As always with translations, there are all kinds of possible approaches, and I've found three different translations of "Rudolph" into Latin. Version 1 is much more commonly found on the Internet but, personally, I think I prefer Version 2! You could use these three different versions to give you suggestions and strategies so you can do your own version. If you do your own version, go ahead and post it as a comment here at this blog. To learn more about the English song, with the lyrics, visit this Wikipedia article.

** Be sure to check the comments:
you can find a fourth version AND a fifth version AND a sixth version
which people have shared in the comments section.
The fifth one features Jupiter instead of Santa! **

NOVITAS: Plain-chant version of Rudolphus, with audio!

Version 1 (translator unknown, widely repeated on the Internet)

Reno erat Rudolphus
Nasum rubrum habebat;
Si quando hunc videbas,
Hunc candere tu dicas.

Omnes renores alii
Semper hunc deridebant;
Cum misero Rudolpho
In ludis non ludebant.

Santus Nicholas dixit
Nocte nebulae,
"Rudolphe, naso claro
Nonne carrum tu duces?"

Tum renores clamabant,
"Rudolphe, delectus es!
Cum naso rubro claro
Historia descendes!"

Version 2 (translated by Harry C. Maynard?)

Rudolphus, naso rubro,
naso nitidissimo,
si umquam eum spectes,
dicas eum fulgere.

Reliqui tum renones
deridebant ludentes,
semper vetabant eum
apud ludos ludere.

Deinde ante Natalem
Santa venit, et
"Tu, Rudolphe nitide,
traham meam duc nocte."

Dein, ut renones amant,
exclamantes hilare:
"Rudolphe, naso rubro,
in annalibus eris!"

Version 3 (translated by Philip Brunelle?)

Rudolphus rubrinasus
fulgentissimo naso,
vidisti et si eum
dicas quoque candere.

Omnes tarandi ceteri
ridebant vocantes nomina;
non sinebant Rudolphum
interesse ludentes.

Olim crassa nocte Christi,
Nicholas it dictum:
“Rudolphe, naso tam claro,
agesne traham meam?”

Qui tum tarandis amor
conclamantibus eum,
“Rudolphe rubrinase,
descendes historia!”


Pawlie Kokonuts said...

Very cool I think I'll refer to you, with proper attribution in my blog.

St. Izzy said...

And here's a fourth:


Rudolphus cervus nasum
Rubicundum habebat
Quem si videre possis
Elucere referas.
Ludificare cervi
Deridentes solebant,
Neque sinebant eum
Comminus colludere.

Ecce! Dixit Nicholas
Pridie festum
"O Rudolphe nocte hac
Visne traham ducere?"
Quam tunc iucundus fuit
Cervis iubilantibus.
"Rudolphe," nunc dicebant.
"Notus eris posteris!"

Anonymous said...

Rufe, nasute cerve,
nasus tuus ruber stat.
immo, si vera dicam,
nasus tuus conflagrat.

omnes ad unum cervi
eum risu lacerant.
misero Rufo numquam
lascivire secum dant.

nebuloso vesperi
venit Iuppiter:
"Rufe, nitido vultu,
nonne Iovem trahes tu?'

illum nunc amant omnes.
audi quam clamaverint;
"Rufe, nasute cerve,
omnes te meminerint!"

Anonymous said...

The fourth version (by "St. Izzy") is the 'correct' version; the one we were taught by our Latin teacher in 1963 at Bexley High School in Bexley, Ohio ! I thought I would never find this again !!

Anonymous said...

YEAH!!! St. Izzy!! That's the one I remember! We translated that back in my High School Latin class in 88 or 87 and that's the EXACT translation we came up with!! Thanks! I sing it every year!!

Anonymous said...

The version from "Anonymous" is exactly the one my Latin teacher made us sing. "Rufe, nasute cerve..." etc

Anonymous said...

