Washington Irving

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How are Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" entertaining folk tales?

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Both of Irving's short stories can certainly be read as entertaining folk tales separate from the allegories they present as social commentary.

"Rip Van Winkle" is entertaining for many reasons. The trope of the nagging wife and the lazy husband is relatable to many people, though some readers today might see it as misogynistic. At any rate, Rip's retreat to the mountains and meeting with the men playing ninepins takes on a supernatural element that many find appealing. Children might be entertained by the explanation about where thunder comes from, and adults might enjoy the historical fantasy that the men are the ghosts of Henry Hudson's crew from the Half Moon as well as the idea that if a man fell asleep for twenty years and missed the American Revolution, he would surely be surprised by the end of colonial times and foundation of a new country.

The setting of the Hudson Valley in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and its utilization of the area's history makes for an entertaining folk tale as well. The story offers both an engaging romantic triangle among Brom, Katrina, and Ichabod and a satire of the archetype of the nerdy schoolteacher besieged by the class clown. The spooky addition of a headless horseman, supposedly the ghost of a Hessian soldier killed in the American Revolution, appeals to history buffs and fans of horror stories.

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