The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


Folklore in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Folklore is the traditional beliefs and stories of a community throught generation by orality. The historical context is introduced by place and time. The action was in a small village named Sleepy Hollow around where a hessian soldier was decapited after the Revolutionary War. With the help of imagination Irving Washington created a supernatural world. He wrote a biblical myth under his characters. The villagers trust in a ghost, Headless Horseman, in witches, demons etc. The most important thing is the conflict between Brom Bones and Ichabod Crane because reflect the conflict found in early American folklore. In my paper I will prove that folklore is constructed by a true historical story with a supernatural contrast.

According to narrator in paragraph 50, ”This neighborhood, at the time of which I am speaking, was one of those highly favored places which abound with chronicle and great men. The British and American line had run near it during the war – it had, therefore, been the scene of marauding, and been infested with refugees, cow boys, and all kinds of border chivarly. Just sufficient time had elapsed to enable each story teller to dress up his tale with a little becoming fiction, and in the indistinctness of his recollection, to make himself the hero of every exploit.”

This paragraph suggest that the past and the historical truth became malleable because they should to be exist in future. To improve somethig mean that should to be exist something and cand be transmitted by mouth. Also, the passage present the fact that in Sleepy Hollow the villagers have our version of history. It is suggest the presence of a war where as a pricipal subject a hessian soldier was killed near Sleepy Hollow. Irving Washington centred the fiction in a real village started with a horror scene, a decapitation around the village after Revolutionary War. Those, the time and the place are really truly. Dealing with American scenes, adaptations of German folklor the story is a romantic defense of Native Americans.

One of the supernatural elements is the legend of Headless Horseman. ”Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered, long settled retreats; but are trampled under foot, by the shifting throng that forms the population of most of our country places. Besides, there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they have scarce had time to finish their first nap, and turn themselves in their graves, before their surviving friends have traveled away from the neighborhood, so that when they turn out of a night to walk the rounds, they have no acquaintance left to call upon. This is perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts except in our long established Dutch communities.” According to narrator in paragraph 52 it is suggest the superstition of community in a ghost. There are crime and they are scary. For that they search an explanation. Headless Horseman is a demon, a collector of souls and heads who ride every night of Halloween. ”The stories of Brouwer, of Bones, and a whole budget of others, were called to mind; and when they had diligently considered them all, and compared them with the symptoms of the present case, they shook their heads, and came to the conclusion that Ichabod had been carried off by the galloping Hessian.” (1.71)

Another supernatural aspect is the town. It is describe with a atmosphere of terror: the valley around the soldier died, a supernatural tree, a church where the ghost cannot entry and the bridge where Ichabod Crane saw a black horse and a rider without head. ”A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a high German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson.” (1.3)

The action focus on the conflict between Ichabod Crane and Bram Bones. They are rivall and Brom try to intimidate Ichabod. Also, they fight for Katrina Van Tassel. When Ichabod come bach on a path he was scaried by a dark horse with a rider without head. In fact the conflict between them reflect the conflict between Englithment and Romantic ideals.

In conclusion, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is a folktale with a supernatural elements. Firstly, the historical context is a real story and centred the fiction in time and space very favorable for that time.Secondly, the supernatural is present in description of the legend, in background, but so in characters. On the other hand, the conflict suggest very well the evil showed by Headless Horseman. Those, with the contrast of natural, truth and imagination Washington Irving create a fascinated book represent the myths of American ideals.


  1. Christopher R. and Jeffrey B. Webb Editors, American Myths, Legends, and Tall Tales: An Encyclopedia of American Folklore, Vol. I: A-F, p. 463-467.
  2. History and Storytelling,Theme Analysis, Avalabile at Accessed on 23 August 2019.
  3. Patrick, Browne, October 31, 2011, The Story Behind Sleepy Hollow, Available at Accessed on 15 August 2019.
  4. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – Summary and Analysis. (2016, Oct 30). Available at Accessed 19 August 2019.
  5. Washington, Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Read more


Tone and Mood Analysis of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Many people argue that books are always better than the movies, but is that always true? Mood, tone and attitude are major components in stories, as they determine how the reader feels. In Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow the mood, tone, and attitude are very distinct throughout the story. In the Disney cartoon reenactment, there is a much more cheerful and fun feel then there is in the original story. However, the mood and tone in key parts of the story remain fairly similar in both versions. There are parts of the story that retain the same mood and tone, and some parts that are different entirely.

In the opening scene of both versions, there is a difference in mood and tone. The author/ director’s goal in the first part of any story is to establish a setting and introduce characters, which both versions do very well. In the original short story the author expresses a very poetic and sincere tone, for example, Irving states “A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere” (Irving 3). The usage of words like “drowsy” and “dreamy” help convey a poetic tone throughout the section. As for the mood in this section, it is very gloomy, however, because it talks about ghosts and spirits that haunt the land. Irving says, “The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region” (Irving 3). In this sentence, Irving describes how the town is haunted by a ghost, which is very creepy, and gloomy. In contrast, the Disney film starts out with a super cheerful musical, that conveys a pleasing mood and tone. The townspeople in this part of the film seem to be super cheerful and happy, as they are all smiling, and singing (Disney). There is also a part of the scene in which Ichabod, the protagonist, is showed whistling and trotting cheerfully across the rolling green hills towards the town (Disney). All these activities are usually associated with happiness, thus conveying a cheerful/pleasing mood and tone. As for the attitude of the scene, it remains consistent from scene to scene in both the original text and the Disney adaptation. The author’s attitude towards the characters in both works, is playful and sarcastic, as the descriptions of the characters are very exaggerated, and practical jokes are played often.

