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In 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow', what is funny about the horse Ichabod rides to the...

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janderson0033 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 31, 2013 at 4:14 PM via web

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In 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow', what is funny about the horse Ichabod rides to the Van Tassel's party as he starts off like a  'Knight in quest of adventures'?

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted October 31, 2013 at 8:16 PM (Answer #1)

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Ichabod’s horse, Gunpowder, is described as

a broken-down plough horse, that had outlived almost everything but his viciousness. He was gaunt and shagged, with a ewe neck and a hammer head; his rusty mane and tail were tangled and knotted with burrs; one eye had lost its pupil, and was glaring and spectral, but the other had a gleam of a genuine devil in it.

 Gunpowder is thus comically portrayed as an old, mean and grotesque creature with one eye and a ‘hammer head’, and Ichabod, even more comically, is deemed ‘a suitable figure for such a steed', with his long, lanky figure, elbows jutting out like 'grasshoppers' and his arms flapping like' wings'.

The hilarious portrayal of Ichabod and his horse deliberately undercuts the traditional picture of the hero, of the knightly warrior and gallant lover, mounted on his mighty steed, setting out on all manner of adventures and winning a fair maiden along the way. Ichabod does bid for the hand of Katrina Van Tassel, but only because he covets her family’s wealth, and he does not acquit himself particularly well in his encounter with the headless horseman (who, it seems, is just his love rival, Brom Bones, dressed up).

 Ichabod is not really a hero but Irving ironically treats him as one, consciously employing a grand elevated style in the manner of the old heroic epics to describe him and his generally ill-fated exploits. However, along with this comic strain, we also sometimes get a sense of the fear and awe surrounding the legend of the headless horseman and Ichabod's terrified flight through the darkness, even as we get a glimpse of the real devilry that lurks in the decrepit old Gunpowder's eye. 

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