"Rip Van Winkle" is memorable and mythical both in the world of the story and in the character's legacy because he appeals to the imagination and to our sense of time and its passing.
Within the story, Rip falls in with the spirits of Henry Hudson and his crew and enters into the world of myth and legend. He is just a plain man, an idle man even, yet he experiences a major adventure as he is led into what is essentially another realm of sorts. He gets to leave the real world of conflict with his wife and bad luck behind. But then he gets to come back, and he experiences a major disconnect. Rip has slept for twenty years, and the world has changed. The Revolutionary War has come and gone, and Rip’s nagging wife has died. He becomes something of a legend among the villagers and their descendants because his story appeals to their desire to escape the real world.
Rip is a legend even today because we are all like those villagers. We, too, want to escape the real world even if only through our imaginations, and we wonder what it would be like to find ourselves in a completely new place and time. We would like to touch another world as Rip did when he met Hudson and his crew. We would like to have an adventure. This is why Rip Van Winkle is so memorable and even mythical. He gives us a little taste of what happens when someone steps beyond the normal world and beyond time.