In the aforementioned scene, the mood and tone are both different, but in the dance/party scene, the tone is kept more or less the same, but the mood is changed. For example, in the original story, when the eating and dancing is over, the mood goes from cheerful to being dark and gloomy quickly. At the start of the scene, the narrator describes how amazing the house of the Van Tassels is, when he says “Heaven bless the mark! I want breath and time to discuss this banquet as it deserves” (Irving 21). When the narrator is describing how fantastic the banquet is, the readers feel a sense of happiness as it is super easy to imagine that they are actually at the party. Soon after the party, however, people start to tell stories of ghosts and goblins. For example, Irving says, “Besides there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they have scarcely had time to finish their first nap and turn themselves in their graves” (Irving 23). Here Irving is talking about the spirits that haunt the town. This sets a dark, eerie mood, as most people find ghosts creepy and frightening. In the film, however, the mood is much different, as the mood is clearly humorous. For example, in the original short story, Brom Bones tells the tale of the Galloping Hessian in a very dramatic, suspenseful way, but in the movie, he tells it in a musical form. During the musical, Ichabod acts very comedically. For example, he dumps a mound of pepper onto a hard-boiled egg, eats it, and spits fire from his mouth (Disney). Katrina and the rest of the crowd are also finding his actions humorous as they are laughing hysterically as well (Disney). Adding these elements to the movie makes the mood very different from Irving’s original story.

There are also many parts of the movie that maintain the same mood and tone of the original, especially in one particular spot, the chase scene. In this scene, Ichabod has just left the party and is traversing the dark, gloomy woods at midnight. The author’s tone in this section is definitely gloomy, Irving states, “As Ichabod approached this fearful tree, he began to whistle, he thought his whistle was answered: it was but a blast sweeping sharply through the dry branches” (Irving 27). If this wasn’t enough to prove that Irving was trying to create a gloomy/spooky tone, Irving also states“all the stories of ghosts and goblins had crowding upon his recollection” (Irving 27). These two quotes both show how Irving demonstrates a dark, gloomy tone making Ichabod super fearful of his situation. It is evident that he is fearful because he is reminded of ghost and goblin stories, and feels as if he’s not alone in the forest when he thinks that something is whistling back to him. For mood in this section, Irving makes the reader feel scared and anxious. In the quotes above, the author makes the reader feel like they are in Ichabod’s shoes. He does so by going into deep detail, to help the reader create a mental image of the scene. In this case, since Ichabod is clearly scared out of his mind, so is the reader. In the film, the situation is more or less the same, the tone is still dark and gloomy because the director wanted to maintain the same sense of fear. Many elements are also added to the movie, like the cattails that sound like horse hooves, and the glowing eyes in the tree, that give the movie a dark and gloomy feel (Disney). For mood, it is consistent with the original because all the elements of the environment in which Ichabod is traveling through, create a sense of fear in the reader. Whether it be the dark twisted trees or all the creepy sounds of the woods.

The impact of mood, tone and attitude, has an adverse effect on how people feel about a story or movie. Because of this, it is important for directors to take into consideration when making a remake or adaptation of a piece of writing. In many places, the tone and mood varied between versions, but in the most important scenes, it remains similar, to keep the overall feel of the original. Overall the Disney remake did a good job of keeping mood, tone, and attitude similar in their adaptation or Irving’s original story, with a few tweaks in minor places.

Works Cited

  • Irving, Washington. The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. 1820.
  • Kinney, Jack, Clyde Geronimi, and James Algar, directors. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr.Toad. Walt Disney Productions, 1949.
Read more


The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Comparison of the American Ideal in Short Story and Film

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

The American ideal is a concept which was necessary in building the United States of America at the time of the American revolution. It states that if one works hard and is a good person, they will achieve success. This idea was only reinforced with the signing of the Declaration of Independence which states, “all men are created equal”. At this point in history it allowed families in the states to be motivated to provide for themselves while proving themselves as nationalists. However, even the most loyal Americans still needed an extra enticement to follow this ideal. The American Identity was this incentive. America, similar to the Old World, needed a mythology to prove that they were singular from the rest of the world so that they would act under their ideal for the long term. Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving grasps at the idea of surviving in America is tremulous and Americans must keep utterly convicted to the American ideal in order to survive. The story takes place in the small town Sleepy Hollow and tells the story of Ichabod Crane, a lanky, greedy teacher who originates from Connecticut. He is seen as a consumer who rarely works and is irrelevant in the lives of those who actually work to survive. He also believes heavily in the superstitions of the elder ladies in the town. Essentially, in Irving’s works, Ichabod is seen as the enemy to the American Ideal. The fiction continues to dwell deeper into the fears of Ichabod and he is eventually chased out of town by the Headless Horseman, an old wive’s tale of a Hessian trooper who died during the American Revolution, who haunts the area surrounding Sleepy Hollow. Tim Burton in his cinematic version of Legend of Sleepy Hollow uses the same plot, characters, and geography, but with a darker atmosphere. He also deviates in his view of the purpose American identity and use of Ichabod. Instead of using his film to represent the classic American ideal, he represents his own. That which represents how a person should act in a more modern sense. Unlike Irving, Burton uses Ichabod Crane (played by Johnny Depp) to represent his American ideal rather than the opposite of it. Burton’s Ichabod is a detective from New York who although bases his life off science, is still aware of the more mystical and religious. Ichabod Crane is used by Irving and Burton to demonstrate their view of the American identity. The Ichabods contrast each other through their ability to accept different opinions and realities, their gender ideologies, and in comparison of their ability to persist through tasks.

