The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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A painting of the story's climax.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a gothic horror ghost short story written by Washington Irving and first published in 1820. It has become one of the best examples of early American fiction. The story is about a school master named Ichabod Crane who has come to teach in a small Dutch town on the banks of the Hudson River in 1790. The locals are very superstitious, and one ghost story that gets special attention is the spirit of the headless horseman who is believed to be a Hessian trooper whose head was shot clean off by a cannon during the American Revolutionary War. Crane, being especially credulous, becomes fearful of the story, but it doesn't stop him from trying to win the hand of Katrina Van Tassel, daughter of the most wealthy farmer in town. However, Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt also seeks Katrina's hand, and, the two fight over her affection.

My first experience with this story was from excerpts of the Disney cartoon I saw in a Disney Halloween compilation my grandfather recorded from television in the late 1980s which contributed to my love of Halloween.

Status

I own a copy of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in a compendium of American fiction and have read it. I have also experienced several adaptions of the work.

Review

— This section contains spoilers! —

Good

  • As is common with fiction from this era, it uses an extensive vocabulary.
  • The story does do a pretty good job of becoming spooky at times.

Bad

  • Irving is a bit racist in the book, stating that Dutch people are easily susceptible to superstition and ghost stories.
  • The ending is a bit too neat and tidy. I would have preferred if Ichabod wasn't safely found back in New York, or if Bones didn't win so easily.

Ugly

  • Nothing.

Adaptions

Publication Format Title Description
1949-10-05 Film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad Disney created a pretty great, but short, animated version coupled with a rendition of The Wind In the Willows. I still enjoy this cartoon, especially the musical number with Bing Crosby.
1985-09-25 TV show Shelley Duvall's Tall Tales and Legends - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow The first episode of show. I saw this in elementary school. Even then I recognized the low-budget and bad acting. I also like how people in the 30s and 40s are supposed to be teenagers and 20-somethings. Over 30 years later, I forgot the show, but still remembered the line, "I like Swiss chard." Thanks to the Internet, I found out the origin of this show, and watched it again in 2019. It's just as bad as I remembered.
1999-11-19 Film Sleepy Hollow An adult horror film by Tim Burton. Lots of blood and gore. I saw it after it came to DVD and I didn't care for it at all.
2006-??-?? Radio drama The Legend of Sleepy Hollow BBC Radio 7 produced a dramatic audio version read by Martin Jarvis. In addition to a complete reading of the story, it adds framing dialogue and music, sound effects, and musical accompaniment to the reading. I think they did a great job with it. It's broken up into three segments, each a little under a half hour.

Media

Fan Art

Links

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