Fourth version is the version
Miss Niver taught us in 1979 in Exeter NH.
I think the words here are a little different, but most are the same!!!!!

Whoo HOO!!
What memories.

Laura Gibbs said...

Exactly: it's amazing what kinds of things can "stick" from long-ago Latin. I've got a friend who will sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (mica mica parva stella) at the drop of a hat - and she learned that in Latin class perhaps forty years ago!

Anonymous said...

Just like Dr. Sam Williams said about St. Izzy's version; it is the one we are taught in Latin class. They were taught in 1963, but in 2007 in Massachusetts we still sing this version every year on the last day before Christmas vacation.

we also sing the "correct versions" of the Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, and The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Jonathan Gilbert said...

Has anyone run across a version of this that includes the introductory lines about "You know Dasher and Dancer" etc.?

(I'll be singing the Philip Brunelle version in a small concert on Dec. 20 -- at this point we probably wouldn't lengthen it even if we found such a version, but it would be nice to know ...)

Laura Gibbs said...

That is a great question, Jonathan. I know from reading Harrius Potter in Latin that coming up with good names in a list like that is a REAL challenge in Latin (like the names of Mrs. Figg's cats, for example). I've tried to publicize this blog through the Latin teaching folks online in hopes of collecting ALL the translations people might be using. It would be GREAT if someone had a version like that in Latin they could contribute! :-)

Iacobus said...

Thank you very much, easily the best widget I have ever come across.

Laura Gibbs said...

I am so glad you like it! This is something I have a lot of fun with every year, especially when people contribute more songs and Latin lyrics. It's the kind of thing where teachers and teachers and choir directors are doing individually, and it's exciting to pull those materials together in one place. :-)

Jonathan Gilbert said...

This is the second year that I will be singing "version 3" in a concert with Diane Taraz (our rendition is restored to its original form as a medieval polyphonic chant).

If you're in the vicinity of Arlington, Massachusetts on Saturday, Dec. 19, come hear us!

Incidentally, when I looked up "tarandus" the dictionaries I found gave "tarandrus" instead, so in our version we've made that correction.

Laura Gibbs said...

How exciting!!! Are you on the LatinTeach list serve? If so, you should send out a note to the list about your concert - and if not, I'll be glad to send a notice to the list. It sounds lovely!

About that Tarandrus (Tharandus, Parandrus, etc.) - I have some materials about it here, including a couple of medieval illustrations!

Back to Work Mom said...

Thank you for this blog! I was able to find the version of Rudolphus that our choir is singing - really appreciate it!!

Laura Gibbs said...

Great! I have so much fun with this blog every year and it is nice to know that it is fun/useful for others, too. :-)

Katie said...

I have another version I learned in Mrs. Anda Silhanek's Latin class at Easton (PA) Area High School in the early 1980s. She was a reader for the AP Latin exams and may have made this translation herself. I do not see it here.

I have been singing it ever since I learned it, so don't promise that the Latin endings haven't mutated a bit, and I know my Latin spelling is rusty. Anyhow, this is how I remember, and sing, it still:

Rudolphus cervus habet,
Nasum rubidum clarum,
Si umquam eum spectes,
Dicit fulgentem aurum.

Cetervi omnes cervi
Clamant eum joculos.
Miser Rudolphus erat
Non permittut ad ludos.

Tum nocte Christi atra
Santa id dixit,
"Rudolphe, naso claro,
Si placet praesis curo."

Tum omnes eum amant,
Clamant ejus gloriam,
"Rudolphe, naso rubro,
Ibis in historiam."

Laura Gibbs said...

How wonderful!!! Thank you so much! I made a couple of tiny corrections to the spelling and punctuation. The "clamant eum joculos" is a little odd, but it fits the rhythm of the song perfectly and you need the plural joculos to rhyme with ludos. Here it is with a couple of small corrections:

Rudolphus cervus habet
Nasum rubidum clarum,
Si umquam eum spectes,
Dicit fulgentem aurum.