Irving and Burton’s Ichabods have different levels of ignorance that affects their ability to portray their respective ideals. Irving’s Ichabod, for example, does not know what he needs to do in order to achieve success. Due to his migration from Connecticut, where he has lived his entire life, Irving’s Ichabod does not have the required worldly experience to be able to evaluate other characters intentions and does not possess his own ability to change his own opinions. “He was a native of Connecticut… And sends forth yearly its legions of frontier woodmen and country schoolmasters” (Irving 5). Ichabod is compared to the woodmen, who are seen as useful in the eyes of Irving and his ideal, and is named as a teacher. While the profession of teaching itself allows for worldly experience to be gained through knowledge, schoolmasters are seen in the eyes of Irving as: “mere drones” (Irving 7). This means that they don’t do much work that is seen as appropriate according to the ideals and timeline. Irving’s Ichabod also rarely lived on his own and, “boarded and lodged at the houses of the farmers whose children he instructed” (Irving 7). His reliance on others also prevents him from gaining any worldly knowledge by providing him with the comfort of the provisions of others and is never exposed to living on his one. This proves that Ichabod in the short story is not determined to learn from others. This personality does not apply well to the hardworking survivalist ideal that Irving wishes to portray. However, Burton’s Ichabod comes from New York and therefore has experience from another, more populated land. With population comes a higher density of people of different cultures and experiences which can be shared with Burton’s Ichabod. As well, Burton’s Ichabod, when compared to Irving’s Ichabod, worked a policeman and detective. This profession allows Burton’s Ichabod to be faced with more trials and tribulations than Irving’s Ichabod, making him more cultured as a person and therefore able to make decisions using different points of view. As we see as the film progresses he has had quite a horrific past. His father was a priest that condemned his mother as a witch and placed her in an iron maiden. This unfortunate story allows him to be relatable and shows how he would be able to adapt to tough situations.Although he strongly believes in the sciences, he is aware of witchcraft and is able to make decisions while being informed of this, but not controlled by it. As we see when he enters the witches cave within the woods, he puts his full trust by entering her lair as she may have some information on how to defeat the Headless Horseman. Comparing this to Irving’s Ichabod, he is entirely superstitious and controlled this unfortunate characteristic. This allows him to be exiled by his fear of the Headless Horseman, never again returning to Sleepy Hollow. Burton’s Ichabod is able to make a more cultured approach to tasks and is able to work through them with this attribute. The contrast between Irving and Burton’s Ichabod regarding their ability to make decisions and allows them to prove themselves as candidates either going against or demonstrating their respective ideals, respectively.

The diversity between the two Ichabods show regarding their ideas of women and how they desire them. Irving’s Ichabod seeks to be with them, not because he enjoys their personality, but because of what they have to offer to him. “Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and only child of a substantial Dutch farmer… to display the prettiest foot and ankle in the country round” (Irving 10). This description of Katrina Van Tassel, mentioned as the daughter of Baltus Van Tassel and the most beautiful girl in Sleepy Hollow, seems to be through the greedy eyes of Irving’s Ichabod. There is no description of her actual characteristics, only what Irving’s Ichabod sees, which is a beautiful prize for him to own. Not only does he only see her as an object, but his desires exist only because of her father’s lands. He knows that if he were to marry Katrina, he would inherit the farm and be able to sell it: “how they [Baltus Van Tassel’s lands] might be readily turned into cash, and the money invested in immense tracts of wild land, and shingle palaces in the wilderness” (Irving 12). It is this greed and desire that verifies how Irving’s Ichabod sees women, Katrina especially, as an object for him to gain personal wealth from, not to love and enjoy time with. Burton’s Ichabod desires the opposite of Irving’s. Instead of falling in love with the riches Katrina implores, he falls in love with her character. Upon meeting each other they share a kiss while Katrina is blindfolded, this instantly sparks desire between the two characters. Besides this, Burton’s Katrina shares many similarities to the film’s Ichabod’s mother. Ichabod’s mother and Burton’s Katrina are both witches and seemingly kind, caring women. When speaking of his mother Ichabod reveals these same characteristics, knowing that she possessed them even though she was condemned as a witch. The similarities between them are enough for Burton’s Ichabod to fall truly in love with Burton’s Katrina. The difference in how the Ichabods see women determines how well they demonstrate their specific ideals. Irving’s Ichabod treats them as objects and therefore with no respect, going against the morally adept aspect of his ideals. Burton’s Ichabod adores his Katrina because of her personality and characteristics following in line with a modern belief of respect and adoration between genders.

When comparing the two Ichabod’s the amount of dedication they put into their work is a sole reflection of their character and shows how they compare to their ideals. Irving’s Ichabod, although at the beginning of the story rarely works, becomes even more distracted when given the possibility of constructing a relationship with the story’s Katrina. After being introduced to Katrina and after preventing Brom, the town hero and a perfect example of Irving’s American ideals, from successfully courting her, Irving’s Ichabod successfully begins the first steps of potentially marrying the story’s Katrina. This causes Irving’s Ichabod to falter in his work and begin daydreaming. “On a fine autumnal afternoon, Ichabod, in pensive mood, sat enthroned on the lofty stool from whence he usually watched all the concerns of his literary realm” (Irving 16). Even though there is not much for him to consider, the slightest idea of having all the fortunes of the Van Tassel farm excites the greedy Ichabod enough to abandon his duty of teaching the young minds of Sleepy Hollow. On the other hand, Burton’s Ichabod demonstrates exemplary focus and is even willing to risk his own life so the task at hand may be completed. When introduced to Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod is tasked with solving the mystery of multiple murders that occur on the outskirts of the town. He believes that it is simply a classic serial killer case and begins his detective work. However, the rumours of the Headless Horseman that patrols the town in seek of revenge are true. After seeing the Horseman for the first time when on the outside of town Ichabod is nearly killed. Although he is bedridden with injuries and fear, he does not give up. As soon as he can he begins to research reasons why the Hessian trooper is among the living. He faces many trials and encounters the Horseman a multitude of times, each one nearly ending in his death. Despite this, he persists in his work and succeeds, unlike Irving’s Ichabod who daydreams of the possibility that he may be handed over success. Burton’s Ichabod sends the Horseman and Burton’s Katrina’s stepmother, a witch who is responsible for summoning the Horseman in an attempt to usurp the lands and riches of the Van Tassels, back to the realms of Hell. The difference in the determination and willingness to work divides the two Ichabods and decides how they are symbols for their respective ideals. Irving’s Ichabod daydreams and does not work hard, and therefore fails at his goals by working against Irving’s American ideal. Burton’s Ichabod, on the contrary, is persistent and achieves his goals. This works in according to both Irving’s and Burton’s ideals, by working hard he becomes a better person and achieves success.

