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History of the Text

Publication, Narrative Style, and Influences: Washington Irving published “Rip Van Winkle” in his successful short story collection The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., published serially in 1819 and 1820. The stories are narrated by the fictional Geoffrey Crayon, who relates local beliefs and lore both in his own voice and as related by other sources.

  • Frame Narratives: The fictional persona of Geoffrey Crayon allowed Irving to comment on his own stories, acting both as narrator and compiler. A second layer of remove is included through the fictional historian Diedrich Knickerbocker, in whose papers “Rip Van Winkle” is said to have been discovered. A third layer of remove is Rip himself, whose story “was observed...to vary on some points every time he told it.”
  • Folkloric Influences: Washington Irving may have based his story on the folkloric motif of the “king in the mountain”—indeed, the story includes a note referencing “a little German superstition about the Emperor Frederick der Rothbart and the Kypphauser mountain.” The “king in the mountain” motif describes a hero or king who sleeps in a cave until they are called on to protect their country. Through the lens of this motif, Henry Hudson and his crew appear as guardians of the Catskill Mountains.
  • Irving also may have been...

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