What are the symbolic meanings of the bearded men with odd appearance  in the Catskill Mountains ,and the ninepins  in Rip Van Winkle?

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lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although Henry Hudson was an English explorer, he worked for the Dutch East India Company, so when he explored the New York river valley that was later named after him (the Hudson River, and the Hudson River Valley), he would have had several Dutchmen in his crew.

Many Dutch settled in this area of New York, and Washington Irving set many of his short stories in the Hudson River Valley (i.e. "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", etc.) In "The Legend of Rip Van Winkle" Rip encounters a stout bearded man that he does not recognize. The man brings him to a grove where another group of similarly-dressed men is playing ninepins (bowling). Rip drinks some of their strong liquor, falls asleep, and wakes up 20 years later. The American Revolution has taken place during this time and no one recognizes Rip. The bearded man is thought to be the ghost of Henry Hudson, and the other men the crew of his ship. During the Dutch settlement of this area, many legends were associated with Hudson, one of which was that when it thundered, it was merely Henry Hudson and his crew playing ninepins in the sky.

In this short story, the ghost of Hudson and the ninepins can represent several things. Some people believe that the ghost represents adventure from the bygone days of exploration, and others believe the ghost represents the "ghosts" of the old world, that world that disappeared after the American Revolution.

What do YOU think?

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Rip Van Winkle

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