Washington Irving and Tim Burton created their own versions of Legend of Sleepy Hollow to demonstrate their ideals. Irving’s ideal states that if you work hard you will achieve success. Burton, living in a different period in time, has adapted the ideal to fit a more modern sense. That being that people should act appropriate in modern times by being respectful as well as hardworking. They both use Ichabod Crane to demonstrate how not to exist, and how to exist according to their ideals, respectively. The Ichabods establish this by showing their ability of acceptance, their gender ideologies, and their work ethic. By creating their stories of Legend of Sleepy Hollow Irving and Burton successfully established a muse for their American identity to persist through time. Similar to the stories of the old ladies in Sleepy Hollow, stories and morals only last as long as the people who believe in them repeat them to those who are not aware of them.

Read more


A Romantic View of Sleepy Hollow

August 7, 2019 by Essay Writer

Peter Lerangis’ Sleepy Hollow is a magnificent example of romantic fiction. It contains and expounds upon all of the vital elements of romanticism. Lerangis includes an exemplary romantic hero and his quest to find truth in an abstract issue. An enormous fascination with supernatural events and uneasiness towards women accompanies his romantic hero. And, Lerangis juxtaposes the harsh realities of city life to the romantic beauties of nature, defining romanticism in its entirety. The American hero is the most predominantly represented element of romanticism within the novel. Paralleling a typical romantic hero, Ichabod is full of youth and innocence. This youthful existence is apparent in Ichabod’s arachnophobia, through which he resorts back to childish panic rather than facing his fears as a mature adult. During one such instance of panic, he notices a spider in his room and “he scream[s], leaping away, as [a spider] skitter[s] under his bed” (Lerangis 110). Just as a child screams and runs when faced with fear, Ichabod resorts to his immature and primal instincts when faced by this small spider. Ichabod also portrays youth and innocence with his quest for higher truths. For instance, when he begins to contemplate the scars on his hands, he quickly ceases. He does not allow himself to ponder over their origin because “he prefer[s] solvable mysteries, and this one [makes] his brain fold darkly inward like a frightened sowbug” (14). In a matter of seconds, he goes from attempting to attain knowledge about his past to hiding from the idea as if he were a small child. However, aside from these minor flaws in his character, Ichabod is a hero in every sense of the word. When he is confronted by injustices in his society, he rebels against established authority. One such rebellion occurs when the high constable refuses to hear his voice. The high constable orders Ichabod to “stand down,” and Ichabod quickly responds, “I stand up, for sense and justice” (11). This opposition to authority demonstrates Ichabod’s heroism and genuine concern for society. Lerangis’ inclusion of the supernatural and uneasiness with women illustrate two additional characteristics that define a romantic work. The supernatural is especially predominant throughout the novel. The first recount of events Ichabod receives from the people of Sleepy Hollow is that the murder victims’ heads were “taken by the Headless Horseman” (23). This “Headless Horseman” is the ghost of “a Hessian mercenary” whom the Americans beheaded during the Revolutionary War (24). The ghost of the Horseman is even gifted with supernatural powers to control the weather. “The Horseman’s wind” and “the horseman’s storm” always foreshadow a beheading whenever they present themselves within the novel (136). The supernatural also ties into the romantic’s apprehension towards women and their symbolic need to domesticate. Ichabod incorporates the supernatural and his anxiety around women into one entity when he tells Katrina, “But perhaps there is a little bit of a witch in you…you have bewitched me” (101). This statement is simply a manifestation of Ichabod’s inability to perform in Katrina’s presence. This failure to function is apparent because “all words, all paths of thought, [lead] to Katrina;” and whenever Katrina is around, Ichabod is “speechless. She renders [him] speechless” (33; 31). Both the supernatural and his discomfort around women serve to oppose Ichabod in his quest to attain a higher truth. In addition to youthful heroism, truthful quests, the supernatural, and uneasiness towards women, Lerangis’ distrust of cities and his love of nature truly promote his romantic views. A romantic’s view of New York City is juxtaposed in the inhabitants’ view that “the world end[s] at Wall Street” and that its citizens “seldom venture north into the farmlands and swamps” (3). This idea of being constrained is the main focus of the romantic author. And, this distrust of cities does not end with its containment. New York City is further exemplified as a place where “distance murders [hold] little shock value” and “death [is] a daily event” (3). This image of a cruel and inhumane city appeals directly to the sense of pathos, invoking a concern its people and the hope for a solution. This solution is found in nature’s juxtaposition of the city. Nature symbolizes freedom, and a bird serves as the most predominant symbol of this freedom. In the novel, this bird is a cardinal, a bright red bird with the ability to fly, free from constraints and injustices. In the city, Ichabod has a cardinal as a pet, locked away in a cage. However, before leaving for Sleepy Hollow, he releases the bird and “watch[es] as its fiery red plumage [is] consumed in the rays of the rising sun” (14). This symbolizes both Ichabod’s release from the city’s cage and the beginning of a new chapter in his life. This cardinal appears later in the novel when Katrina tells Ichabod that she “would love to have a tame one, but wouldn’t have the heart to cage him” (60). This announcement reiterates the idea that nature is free from all constraints and should not be caged for a mere moment’s enjoyment. However, the cardinal’s symbolic freedom is not everlasting. As Ichabod is talking to the “Witch of the Western Woods,” she opens her fist and “a dead bird spill[s] out-a cardinal” (31; 73). Ichabod responds to this annihilation of freedom by “stepp[ing] back in horror” (73). It is this distrust of civilization and love of nature that leads Ichabod to Sleepy Hollow; and in the end, it is nature that triumphs over the evils of the city with its “snow, falling gently” and “covering [the city’s] multitude of sins” (149).

