A Review of Sleepy Hollow and Ichabod Crane

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving is an unusual tale set in the Romantic style of writing. It is a short story, like many of Irving's famous pieces, and found in the book "The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent" written in 1819. Irving grew up in Manhattan, New York City, and at the age of 14, due to an outbreak of Yellow Fever in that town, was sent to stay with his friend at Tarry Town, New York. It is said that "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" first took its form during this time when he came across the nearby town of Sleepy Hollow. The setting is American and is a play famous even to this day.

Sleepy Hollow was a Dutch town famous for its queer and odd tales of ghosts and superstitions. Irving takes the opportunity to create a romantically fashioned piece out of this folklore, sets it in a 1790 scene and presents something that has become a much loved work of art. In all honesty there isn't much to the story. On the one hand, we have Ichabod Crane, the young fastidious school teacher, who moves in to this town from Connecticut, "for the purpose of instructing the children of the vicinity". On the other hand, we have the town rowdy Brom Bones, actually "Abraham, or, according to the Dutch abbreviation, Brom Van Brunt". The author goes to large extents to describe both these identities in detail, giving very vivid contrasting characters to both. Not only are there physical differences, but Ichabod is the superstitious one, and possesses books on magic and witchcraft in addition to his book on psalms, and Brom Bones is the bold, daring person who plays upon Ichabod's mind with his scary ghost tales.

As all stories go, we have the heroine of the story, 18 year old Katrina Van Tassel, the only daughter of a wealthy farmer. Both our heroes contest for her hand. It could also be said that both contested for the wealth they would acquire upon winning her heart. Irving takes the trouble to illustrate the wealth this farmer possesses by the amount of description he gives to Van Tassel's material riches and home.

The intriguing part of the story is that the entire theme is woven around tales of a headless horseman who roamed the town at night, seeking revenge and looking for his head. Many believe this and many don't, but there is a certain amount of gloom that hangs over this town. On one particular evening, Katrina's father arranges a dinner in the town, and it is obvious that during this time there is a contest for her hand, as the dejected schoolmaster returns home on his horse during the night.

Much can be said about the scene that ensues on his return home. Scary recollection of the stories he hears earlier on in the evening, sends him into desperation, fear and confusion, and everything seems to come alive. Ichabod is chased by the headless horseman, and is never heard of again. The townsfolk make an attempt to search for him, only to find his hat and a smashed pumpkin.

Sleepy Hollow gets back to being itself once more, only this time the memory of Ichabod gets entwined more into the spirit of the town. The story ends on the haunting note that passersby, next to the old school house 'often fancied his voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow'.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons


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