other writers since have agreed :-).

Most assume that Moore meant Donner because that means “Thunder” in German. What most ignore is that Donder also means “Thunder” in Dutch. What almost nobody does is check the original publications! That’s what the Post reporter did with the help of a Library of Congress librarian. Specifically, the 1844 collection of Moore’s verses was consulted because Moore wrote the introduction to that volume; clearly putting his blessing on what was inside it. And, on page 125, the reporter found “Donder.” Others have also referenced the 1844 volume as a definitive source but one also cites seeing a longhand version of the poem penned by Moore himself and the spelling in that version was also Donder.

Because of this, the Library of Congress has supposedly set up a file on the origin of “Donder” so if you don’t believe this account, please contact them directly. (I’ve not found that file on the Internet but have asked if it exists — no answer yet.)