Read more


Sleepy Hollow: Remnants of Times Not So Far Past

June 14, 2019 by Essay Writer

In Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the theme of haunting is dominant; the haunting itself is purely a human creation and is created solely to meet human needs. Though at times it can seem quite realistic due to emotions evoked through Irving’s masterful use of imagery, it is at all times quite fictional, even to the narrator. Haunting is continuously associated with stretches of the imagination, and also mostly with live or animate things: trees, animals, sounds escaping from the wilderness. The idea of haunting, which leads to stories told by the Sleepy Hollow community, begins when there are no answers to curious happenings, or when the given answers are not satisfactory, or even mundane. The idea is then perpetuated when citizens begin to elaborate and incite new notions of ghosts and goblins from the original stories. The ‘haunting’ begins, however, with supernatural explanations for simple events in the past, such as Andre’s capture during the war; though this is a simple and not uncommon event in wartime, Sleepy Hollow is clutching to the past through vivid story telling. The fact that it is storytelling is subtly clear.One of the key ways that the reader can tell that the haunting is fictitious–or at the very least extremely questionable–is through the narrator’s word choice. Though the story is supposed to be an historical account of events that actually occurred in Sleepy Hollow, he often questions the veracity of the haunting. Even at the climactic point in which Ichabod faces the Headless Horseman, the narrator writes that Ichabod “beheld” (1082) the horseman’s disfigured shape, and that it “appeared” (1083) massive in the darkness. He never uses concrete verbs, such as ‘was,’ because it is not certain that what Ichabod ascertains is truly what is present. He carefully chooses his diction to simultaneously show what Ichabod is seeing as well as the fact that only he is seeing it–it is well possible that it does not exist. He does this strikingly well in the sentence, “Ichabod was horror struck, on perceiving that he was headless” (1083). There is no doubt that the protagonist believes completely in what he is seeing, but the use of the word ‘perception’ is key; it throws doubt upon the believability of Ichabod’s sense of reality.This false sense of haunting that is seen so clearly through Ichabod’s eyes manifests itself in particular places within the text. There are various moments in which nature gives him the feeling of being haunted, though it is harmless.Then, as he wended his way, by swamp and stream andawful woodland, . . .every sound of nature, at that witchinghour, fluttered his excited imagination: the moan of thewhip-or-will from the hill side; the boading cry of the treetoad; . . .the dreary hooting of the screech owl. . . (1064)The wilderness scares him, haunts him in a sense. Through the present nature–the shadows cast by trees, the sounds of forest animals–Ichabod, like all the other Sleepy Hollow residents, fears the past. It is the ‘witching hour’ merely because it is dark outside, and the sounds frighten him merely because he has an ‘excited imagination,’ and for no real substantial reason. Like the tree and stream that Andre is said to haunt, there is nothing that is really to be feared–merely shadows and cricket chirps, wind rustling leaves. The fear, however, is a result of the stories that are told, not necessarily of the actual surroundings. That Andre was captured is not a scary story, but that his spirit remains to haunt can be construed as frightening; it is purely imagination, though, that causes these stories to be told in the first place.The unfaithfulness of such stories is revealed toward the end of the tale. The reader is told that Ichabod is indeed alive and well following his supposed abduction from Sleepy Hollow by the Headless Horseman. The residents of the town also come into this knowledge by a farmer that has seen him firsthand. However, “the old country wives… maintain to this day, that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means… the schoolhouse… was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue” (1086). The Dutch wives, who are the perpetuators of the haunting stories throughout the text, persist in creating stories that they know to be false. They continually take what little past they have, and turn it into stories so that it is not lost, so that there is a history upon which they can build their present. But because they have so little past, they need to use the present to create a past–they use what happens to make a new history, a new past, building upon what they have already created.Ichabod is a prime example of this practice. He is clearly still alive, but he is in the history of Sleepy Hollow because he is no longer bodily present. The true reason for his disappearance is not satisfactory and is not exciting enough material with which to make a history, so the Dutch wives concoct their own history, and it becomes truth. Everyone who enters Sleepy Hollow becomes subject to their whimsical tales, and falls into their belief system, no matter “however wide awake they may have been before they entered the sleepy region” (1060). They cannot be held at fault, however. There is simply so little past that they need to preserve what they have through what is now present, what is now alive. This is shown through the abundance of live and animated haunting imagery. The haunting comes solely from within them, and only manifests itself in these external things. For these people that lack a past, fictitious events become legend, and then those legends become history.

Read more


“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and Postcolonialism

April 3, 2019 by Essay Writer

Terry W. Thompson’s article “‘Lively but Complicated:’ English Hegemony in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’” was published in Midwest Quarterly in 2013. In this article, Thompson explores the political climate in Washington Irving’s famed short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and evaluates the character Ichabod Crane through a postcolonial lens. Thompson contends that in addition to conventional interpretations of the work, Irving’s short story may be read as an expression of the historical “cultural tension” between Dutch and English settlers in early American society (136). While Irving’s work is generally read as an exploration of the themes of past versus future or rural versus urban, Thompson argues that there is a larger theme of clashing cultures at the core of these interpretations. In his article, Thompson asserts that Ichabod Crane may be viewed as the embodiment of English colonialism.

In support of his argument, Thompson highlights the various characteristics that make Ichabod stand out as an example of English colonialism. As a man of English heritage from Connecticut, Ichabod is an outsider and minority in the predominantly Dutch area of Sleepy Hollow. Although one might assume that Ichabod’s position as an outsider and minority would force him into the Dutch way of life, that is not the case. Thompson, asserting that Ichabod’s way of thought perpetuates the English colonial mindset, writes, “When the new schoolteacher […] ambles into Sleepy Hollow, he immediately—and intentionally—disrupts a Dutch place with his English worldview and thereby becomes a serious threat to two centuries of stability and homogeneity” (137-138). This interpretation of Ichabod is supported by historical evidence; Indeed, English colonists forcefully sought new territory during the colonization of America with a disregard for previous settlements and existing customs. There is a history of “violence” and “hostility” between the Dutch and English settlers as the English forged their way into new territories, bringing their customs with them (136). Another element of Ichabod’s character that lends itself to Thompson’s interpretation is the fact that Ichabod is a school teacher. Thompson contends that this is an example of the way in which English colonists would forcefully assimilate minority cultures into the English idea of civilized society.

