drawing of the headless horseman holding a pumpkin and riding a horse through the woods

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

by Washington Irving

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

Quick answer:

The name "Sleepy Hollow" may refer to the valley's atmosphere and the people who live there. The valley seems quiet, peaceful, and sleepy; the citizens are in a dreamlike state; and the customs of the valley have remained unchanged for many years.

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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...

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a sleepy and even dreamy mental state. The area is known as Sleepy Hollow both for itsatmosphere 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.

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