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“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is a holiday staple for many, but if you grew up watching it on TV, you’ve probably had at least one question burning in your mind for all these years: Why exactly did Yukon Cornelius lick his pickax every time he stuck it in the ground?
Turns out there is a legitimate reason for his odd behavior. But there’s a chance you didn’t see it because the TV version of this film is missing a key scene that explains his willingness to taste dirt.
You could say Cornelius — a failed prospector that Rudolph and Hermey the Elf meet on their way to the island of Misfit Toys — is a bit eccentric anyway. But licking an axe? It’s pretty much baffled fans since the missing scene was removed in 1965, just one year after the original, full version aired on NBC. That scene? It’s near the end of the special and goes a little something like this:
After Santa’s sleigh flies off to the Island of Misfit Toys, guided by Rudolph of course, Cornelius runs out of the castle and yells, “See! That’s how it’s done!” as he looks up at the flying sleigh. He then throws his pickaxe up in the air, picks it up and licks it, as he’s done throughout the entire special all the way up to that scene. His next line then explains the entire thing: “Peppermint!” he says. “What I’ve been searching for all my life! I’ve struck it rich! I’ve got me a peppermint mine!”
This whole time, we (and Hermey!) thought Cornelius was searching for silver and gold when, lo and behold, he just wanted peppermint! Hermey is so stunned, in fact, that he falls down in the snow in disbelief.
Watch the deleted scene below:
In an article for TVparty, Rick Goldschmidt, author of “The Making of the Rankin/Bass Holiday Classic: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” says this is the most significant deleted scene, though there are others. “CBS and various powers that be do not care,” Goldschmidt told the Huffington Post. “‘Rudolph’ has been treated shabbily.”
Goldschmidt told the Huffington Post that he has notified Dreamworks—the current holder of the movie’s distribution rights—of this lost material, but hasn’t had any luck with convincing them to do a full restoration.
The scene was removed to make way for different scenes and, presumably, commercials because it aired on TV. But it definitely seems like the “peppermint scene” was pretty important to the story!
If you want to learn more about “Rudolph,” check out Goldschmidt’s book. In the meantime, you can catch the edited version on TV every year (though you’ve already missed its re-airing this time around!), or pick up “Rudolph” on DVD and Blu-ray, where you’ll find the deleted scene and can watch it as many times as your merry little heart desires!