Why is the village called Sleepy Hollow in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"?

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sleepy Hollow is not actually a village; it is a "sequestered glen" about two miles from the nearest village, which is called Tarry Town. It is a valley positioned between two high hills, and it is particularly quiet. There seems to be something about the place that puts people into a sleepy and even dreamy mental state. The area is known as Sleepy Hollow both for its atmosphere of "listless repose" and for the "peculiar character of its inhabitants."

The people who live there seem to "walk in a continual reverie." This mental state of being half-asleep causes the citizens to espouse many strange beliefs—they often report seeing visions and hearing strange music. Ghost stories of hauntings pervade the area, especially the tale of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. Even a person who is not from the area but just comes as a visitor will soon find that he or she grows more likely to "dream dreams and see apparitions." 

The valley also seems sleepy in the sense that time seems to have passed it by, as if it had slept through the progress made in the outside world. The glen is like a little pool of water that remains stagnant next to a flowing river. The customs and activities of Sleepy Hollow remain the same even when ways of doing things outside the valley have changed greatly. 

So the glen deserves the name "Sleepy Hollow" for three reasons: for its quiet and drowsy ambiance; for the people who live there, who seem to be in a dreamlike state; and for its old-fashioned customs that make it seem as if it has slept during the changes that have occurred in the outside world.

lit24 | Student

The location of the place, its ambience and the character of its inhabitants are the reasons why the place is known as SLEEPY HOLLOW.

1. The location: It is an isolated "glen" situated two miles away from Tarry Town. "It is one of the quietest places in the whole world."

2. The ambience: A small brook which murmurs along through the land seems to lull every one to sleep and "a drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the  land and pervade the very atmosphere." Rumour has it that the place is bewitched and is  under the spell of either a high German doctor  or an Indian Chief, "Certain it is,the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie."

3. The "peculiar character" of the people: The isolation of the place and its charmed and sleepy atmosphere have rendered its inhabitants dull and lethargic, so much so they are known as the "Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout all the neighbouring country."

Read the study guide:
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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