Contrasted against the rural Dutch, Thompson argues that the English Ichabod seems to embody the “expansionist attitude” that was popular among the English colonists (137). Thompson describes the English as being “ruthless purveyors of commerce, industry, development, and growth,” and he parallels this presentation of the English with Ichabod’s actions and attitudes in the work (137). Despite being an outsider, Ichabod makes himself feel quite at home in Sleepy Hollow. Seeking room and board with various families in town, Ichabod may aptly be labeled as an entitled individual. Thompson, delving further into the notion of Ichabod’s sense of entitlement, notes the various ways in which Irving characterizes Ichabod’s hunger. In Irving’s work, Ichabod’s appetite is compared to that of a snake and a locust, and Thompson asserts that this portrayal mimics the insatiable desire that the English colonists possessed regarding expansion. Like a snake that devours its food whole, the English colonists were devouring American land, resources, and minority cultures and customs. Like the locusts that come in swarms, bringing chaos and destruction, the English colonists arrived in America and forcefully placed their ways of life and thought on other cultures and upturned any existing concepts of normalcy.

Continuing his argument that Ichabod embodies English colonialism, Thompson explores the role of Katrina Van Tassel and Ichabod’s attitude toward her in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” He proposes that Katrina serves as a “Pocahontas figure” who would permit “[Ichabod’s] entry into the local hierarchy of power” (144). It is not necessarily the affection of Katrina that Ichabod desires; rather, when thinking about Katrina, he focuses on her material wealth, what he would do with it, and how he could gain from it. While he is impressed by Katrina’s beauty, he is more impressed by her father’s land and home. Thompson, explaining the notion of Katrina’s position as a Pocahontas figure, writes,

[Ichabod’s] covert enterprise is to liquidate Katrina’s entire estate and turn the vast acreage that has been Dutch land for almost two centuries into hard cash. […] Ichabod plans, as another Englishman did many generations before, to remove his choses Pocahontas from her ancestral lands. […] In essence, like the teenaged Powhatan girl who was taken away to live in an unfamiliar place far from her own people and culture, Katrina Van Tassel, a Rubenesque avatar of all things Dutch, will be spirited away to a foreign landscape, a lovely trophy taken from an indigenous and therefore inferior race. (145)

The sense of entitlement that Ichabod feels about Katrina, accompanied with his insincere, manipulative, and selfish nature, reflects an English colonial ideology. Ichabod only wants Katrina’s hand in marriage so that he can gain something of monetary or societal value.

If Katrina Van Tassel is the Pocahontas figure, what does that make Brom Van Brunt? How are readers to interpret this character who makes a fool of Ichabod? If, following Thompson’s interpretation, Ichabod is the embodiment of English colonialism, why is he defeated? Generally speaking, the English colonists won, and their customs became the dominant customs of wherever they decided to colonize. Therefore, it could be argued that there is a flaw in Thompson’s argument. Thompson, however, explains Ichabod’s defeat as a representation of the Dutch resistance to cultural assimilation. According to Thompson, Brom epitomizes the Dutch way of life. Because Ichabod is defeated by Brom, Irving’s story can be viewed as a criticism of English colonialism. Although Ichabod is the protagonist of the work, Irving merely uses his character to personify and critique colonialism.

The overall argument of Thompson’s article deserves notice. Using support from the text and the history of English colonialism, Thompson effectively interprets “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as an expression of the tense underlying cultural dynamic that pervaded the colonial period of America. Thompson’s interpretation of the work serves to add depth to other, more conventional, interpretations of the work. The notion that Irving’s short story is an exploration of the themes of past versus future or rural versus urban can be explained more thoroughly through the postcolonial lens. Utilizing the information from Thompson’s article, readers may understand that the past and the rural of these interpretations are symbols of minority groups and their assimilation into the English idea of society, and the urban and the future of these interpretations are symbols of English colonialism and its tendency to upturn and replace preexisting customs. Thompson adds another layer to the character of Ichabod Crane that aids in understanding why Irving depicts him in the somewhat peculiar manner that he does. Ichabod’s physical appearance, attitude of entitlement, and the overall odd outcome for his character in the work can be explained by Thompson’s explanation of his character’s position as the embodiment of English colonialism.

In conclusion, Thompson’s “‘Lively but Complicated:’ English Hegemony in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’” effectively interprets Irving’s short story as a criticism of English colonialism. In recognition of the underlying cultural tension in early American society, Thompson has an argument that is both compelling and credible. The article highlights the various ways in which Irving depicts the social and political atmospheres of the colonial period in America in his work, and in doing so, Thompson allows for a more in-depth evaluation of the short story’s meaning and analysis of Ichabod Crane. Though the total villainization of Ichabod may not have been what Irving intended, Thompson’s claims shed a useful and informative light on Irving’s work.

Work Cited

Thompson, Terry W. “‘Lively but Complicated:’ English Hegemony in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.’” Midwest Quarterly, vol. 54, no. 2, Winter 2013, pp. 136-148. EBSCOhost,

Read more


Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” Recycled and the Phenomenon of Intertextuality Represented through Its Adaptations in American Popular Culture

January 25, 2019 by Essay Writer

Washington Irving lived throughout the late 18th – early 19th century and was an American short story writer, essayist, historian, and diplomat. His piece of work, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” can be considered as a classic in today’s American popular culture. The story of Ichabod Crane and the character of the Headless Horseman itself is still circulated around. Several depictions prevail about the image of the headless horseman even 200 years later. The movie titled Sleepy Hollow (1999) and the series from 2013 are also important adaptations to consider when analyzing how the original story is recycled through these.

Irving is connected to American folklore as well, as he represents his characters in folk tales and local settings while also expressing American values (Hoffman). Nowadays mass culture suppresses folk culture in a way, as mass culture is popular culture that is created for the masses of consumers (Strinati 9). However, from my point of view, mass and folk ­– even high – cultures are connected as originality and the roots of a community that originates from folk culture can facilitate attractiveness for different segments of culture (Strinati 10). Considering “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, the importance of folklore cannot be hidden as part of the short story itself can be associated with European origins and it was created as a folk tale.

