Ichabod Crane, the itinerant schoolteacher of Sleepy Hollow, less a character than a caricature, grotesque in his physical appearance. He is very tall, with narrow shoulders and long arms that dangle out of his sleeves; his feet are so large that they might have served as shovels. He has a small flat head, with large ears and a long snipe nose. The teller of the story, Diedrich Knickerbocker, says that to see him striding in profile across a hilltop on a windy day with his clothes fluttering around him, one might take him for “the genius of famine descended on the earth.” Ichabod’s most basic characteristic is his great hunger; Knickerbocker says he has the dilating power of an anaconda and seems able to swallow up everything placed before him. A shrewd New Englander in the midst of simple Dutch farmers, Ichabod wants to swallow up the land that belongs to Katrina Van Tassel’s father. His downfall is the result of his other appetite—his willingness to “swallow,” or believe, everything about the marvelous and the supernatural. Because of his gullible appetite for the marvelous, he is frightened away from Katrina and Sleepy Hollow by Brom Bones, who pretends to be the legendary Headless Horseman.
Katrina Van Tassel
Katrina Van Tassel, the only child of a wealthy Dutch farmer. At the age of eighteen, she is seen by the always hungry Ichabod as “plump as a partridge” and as ripe and rosy-cheeked as one of her father’s peaches. Wearing a charming combination of Old and New World clothing, Katrina is a bit of a flirt who has the “prettiest foot and ankle in the county.” She is so deliciously irresistible to Ichabod that he wants to swallow her (and her father’s farm).
Baltus Van Tassel
Baltus Van Tassel, Katrina’s father, a wealthy, thriving, contented Dutch farmer, satisfied with his wealth but not proud of it.
Abraham Van Brunt
Abraham Van Brunt, called Brom Bones, a strong and broad-shouldered man who is the hero of the countryside. He is famed for his horsemanship, his physical strength, and his love of tricks and merriment. He is always ready for a fight or a frolic. He is the leader of a small band of young men who look up to him as their model and with whom he rides throughout the countryside playing pranks and getting into brawls. He is also a suitor for the hand of Katrina and is jealous when she pays too much attention to Ichabod. His knowledge of Ichabod’s gullibility enables him to play the part of the Headless Horseman and frighten the greedy pedagogue away.
Diedrich Knickerbocker, an old gentleman, familiar with the history of old Dutch New York, who tells the story of Ichabod’s encounter with the Headless Horseman.
The Headless Horseman
The Headless Horseman, the spirit of a Hessian soldier, a legendary figure said to haunt Sleepy Hollow. Brom Bones dresses up as the Headless Horseman and frightens Ichabod so badly that he leaves the area and never returns.