This classic short story is about a legend in a small community called Sleepy Hollow. The narrator of the book begins with an explanation on how he stumbled upon the town whilst hunting and describes it as a peaceful place and stated ‘If ever I should wish for a retreat wither I might steal from the world and its distractions, and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of none more promising than this little valley’. Despite its beauty, the narrator continues to describe that the ‘peculiar character of its inhabitant’ seem to be influenced by superstition and legends. One such story that the inhabitants truly believe in is that of the Headless Horsemen:
‘The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on a horseback, without a head.’
The book then introduces through the narrator the tale of a local school teacher called Ichabod‘...tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose...’
After reading this, I thought that Disney’s version of Ichabod Crane fits Washington Irving’s description of the character the best.
As the story goes, the simple school teacher is also fearful of the local terror tales. However, according to the narrator, none of the terror tales put together can cause more bewilderment than that of a woman, specifically Katrina Van Tassel who is the daughter of a wealthy farmer. I love this quote from the book and thought it was funny. I’m guessing that Ichabod would have appreciated the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus if he had an opportunity to read it:
‘All these, however, were mere terrors of the night, phantoms of the mind that walk in darkness; and though he had seen many spectres in his time, and been more than once beset by Satan in divers shapes, in his lonely perambulations, yet daylight put an end to all these evils; and he would have passed a pleasant life of it, in spite of the Devil and all his works, if his path had not been crossed by a being that causes more perplexity to the mortal man than ghost, goblins, and the whole race of witches put together, and that was—a woman.’
Also vying for Katrina’s attention is Ichabod’s rival Brom Bones, who is the complete opposite of Ichabod Crane. Brom Bones was described as ‘...the hero of the country round, which rang with his feats of strengths and hardihood. He was broad-shouldered and double-jointed, with short curly black hair, and a bluff but not unpleasant countenance, having a mingled air of fun and arrogance.’
One night after a party held by the Van Tassels, Ichobod Crane met the Headless Horsemen, went missing and was never found. It was concluded by the locals that Ichabod was ‘carried off by the Galloping Hessian’. What really happened to Ichabod no one ever knew, although the narrator shared towards the end of the book:
‘Brom Bones, too, who, shortly after his rival’s disappearance conducted the blooming Katrina in triumph to the altar, was observed to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related, and always burst into a hearty laugh at the mention of the pumpkin; which led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter than he chose to tell’.
I strongly suspect that Brom Bones had something to do with Ichabod disappearance. Poor Ichabod, I really liked his character.
Washington Irving’s book had a detailed narrative of the location and the events that transpired which made reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow exciting. It had a mix of humour and horror, although I'm quite certain anyone reading the book at this day and age will not be frightened easily by the ghostly details of Ichabod’s encounter with the Galloping Hessian.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. If you’d also like to read the short story and share your thoughts on the book, please click here.