Ceteri omnes cervi
Clamant eum joculos.
Miser Rudolphus erat.
Non permittut ad ludos.

Tum nocte Christi atra
Santa id dixit,
"Rudolphe, naso claro,
Si placet, praesis curro."

Tum omnes eum amant,
Clamant eius gloriam,
"Rudolphe, naso rubro,
Ibis in historiam."

Jonathan Gilbert said...

This year Diane Taraz and I finally have a recording of the version we've been singing for three years now ("version 3" above, the Philip Brunelle translation, except with tarandi corrected to tarandri and a few added comments about lightbulbs, Monopoly, etc.)

At first it's disguised as a medieval polyphonic chant, but the mask slips partway through.

Our concert will be Dec. 17 this year, in Arlington, MA. Come if you're in the area!

Jonathan Gilbert said...

A friend just alerted me to a really nice plainchant setting (with audio) based on the Version 1 translation above. The audio differs from the printed text in the last line, as explained here.

Laura Gibbs said...

OH MY GOSH, Jonathan - that is BRILLIANT. Thank you! I think that deserves a post of its own! I will go make one now. Thank you!!!

Jonathan Gilbert said...

After posting that, I realized the original source was here, not where I originally linked to :-)

Laura Gibbs said...

Aha, super - although the SoundCloud embed at the other site works better, so I am glad to have both links. I'll go update that now - thanks again! I really really enjoyed that!

Unknown said...

All of them are nice. And all of them operate with the Imperfect tense, while I think I remember from Latin class that stories were normally told in Perfect tense. At least in classical times. (Reno fuit Rudolphus, nasum rubrum habuit etc.)
Did that change in medieval times?

Laura Gibbs said...

Actually, just the opposite: the imperfect is the neutral past tense. The perfect emphasizes that something is over, done... dead!

Unknown said...

Oh yes right. I just checked Luke 2 in the Vulgate which changes Perfect and Impferfect depending on durativ or punctual narration. Just like Sanctus Nicholas rightly "dixit" not "dicebat". So thanks for the answer. I like it even more now.

Anonymous said...

Erat rubente naso
rangifer Rudolphus; tam
rubro, ut. si videres,
diceres fulgentem jam!

Rangiferorum omnes
eum illudebant; is
non particeps ludorun
erat miserabilis.

Nebulosi vesperi
Dixit Sanctus Claus
"Nonne, o Rudolphe, his
bigis rector esse vis?"
Tum eum admirantes
Clamaverunt illi: "O
rangifer rubro naso,
immortalis eris tu!"

Anonymous said...

I learned:

Rudolphus cervus parvus
Nasum rubrum habebat
Si eum umquam spectes
Eum fulgere dicas

Omnes ceteri cervi
Illum semper ridebant
Parvus Rudolphus miser
In ludis non ludebat

Tum nocte nebulosa
Santa dicebat
"Rudolphe, nasu rubro,
ducesne traham meam?"

Tum omnes illum amant
Cum gaudio clamant
"Rudolphe, nasu rubro,
Descendes in historiam!"

Tattletale said...

I am singing the 3rd one for choir! I think that was the most accurate translation of the 3.

Practical Liturgist said...

Here is yet another version of "Rudolph" in Latin which scans to the melody which Gene Autry used. This one was distributed by Rev. Henry J. Piacitelli,CM in 1961 in Shrewsbury MO USA

Rudolpho illi cervo,
Nasus est percomicus.
Luem si umquam videris,
Dices “Ardet verius.”

Alii omnes cervi,
Semper eum ridebant.
Illi ex suis ludis,
Rudolphum prohibebant.

Sed nebulosa nocte,
Sant(a) impetravit,
Naso rubenti, Dolphe,
Traham meam dirige.

Tunc Rudolphum amantes,
Cervi laeti clamitant:
“Te Dolphe nasumque rubrum,
Saecula possideant!”