Author's Note: The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first appeared as a book by Robert May. Later, Johnny Marks wrote the popular song. Both the book and the song were adapted by Romeo Muller for the 1964 TV special by Rankin/Bass. This essay compares Xena with that TV special.
Rudolph and Xena (01-02)
Foggy Christmas Eve (03)
Hiding the Nonconformity (04-05)
Misfits Change the World (06-09)
The Bonds of Misfits (10-11)
Misfits Have a Place (12-13)
Rudolph and Xena
 When Santa asked Rudolph to guide his sleigh through that foggy Christmas Eve, the very thing that made Rudolph a misfit -- his shiny, glowing nose -- became the world's greatest gift. All of the other reindeer laughed and called him names. But following the light from Rudolph's nose, Santa was able to keep Christmas for the world.
 Xena, like Rudolph, is a misfit whose nonconformity with traditional roles and her dark past have become a beacon for the delivery of good.
Foggy Christmas Eve
M'Lila encourages Xena
in DESTINY (36/212).
 Xena's "foggy Christmas Eve" is revealed in DESTINY (36/212). As Gabrielle grieves over Xena's spiritless body, Xena is transported on a cross to a world between life and death. Here, Xena meets M'Lila again. Ten winters prior, M'Lila's death while saving Xena's life was a catalyst for unleashing the Dark Xena. But now, Xena is ready to die. Because of her evil past, she does not feel her life is worth anything. It is as if Xena is saying: "I can't go back because I have this red nose [dark past]... I can't function like all the other reindeer." Yet M'Lila insists that Xena return to the living. M'Lila explains to Xena how her "red nose" is her gift: "Now that you know evil...were evil...you can fight evil." In DESTINY, M'Lila does for Xena what Santa does for Rudolph: she unwraps the gift of the misfit.
Hiding the Nonconformity
Fiance and fiancee, together
in REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202).
 It was never obvious to Rudolph and Xena that what set them apart from everyone else was actually their biggest asset. Each at one time had tried to hide their nonconformity. Rudolph's father put a cap on his son's nose to hide it, even though it made Rudolph's voice sound funny. In REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202), Xena tried to hide who she really is by denying the warrior in her.
 REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202) featured an alternate world where Xena is not a warrior, Gabrielle is a slave, and the two had never met before. At one point, Xena tries to save the slave Gabrielle from a beating and would have likely fought the slaver's henchman if not for the quick talking of her fiance, Maphias. After this incident, Maphias pulls Xena aside and during their heated exchange yells at her: "When are you gonna learn that you've gotta go along to get along? That's how the world works, Xena. And you can't change the world, Xena. No matter what you think."
Misfits Change the World
Xena prevents Gabrielle from getting a beating
in REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202).
 But misfits do change the world. They change it because they cannot or will not go along. When these misfits try to get along, they and the world are thrown off balance. Throughout REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202), we see the results of Xena's mainstream moment: warlords that she would have dispensed with in one way or another have united in a rule-the-world plot and Gabrielle is a cold and bitter slave. Thus, when Xena's "red nose" is "capped," the world loses her light against the dark.
 While some misfits are out there all alone, Xena is fortunate to have found support in Gabrielle, another misfit. Gabrielle parallels two of the characters in the Rudolph TV special: Rudolph's reindeer girlfriend Clarice, and Herbie, the elf who would rather be a dentist.
 Clarice likes Rudolph, red nose and all. Similarly, Gabrielle accepts Xena for who she is -- Gabrielle may not like Xena's dark side and will fight against it, but she knows it is there and continues to believe in Xena.
 Herbie is the elf who will not settle for making toys in Santa's workshop: "Not happy in my work, I guess," he sighs to the elf foreman. He wants to be a dentist. The elf foreman is aghast. "Listen you," he tells Herbie. "You're an elf. And elves make toys." Gabrielle is like Herbie because she does not fit the Poteidaian plan of building a life as some man's wife. She wants to be a bard. Both Herbie and Gabrielle end up running away and teaming up with other misfits. Herbie meets Rudolph and Gabrielle finds Xena. Like Rudolph and Xena, Herbie and Gabrielle are misfits with a gift: Herbie's dentistry saves the day when he defangs the Abominable Snowman and Gabrielle's storytelling saves Xena from being stoned to death in SINS OF THE PAST (01/101), the first episode.
The Bonds of Misfits
Gabrielle doesn't like the slave thing
in SINS OF THE PAST (01/101).
 Being misfits is part of what bonds Xena and Gabrielle from the start. In the early scenes of SINS OF THE PAST (01/101), slavers round up the villagers of Poteidaia, and Xena watches as Gabrielle is the only woman to stand up to them. Next, Gabrielle watches Xena take on -- and take out -- these slavers. Throughout the rest of the episode, we learn that Gabrielle is just as much a misfit as Xena. During Xena's brief stay in Poteidaia, Gabrielle tells her: "Xena, I'm not cut out for this village life. I was born to do so much more." Before running away to join Xena, Gabrielle explains to her sister: "Lila, you know I'm different from everybody else in this town...The point is, I don't fit in here." We then see Gabrielle use her storytelling skills to free herself from a giant who has captured her. She also talks her way into a ride on the road to Amphipolis. Ultimately, as noted earlier, Gabrielle's skill as a bard saves Xena's life when she convinces the people of Amphipolis that it is better to let Xena go than to kill her.
 One of the final scenes of the episode shows that the two understand their bond as misfits. The uninvited Gabrielle shows up at Xena's camp in the evening. Xena tells Gabrielle that she's sending her home in the morning. Gabrielle responds: "I won't stay home. I don't belong there, Xena. I'm not the little girl that my parents wanted me to be." Then, looking away, she teasingly adds, "You wouldn't understand." Of course Xena understands and lets Gabrielle stay. Thus, despite all their differences, Gabrielle and Xena find comfort in their connection as misfits. Each is a gift to the other. Xena acknowledges this in A SOLSTICE CAROL (33/209) when she says, "Gabrielle, you are a gift to me."
The first of many campfire scenes.
SINS OF THE PAST (01/101)
Misfits Have A Place
 Overall, what Rudolph and Xena show us is that misfits have a place. We need misfits to bring us to where we would never go otherwise, to push us forward. Evolution needs the genetic oddball that survives when the go-alongs cannot adapt. Without ideas that at first seemed like square pegs in round holes, the earth would still be flat and the sun would revolve around the earth.
 The misfit element of Xena: Warrior Princess touches us all. We relate because we are all unique and that makes us different and misfit in some way -- big or small. Being a misfit often runs counter to our need to fit in, to feel like we belong. Being different may often be difficult and the gift of the misfit is not always obvious. But whether each of us knows it yet or not, we are all guiding a gift-filled sleigh through a foggy night.
BiographyBeth C. Fishkind
Beth Fishkind has a degree in expository writing and recently graduated from law school; she is looking to practice in the area of computer/information law. Before law school, she was a journalist specializing in consumer electronics and technology and has been on staff or written for High Fidelity, Audio, Car Stereo Review, UNIX Today!, Acoustic Guitar, and other publications. Before her "real job" as a journalist, she played lead guitar in rock bands. Among her hobbies are building web sites, including Karuatides' Guide to Xena: Warrior Princess.
Favorite episode: THE DEBT (52-53/306-307); THE GAUNTLET (H12/112); DESTINY (36/212); REMEMBER NOTHING (26/202).
Favorite line: No words can beat the moment in DESTINY (36/212) right after M'Lila dies in Xena's arms, when the rage in Xena and the gaida music rise in unison.
First episode seen: DESTINY (36/212)
Least favorite episode: I like Joxer, but like least FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216)