Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a character created in a story and song by the same name. The story was created by Robert L. May in 1939 as part of his employment with Montgomery Ward.
The story is owned by The Rudolph Company, L.P. and has been sold in numerous forms including a popular song, a television special (done in stop motion animation), and a feature film. Character Arts, LLC manages the licensing for the Rudolph Company, L.P. Although the story and song are not public domain, Rudolph has become a figure of Christmas folklore.
The song (first recorded in 1949 by Gene Autry) tells the tale of Santa Claus's ninth and lead reindeer who possesses an unusually red-colored nose that gives off its own light, powerful enough to illuminate the team's path through inclement weather.