In the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special, just as the song suggests, Rudolph is born with an unusually shiny red nose. His father Donner, ashamed of this unusual trait, places a fake nose on Rudolph's nose, but it later falls off. When his nose is revealed at the reindeer games, the other reindeer laugh at him and call him names, and the coach, Comet, bans him from the games. His girlfriend, Clarice, is the only other reindeer who does not laugh at his nose.
Feeling ashamed about his nose, Rudolph decides to run away from his home. He later befriends Hermey, an elf outcast who wanted to be a dentist, and a miner named Yukon Cornelius. After narrowly avoiding being caught by the Abominable Snowmonster of the North, they arrive at the Island of Misfit Toys, a place where all of the unwanted toys go. While spending the night there, Rudolph decides he does not want his nose to endanger his friends anymore and runs away.
A few months later, Rudolph, now a fully-grown reindeer, finally decides to return to his home, despite still being ridiculed by his fellow bucks, and finds out that his parents and Clarice have been looking for him. He searches for them, eventually saving them from the Abominable Snowmonster. After they return to Santa's workshop, Rudolph learns that Santa Claus's annual Christmas Eve flight will have to be canceled because of the terrible weather conditions. However, Santa asks Rudolph to use his nose to light the way and lead his team. Thus, Christmas is saved and Rudolph is praised as a hero instead of a misfit.