I would like to know what the similarities and differences are between the book and the movie.

Expert Answers
edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Washington Irving's 1819 social satire "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and the 1999 film Sleepy Hollow,directed by Tim Burton, have little in common.

The similarities are found primarily in the setting of Sleepy Hollow, a hamlet north of New York City. It is largely populated by Dutch Americans, and it is a mostly agrarian community. Many of the characters' names from the short story are used in the film, but the characterizations are different. Both the story and the film center on a character named Ichabod Crane who comes to Sleepy Hollow as an outsider to this Dutch American enclave, and both feature a character called the Headless Horseman, purportedly a supernatural manifestation of a Hessian soldier decapitated in the Revolutionary War.

The differences between the film and movie are many. In the story, Ichabod Crane is a Connecticut schoolteacher who comes to Sleepy Hollow, sees the bounty of its beautiful farms, and works to ingratiate himself with the prosperous Van Tassels in hope of marrying their daughter, Katrina. The village expects Katrina to marry Brom Bones, the son of another wealthy family. Brom is a bit immature—a prankster not quite ready to settle down. What ensues is a competition between Brom and Ichabod for Katrina—a competition she seems to enjoy. Ultimately, Brom uses the ruse of the Headless Horseman to scare off Ichabod, thus paving the way for him to win Katrina. Irving is making a comment on how ethnic enclaves work to preserve their insularity by ejecting outsiders—particularly the kind who come to enrich themselves.

Burton's movie casts Ichabod as a police constable from New York City sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate a series of murders attributed to the Headless Horseman. What ensues are the makings of an American gothic horror film, not a social satire; the horseman truly is a supernatural being controlled by Mrs. Van Tassel, a witch who has pledged her soul to Satan. Mrs. Van Tassel directs a conspiracy to cover up knowledge of a will that cheated her family out of their ancestral lands and kill everyone who has knowledge of the will. Ultimately, Mrs. Van Tassel is taken to hell by the horseman, and Katrina goes with Ichabod when he returns to New York City. Brom, by the way, is killed by the horseman.

malibrarian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you are referring to the movie Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp, the differences between that film and the book are numerous, including making the character of Ichabod Crane a police investigator rather than a schoolmaster.  That, however, is minor compared to the other differences, like turning the Headless Horseman into a serial killer from the grave, rather than just Brom Bones dressed up to scare Ichabod away from courting Katrina.

If you want a good adaptation of the book, check out the old Disney cartoon, featuring Bing Crosby as the narrator.  Despite its silliness and fun, it does stick remarkably close to Irving's original story.  I show it every year to my 7th graders after we finish reading the book!

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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