Directed by: Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Jules Bass
Written by: Romeo Muller
Narrated by: Greer Garson
Release date: December 16, 1968
Running time: 25 minutes
Original network: NBC
Related specials: The Little Drummer Boy, Book II

The Little Drummer Boy is Rankin/Bass's third Christmas-themed television special, based on the famous Christmas song of the same name. Romeo Muller said that, of all the specials that he wrote for Rankin/Bass, this was his personal favorite.


The Little Drummer Boy tells the story of a young amputee drummer boy named Aaron, a lonely orphan after desert bandits stole his family's sheep, killed his parents and burned their farm. His only companions are Baba (a lamb), Samson (a donkey) and Joshua (a camel). Aaron's animal friends like dancing to the song of Aaron's drum, given to him by his father before his death. Aaron, Baba, Samson and Joshua are captured by a performer named Ben Haramed and his lanky partner Ali.

After the capture, Ben Haramed talks Aaron into joining their show caravan and performing, though Aaron has vowed to hate all people for what they had done to his family and joyful life. When the trio and the animals arrive in Jerusalem, they roll out the carpet and begin the show with two unsuccessful Chinese tumblers and Ali, who attempts to juggle pots and ends up breaking them. Aaron then performs "Why Can't the Animals Smile?" with some assistance from Baba, Samson and Joshua. The audience loves it and begs for more, but Aaron becomes angry at them for being happy after the painful loss of his parents. His vow to hate all humans overtakes him, and the bewildered crowd chases the performers out. Soon after setting up camp, Ben Haramed and Ali discover the caravan of the Three Kings. Ben Haramed promises Aaron he will give him half of the money and set him free if he does a performance for the Kings. Aaron agrees, but to Ben Haramed's dismay, the Kings are leaving to follow the star of Bethlehem and have no time for a performance. But one of the Kings' camels collapses and is not able to go with them. Then, to Aaron's horror, the Kings remember seeing a camel with the trio, and Ben Haramed sells Joshua. Determined, Aaron leaves Ben Haramed and Ali with Samson and Baba to follow the Kings' caravan and reclaim Joshua.

They resort to following the star of Bethlehem and soon come upon the barn, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The three spot Joshua and, happily, they run to meet him. Unfortunately, a horse-drawn cart comes rolling past and injures Baba. Heartbroken and carrying Baba, Aaron leads Samson and Joshua to one of the Three Kings. He begs him to save Baba, but is told instead that nothing can be done. Aaron is then told to go look upon the newborn King, the baby Jesus, and give him a gift. Aaron does not understand, but reluctantly lays down his beloved lamb and approaches the baby Jesus. Aaron plays a song on his drum, while the Vienna Boys Choir sings the Little Drummer Boy song. Baby Jesus then smiles at Aaron. After the song, Aaron finds out that Baba is alive. He then realizes that the vow he had made and kept on the night of his parents' death was wrong.



Voice actor Character
José Ferrer Ben Haramed
Paul Frees Aaron's Father/the Magi/Ali
June Foray Aaron's Mother
Ted Eccles Aaron
Greer Garson Our Story Teller
Die Wiener Sängerknaben Themselves (as The Vienna Boys Choir)

External links

Rankin/Bass Holiday Specials
Christmas Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerCricket on the HearthThe Little Drummer BoyFrosty the SnowmanSanta Claus is Comin' to Town'Twas the Night Before ChristmasThe Year Without a Santa ClausThe First ChristmasFrosty's Winter WonderlandThe Little Drummer Boy, Book IIRudolph's Shiny New YearNestor, The Long-Eared Christmas DonkeyThe Stingiest Man in TownRudolph and Frosty's Christmas in JulyJack FrostPinocchio's ChristmasThe Leprechauns' Christmas GoldThe Life and Adventures of Santa ClausSanta, Baby!
Other holidays The Mouse on the MayflowerHere Comes Peter CottontailMad, Mad, Mad MonstersThe First Easter RabbitThe Easter Bunny is Comin' To Town