The story of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is set in a constructed German setting, in a rural valley near Tarry town. The short story was published in 1820. It is one of the most widely-known gothic stories of American fiction. The protagonist is the outsider intellectual, Ichabod Crane who arrives to Sleepy Hollow to become the schoolmaster of the village. The atmosphere of the village is peculiar, almost dream-like, as if the entire town and the people in it were enchanted. The most exciting phenomenon is the ghost of the Headless Horseman who comes back from time to time to ride his horse by the church where he was buried. He is said to be a Hessian soldier who died during the revolutionary war. The Horseman is searching for his head and haunts the people of the village as well.

However, it is not just the figure of the Headless Horseman that prevails, but also the atmosphere and the setting of the short story. In Irving’s hometown, in Sleepy Hollow, New York, for example, the school mascot is the Headless Horseman, one of the fire trucks is orange and black and you can buy souvenirs connected to the mysterious figure and atmosphere of Sleepy Hollow throughout the whole town (Goldberg). Besides Tarry town, video games, Halloween costumes and other small products, there is the question of adaptations. These adaptations – like the movie from 1999 or the series titled Sleepy Hollow – keep the mysterious figure and superstition alive while recreating the setting itself as well. Another reason for movies as adaptations being so popular is the fact that they can help to understand the original message of the written book or short story. Not to mention that perceiving a story in the 21st century is a lot different than doing it in the era it came out. The purpose of recycling can be to guide, to entertain the audiences, or even to reinforce the original piece and athmosphere that is diverted into something new. Recycled materials are based on other texts while also changing the core and the basic values of them.

Moreover, intertextuality – not strictly in a literal meaning – also comes into the picture when considering the secondary and tertiary texts connected to the original short story itself (Fiske, Reading the Popular 115). Besides the primary text, advertisements and different products also appear for people, as mentioned above. These can be different forms of art, like paintings representing the Horseman or candles, even video games. In this way, people can obtain these products that become the tertiary parts of intertextuality. From this point of view, the movie adaptation from 1999, Sleepy Hollow is crucial, as it is also part of this intertextuality, representing and formulating the original story in the form of an on-screen piece of art. Intertextuality is originally seen as the interrelatedness of texts, in this essay it, however, refers to a broader category in popular culture, incorporating film adaptations as well (Olney 166). The way it is used is that movie adaptations translate the original piece of work to the screen. This statement however presumes that there is an original piece of work to which the given adaptation is indebted. In today’s world it is no surprise that most films are sequels and remakes, music is full with cover versions, and fashion is also recycled according to past styles. This broader interpretation appears in the case of the movie and the series called Sleepy Hollow.

From one point of view, intertextuality is based on texts. However, as it was mentioned before, with the development of technology and with the making of adaptations, it is perceived in a broader sense in today’s world. Thus, intertextuality is vital in the film industry and becomes more and more important in consumer society and advertising, too. In the 21st century a lot of texts, products, and media created objects compete for the audiences’ attention, so the recycling of already widely known or even liked texts can keep these productions and adaptations alive and give them success. So, intertextuality can attract people, especially if the given classics are still relevant and can be connected to contemporary life and audiences.

The film that is analyzed in this paper came out in 1999 and portrayed the settings, characters and main happenings of the plot similarly to those of the short story. When comparing the short story itself to the movie adaptation, differences can also be noticed. For example, the main character, Ichabod Crane himself. In the short story, Ichabod is self-assured who knows what he is doing. However, in the film, he appears as an obscure, hesitant character who is not sure about what he is doing. Not to mention that in the short story, he is the schoolmaster, however, in the film he arrives to investigate the mysterious murder cases of the village. His presence is needed as he is the one who is capable of examining the bodies, and as a result, solving the murderous cases. Katrina’s character also differs, as in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” she is the student of Ichabod. Another significant difference is the ending. In “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” Katrina did not end up choosing Ichabod. In fact, Ichabod disappears after facing the Headless Horseman. Before he disappears, he sees the Headless Horseman hurl his detached head at him. He falls off of his horse and the next day the horse returns to the village but Ichabod does not. While, in Sleepy Hollow (1999), Ichabod and Katrina end up together and move to New York. Ichabod’s future is therefore figurable. A happy ending in the movie, whereas disappearance and rumors about where he went and what he had become in the short story. The above mentioned characteristic features of the short story and others specified in the movie portray that adaptations can – and often do – differ from the original text.

More recently, another adaptation was created in the form of a series that was titled Sleepy Hollow as well. It has to be mentioned that with this adaptation the creators achieved to satisfy the audience’s needs in the 21st century. To confirm this statement, Laura Prudom’s article offers convincing arguments. The most important ones are race and gender. The topic itself occurs in the original short story as well and can be interpreted as the questioning of the typical gender roles in that era, as Ichabod’s character did not fulfil the norms and requirements. According to Prudom, the cast in the series is the most diverse one from the recently made American series: “two of its four series regulars are African-American” (Prudom). Other people of color also appear next to African-Americans. Thus, the series has a huge impact on people’s attitude towards race, for example. The series started in 2013 and remains loyal to the gothic and mysterious atmosphere of the original story, still it modernizes. It is based on a storyline where Ichabod resurrects 250 years after his death. Along with him comes the Headless Horseman, too. The popularity of the series depends on these aspects and on the fact that classics still move people’s imagination and fantasy, so that adaptations are widely welcomed. Of course, it also has to be addressed that there is not much connection to the original tale apart from the characters and the town. This is a feature that shows how adaptations can differ and still bring the original mentality and intellectual appeal with them. In this way, the process of recycling classics have moved beyond being familiar with the most recent versions or adaptations, as those require some background and previous knowledge about the original piece. Of course, there will be differences when comparing the old piece to the new versions, in manner, representation, modern elements and so on.

