Based on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” describe the character of Ichabod Crane.Based on “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” describe the character of Ichabod Crane

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the famous characters of American folklore, Ichabod Crane is best remembered for his lanky appearance and his gullibility and fear as he believes he is chased by the headless horseman.  In Washington Irving's charming, humorous, and slightly terrifying tale, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Ichabod Crane arrives from Conneticut in Sleepy Hollow, the enchanted land and "place of nature." His featues befit his surname Crane:  He has a long neck and legs; his head is small and flat at the top; he has large ears, large glassy eyes, and a long nose.  His likeness to a scarecrow, too, is remarkable. Irving describes him,

To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and flutering about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield.

Crane is the schoolmaster, and a harsh one at that.  But, he

administered justice with discrimination rather than severity; taking the burthen off the backs of the weak, and laying it on those of the strong.

He always tells the boys that he whips that they will long remember it and thank him for the whipping later on. Yet, when school was finished, Ichabod Crane was the playmate of the larger boys.  But, he was known for accompanying the smaller boys home if they had pretty sisters or a mother who could cook.  To assist his salary, he would help the farmers to make hay, and he was not against letting the children play with him or hold a little one on his knee.

As the schoolmaster and singing instructor, Crane holds a respectable position in the community.  The ladies consider him erudite and he is certainly knowedgeable in the history of New England Witchcraft.  He loves to feed his imagination with his book on witchcraft and with the wives' tales.  But, after he exchanges tales, Crane is fearful as he walks home until he encounters Katrina Van Tassel.  So, desirous of marrying her, Ichabod visits her home where there is always "wonderful food" on the table.

However, when Crane decides to court Katrina, Brom Van Brunt, "the hero of the county round," becomes his foe.  So, Ichabod pretends that he is giving Katrina singing lessons and visits the farm frequently.  But, the redoutable Brom Bones, as he was called, becomes Ichabod's rival; for a while, Brom plays practical jokes on Ichabod in order for him to turn into a figure of ridicule.

 Ichabod vows to ask Katrina to marry him; he borrows a ghastly looking horse named Gunpowder, who, though old and broken down, has a "lurking devil in him." Toward evening he sees that Brom Bones has ridden his own horse named Daredevil.  After the meal, people gather and tell stories of the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow.  All the tales affect Ichabod, who tries to talk with Katrina before leaving.  But, mysteriously, Ichabod leaves looking desolate and dejected at "the very witching hour."  With no signs of life, Ichabod fearfully recalls all the ghost stories he has heard as he approaches a gnarled tree that is connected to a tragic story of a Major Andre who was taken prisoner nearby. Then, when his horse will not run over the bridge, Ichabod sees something "misshapen, black, and towering."  The headless horseman rides alongside Gunpowder. Ichabod holds on and outruns the horseman, who hurls his head at ichabod.

For days, people search for Ichabod.  But, no trace of him can be found.  The old wives say Ichabod was "spirited away."

Read the study guide:
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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