Characters Discussed

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Pedro Gil

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Pedro Gil (PEH-droh heel), called Peregil (peh-reh-HEEL), a poor local water carrier and native of Galicia. A happy, honest, and amiable fellow, Peregil labors with his beloved donkey to support his nagging wife and hungry children. Compassionate toward all creatures, he discovers a sick Moor lying beside the road. Risking persecution by authorities for aiding a Moor, Peregil straps the man to his donkey and returns home. Defying his wife’s orders to abandon the Moor, Peregil attempts to nurse the man. Before the Moor dies, he offers Peregil a small sandalwood box as a reward for his kindness. Fearing that he will be charged with murder and robbery, Peregil slips out into the night to bury the Moor. On his return, he is accosted by the alguazil (warrant officer) and taken to the Alcalde (judge). Truthfully relaying the incident, Peregil is released but must relinquish his donkey to pay the cost of the inquiry. During an argument with his wife, the sandalwood box falls to the floor. Peregil discovers a scroll written in Arabic and a yellow wax taper. He takes the scroll to a Mussulman (Moor) who sells trinkets in the market. They agree to read the scroll outside the Tower of the Seven Floors, hoping to find the legendary enchanted treasure. When the floor opens, the two men fill their pockets with precious metals and agree to keep their discovery a secret. Unable to keep the secret, honest Peregil tells his wife about his good fortune. When Peregil’s wife flaunts her new wealth, he is arrested again, along with the Mussulman. After Peregil recounts his tale, the Alcalde, the barber, and the alguazil force Peregil and the Mussulman to return and open the tower vault. When the three men exhibit excess greed, the Moor blows out the taper and the vault closes, trapping the three men forever. Recovering his donkey, Peregil moves his family to Portugal and assumes the role of the wealthy Don Pedro Gil.

Pedrillo Pedrugo

Pedrillo Pedrugo (peh-DREE-yoh peh-DREW-goh), a meddlesome barber and neighbor. A gossip and snitch, Pedrillo spies Peregil with the Moor. Pedrillo follows Peregil to the Moor’s burial site and reports the incident to his client, the Alcalde. Pedrillo, who is rumored to have slept with one eye open, catches a glance of Peregil’s wife’s new diamond ornament. He rushes to the Alcalde to report his observation. Going along to the tower with the Alcalde and the alguazil, Pedrillo is entombed within the walls of the vault.

The Alcalde

The Alcalde (ahl-KAHL-deh), a greedy judge who manipulates the law for monetary gain. Concluding that Peregil murdered and robbed the Moor, the Alcalde promises to ignore the incident if Peregil gives the judge his acquired riches. Realizing that Peregil is really a Good Samaritan, the Alcalde dismisses Peregil after confiscating his donkey. Following the tattling barber’s second report about Peregil’s newly acquired riches, Alcalde demands that Peregil and the Moor reopen the tower. The Alcalde carries out so much gold that the weight is too much for Peregil’s poor donkey to bear. Still unsatisfied with the amount of gold and ignoring the wise Moor’s advice on the ills of avarice, Alcalde reenters the vault for more treasure. The Moor blows out the taper, closing off the entrance and trapping the greedy judge forever.

The Moor

The Moor, or Mussulman, a reasonable, levelheaded, and shrewd businessman. Agreeing to help Peregil, the Moor reads the scroll and opens the tower. Never exhibiting greed, the Moor respects the legendary treasure and takes only what he needs. Forced to reopen the vault, the Moor warns Alcalde that the men had enough wealth for any reasonable man. Ignoring the Moor’s warning, the Alcalde returns to carry out another coffer, and the Moor buries him, along with the barber and the alguazil. The Moor returns to Africa to live in his native city, Tangiers.

Peregil’s wife

Peregil’s wife, a lazy, gossiping spendthrift. She nags more than she nurtures. She does not support Peregil’s compassion and belittles his kindness when he brings the Moor home. Constantly complaining about her impoverished condition, she enhances Peregil’s guilt. Consequently, he reveals his secret and indulges her with ornaments. After promising to keep the secret, only a day passes before she flaunts her new wealth and gossips about a new future, causing Pedrillo’s suspicions. Once in Portugal, Peregil’s wife adorns herself in lace and jewels and maintains the role of the fashionable Señora Gil.

The alguazil

The alguazil (ahl-gwah-SEEL), a warrant officer, the Alcalde’s henchman. He is entombed in the tower with the Alcalde and the barber.

Mateo

Mateo (mah-TEH-oh), a gossiping squire who narrates the legend.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 199

Aderman, Ralph M., ed. Critical Essays on Washington Irving. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1990.

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Murray, Laura J. “The Aesthetic of Dispossession: Washington Irving and Ideologies of (De)colonization in the Early Republic.” American Literary History 8 (Summer, 1996): 205-231.

Myers, Andrew B., ed. A Century of Commentary on the Works of Washington Irving. Tarrytown, N.Y.: Sleepy Hollow Restorations, 1976.

Piacentino, Ed. “’Sleepy Hollow’ Comes South: Washington Irving’s Influence on Old Southwestern Humor.” The Southern Literary Journal 30 (Fall, 1997): 27-42.

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