drawing of the headless horseman holding a pumpkin and riding a horse through the woods

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

by Washington Irving

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Is Ichabod dead in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"?

In the end, we do not know if Ichabod Crane dies in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." People in town decide, based on the fact that Ichabod never returns for his possessions, that he must have been carried away by the goblin. However, Brom Bones's "knowing" look and "hearty laughter" whenever Ichabod is mentioned make it seem like he was responsible for frightening Ichabod away. Thus, Ichabod is likely alive, somewhere.

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Ultimately, we do not know for sure whether Ichabod is dead or not. The narrator tells us that Ichabod rides Gunpowder as fast as the animal would go toward the bridge, but he is struck in the head by the horrible pumpkin head of the "goblin" who pursues him. Ichabod falls from the horse, and Gunpowder runs off into the night without him. On the one hand, there is no proof of Ichabod's death: no body is found in the brook, no blood on the road. Further, Brom Bones's "knowing" look and "hearty laugh" whenever the pumpkin or Ichabod is mentioned make it seem as though he knows "more about the matter than he chose to tell." In other words, it might have been Brom all along. Perhaps it was him, and he simply frightened Ichabod enough to leave town as fast as he could.

On the other hand, Gunpowder is found the next day, without his saddle, and all of Ichabod's worldly belongings are still in his home. The community even finds his hat on the bridge next to the remnants of the pumpkin. Ichabod never returns, not even to gather his things, but if he died or was truly struck down by something supernatural, shouldn't there be some more concrete evidence of it? Because he doesn't owe anyone money, the people in town don't pursue him and decide, based on what they see and the stories of others like Brom, that he was "carried off by the Galloping Hessian."

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