Introduction to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a short story by Washington Irving, which was published in his short story collection The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. It tells the story of both Ichabod Crane and the town of Sleepy Hollow, which is known for its ghostly specters. Crane, a superstitious Connecticut school teacher, competes with a local man named Brom Bones for the hand of Katrina Van Tassel. After an unsuccessful proposal, Ichabod has a terrifying encounter with a ghosty specter known as the Headless Horseman. Ichabod then disappears from town, leaving the outcome of his encounter unclear. Some people speculate that the true culprit was actually Brom Bones in disguise, but others promote the story that Ichabod truly did encounter a ghost. Regardless, the Headless Horseman has since entered the collective cultural consciousness as a terrifying and iconic figure, and the concept is frequently employed in horror and gothic writing, especially around Halloween.

Thematically, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” operates on both a narrative and metafictional level. Narratively, the contrast between the urban Ichabod and the rural residents of Sleepy Hollow suggests that country dwellers have a more authentic, down-to-earth approach to life. Ichabod courts Katrina primarily for financial reasons, highlighting his superficiality. On a more metafictional level, Irving’s stories often highlight the nature of mythmaking and storytelling. Different aspects of the story draw different conclusions, with the opinions of the townspeople, the narrator, the writer of the postscript, and Ichabod himself contrasting wildly. Ultimately, both imagination and cultural values influence the ways in which people interact with reality.

A Brief Biography of Washington Irving

Washington Irving (1783–1859), though he wrote extensively throughout his life, is remembered essentially for two short stories. One focuses on a man who falls asleep for twenty years, and the other is a spooky tale about a teacher who loses his head. “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” have become enduring classics, inspiring numerous film and television adaptations. Yet the erudite Irving, born and raised in Manhattan, made his name early with sophisticated satire. Politics and social issues were equally important to Irving. Following his extensive travels throughout the frontier, Irving was unabashedly critical of the United States’ dealings with Indigenous peoples. It was not a popular stance at that time, but it typified Irving’s complexity and the hidden depths of his written works.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

There is seldom a single purpose in a work of fiction, and Washington Irving, certainly by the standards of his time, is not a didactic or moralizing writer with a rhetorical aim in mind. Clearly,...

Latest answer posted November 10, 2020, 11:54 am (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

In Washington Irving's classic short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Brom Van Brunt, known locally as "Brom Bones" for his imposing physique and legendary strength, tells a story about the...

Latest answer posted November 10, 2020, 4:48 pm (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The clearest conflict in the story is between Ichabod Crane and his love rival, Brom Bones. Each man are determined to make the eligible Dutch heiress Katrina Van Tassel his wife. But as only one...

Latest answer posted November 12, 2020, 11:17 am (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

In the plot of a story, the climax is that moment of greatest tension which comes after the rising action. In “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” the climax occurs when Ichabod Crane is pursued on...

Latest answer posted November 13, 2020, 11:15 am (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Like most people, Ichabod Crane has a different reputation in different sections of society. In introducing the schoolmaster, Washington Irving concentrates on how he is received by the women of...

Latest answer posted November 12, 2020, 12:04 pm (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

In "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Ichabod is deeply impressed by the home of Baltus Van Tassel and his family. He looks at the fields, the orchard, and the farm animals, imagining the fine produce...

Latest answer posted November 12, 2020, 11:21 am (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Although much of Washington Irving's classic American short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is purely fictional, there are certain characters, locations, and incidents in the story which are...

Latest answer posted November 12, 2020, 5:51 pm (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt is generally considered to be the main antagonist of Irving's short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." It is notable to mention, however, that Brom Bones is...

Latest answer posted November 12, 2020, 12:46 pm (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Ichabod Crane is looking forward to the party at the Van Tassels', so much so that he hurries through his lessons at school so that he can get home as quickly as possible and dress up for the big...

Latest answer posted November 12, 2020, 11:36 am (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

At the beginning of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Washington Irving comments on the superstitious nature of the villagers in Sleepy Hollow. They believe in all kinds of supernatural happenings,...

Latest answer posted November 11, 2020, 12:07 pm (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The community of Sleepy Hollow, as portrayed in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” is mired in superstition. Despite virtually everyone in this neck of the woods being a God-fearing Christian, some...

Latest answer posted November 11, 2020, 11:27 am (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Headless Horseman represents the mistaken superstitions of the past. The Headless Horseman, according to the old wives' tales of the Hudson Valley, is a Hessian solider who was killed in the...

Latest answer posted November 11, 2020, 12:08 pm (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

As Ichabod Crane is pursued by the silent headless horseman, the girths of his saddle give way, and it drops onto the road to be trampled underfoot moments later. The headless horseman himself,...

Latest answer posted November 11, 2020, 12:32 pm (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

In the penultimate paragraph of the main section of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," as he ties up the loose ends of the story after Ichabod Crane's sudden departure, Washington Irving informs the...

Latest answer posted November 11, 2020, 11:30 am (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Ichabod Crane is the protagonist of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." However, his antagonist, Brom Van Brunt, known as Brom Bones, is arguably the hero of the story, despite most of the narrator's...

Latest answer posted November 11, 2020, 11:39 am (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Washington Irving was a prolific writer who composed works in several genres. He wrote biographies, political and satirical essays, travel narratives, and historical accounts. However, he is most...

Latest answer posted November 10, 2020, 2:36 pm (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

In "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," Ichabod Crane's hat is discovered near the bridge over the brook, next to the remains of a shattered pumpkin. The only thing Irving tells the reader about this...

Latest answer posted November 10, 2020, 11:37 am (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The main section of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” ends with Ichabod's Crane disappearance after being frightened by the Headless Horseman. He seems to have left his belongings behind without a...

Latest answer posted November 10, 2020, 11:27 am (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is important for at least three reasons. First, Irving's fiction helped bring American literature to the fore. Until Irving's popular stories, readers in United States...

Latest answer posted November 10, 2020, 2:56 pm (UTC)

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

There is a long list of potential antecedents that may have inspired the well-read Irving when composing his short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Tales of headless horseman stretch back to...

Latest answer posted November 9, 2020, 2:59 pm (UTC)

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Summary