The remarkability of Irving’s story is the following:

Irving intentionally constructed it as folklore rooted in the country’s history and traditions. Thus, it survives not only as a wonderfully written tale, but also — particularly through the immortal characters of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horsemen — as part of American popular culture and legend. (Grossman qtd. in Charles)

American popular culture incorporates adaptations and it is also based on representing originally written artworks on screen and in everyday products. However, adaptations have both positive and negative features. Obviously, just like in the case of Sleepy Hollow (1999), entertainment is important. The film reaches that goal with its creepy atmosphere that is portrayed just like it was written in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. The film also broadens the temporal and spatial range of transferring the literary text to the screen (Olney 167). But the other side of the coin is also present, that is having an interest in profit and creating movies based on our own tastes, therefore departing from the original work. This departing can be percieved in the series, as except for the characters and the village, almost everything else is different. According to Olney, “film adaptations are often no longer based on books at all” (Olney 167). From the adaptation’s point of view, fidelity is another question worth analyzing. Being faithful to the source text is crucial, however, nowadays that view is also changing. Adaptations do not only translate the texts into images but sometimes also offer a different approach and a unique fusion of these two elements (Olney 169). According to these, originality is – though partly represented – endangered in adaptations and in secondary or tertiary texts, too. This is the case as adaptations mostly focus on the audience by whom they are perceived in society and try to satisfy their expectations while also suit to their tastes. It can be related to the chosen genres, to what similarities are kept when considering the original text, to the differences made, or even to the visual aids that are used.

Recycling classics like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and also producing secondary or tertiary texts can be connected to the phenomena of popular discrimination in 21st century’s American popular culture as people choose certain products that they like and reject others (Fiske, Understanding Popular Culture 129). This is where fan culture appears, too. With the help of social media, adaptations, secondary and tertiary texts become easily accessible. People rely on capitalism and merchandise different products for the fan base, like souvenirs, T-shirts, mugs or even candles representing the Headless Horseman, for example. In this way, capitalism and consumerism relies on likeability and popularity. Obviously, this is connected to individual taste as well. It can be also stated that reusing classics have become widely used and enjoyed by today. The popularity of this particular movie adaptation (from 1999) could be considered to be based on the image of the Headless Horseman, the mysterious and fearful story, or the entire atmosphere of the initial text incorporated. Just like in the case of the series, as in that not just bits and pieces of the original story were transformed, but the roots as well. This is part of the question of relevance and of mass culture, too where the aim is the satisfaction of the consumer. Intertextuality and recycling the classics in modern popular culture’s art pieces also play a huge role here. In this way, these phenomena – popular discrimination, intertextuality and recycling classics – are intertwined.

Classics are becoming more and more popular in today’s consumer society. This phenomenon is not straightforward to analyze and understand. Considerable reasons are for example, that characteristic features of the people are in many ways the same as they were two hundred years ago; the themes of these classics are still easy to relate to – love, death, searching for answers in life etc. Humor, fear and other emotions are expressed in a manner that is still enjoyable for the reader. A connection to their personal and daily life can also be present in this way, for example by drawing meanings to their own life through these classics or how classics appear in modernized versions. Their quality and writing style are expressive enough to be the ground of different productions, adaptations, or interpretations. Of course, it all depends on personal taste and the will of being interested and opened for perception by the masses. So, the audiences’ response is also a crucial factor. One of the most welcomed feature is that even though adaptations use the original material, they create new content and modernize the stories, so that it is easier to understand and more enjoyable for this generation. This is where relevance comes into the picture. In this way, it is actually possible that people are interested in the particular adaptation itself to see how that represents the original setting and values of the story, and later on they can form their opinion about it. In the series titled Sleepy Hollow, the formation and diversity of the characters also play a huge rule for popularity.

The recycling of classics occur more broadly as culture does not just invite and accept the phenomenon of intertextuality but requires it to become a form of art in today’s popular culture. According to this, it could be stated that there is a need to recycle past popular culture. Based on the above mentioned, the recycling of classics, intertextuality, popular discrimination, and consumerism overlap. Audiences have the ability to rely on newer sources when choosing what to like or reject and they contribute to a market where their choice, taste and money determines production. Recycling can be interpreted as cultural recycling in a sense, as it is connected to a little nostalgia that usually attract audiences. In the case of the adaptations connected to Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” American folklore and people’s associations towards that given tale comes forward. Therefore, recycling remains a dominant stylistic and constructive asset.

Works Cited

Charles, Ron. “The Remarkable Persistence of ‘Sleepy Hollow’.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 15 Nov. 2013, Web. Accessed 04 January, 2019.

Fiske, John. “Chapter 5: Popular Texts.” Reading the Popular. 1989. London & New York: Routledge, 2003. 1-12.

Fiske, John. “Chapter 6: Popular Discrimination.” Understanding Popular Culture. 1989. London & New York: Routledge, 1994. 129-158.

Goldberg, Susan L.M. “Think Pop Culture Doesn’t Matter? Visit Sleepy Hollow, New York.” Video, PJ Media, Web. Accessed 18 December, 2018.

Hoffman, Daniel G. “Irving’s Use of American Folklore in ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.’” PMLA, vol. 68, no. 3, 1953, pp. 425–435. JSTOR, JSTOR, Web. Accessed 18 December, 2018.

Olney, Ian. “Texts, Technologies, and Intertextualities: Film Adaptation in a Postmodern World.” Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 3, 2010, pp. 166–170. JSTOR, JSTOR, Web. Accessed 18 December, 2018.

Prudom, Laura. “What Every TV Show Can Learn from Sleepy Hollow.” The Week – All You Need to Know about Everything That Matters, The Week, 3 Dec. 2013, Web. Accessed 04 January, 2019.

Pulver, Andrew. “Adaptation of the Week No. 45 Sleepy Hollow (1999).” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 Feb. 2005, Web. Accessed 18 December, 2018.

Strinati, Dominic. “Chapter 1: Mass Culture and Popular Culture.” An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture. 2nd ed. London & New York: Routledge, 2005. 1-45.

Read more