May 24, 2021

#08-087: Rip Van Winkle

black-and-white studio set-up of a very old man with a long beard seated in the countryside, with a gun barrel in his hand and broken pieces of a gun on the ground
An actor as Rip Van Winkle

Note: An idler drinks a brew with some "little men" in the mountains--and sleeps it off for 20 years, becoming an iconic sleeper.

Get Ready: What do you think the place where you live might look like 20 years from now?

In Washington Irving's short story, "Rip Van Winkle," the titular character lives in a small Dutch town along New York's Hudson River, near the Catskill Mountains, around the time of the American Revolution. Everyone loves him--his neighbors, children, even animals, for, though he is lazy, he is a genial soul. He does odd jobs for his neighbors, though his own farm is in disrepair. Sadly, he is beset by a nagging wife.

To escape her shrewishness, he spends more time than he should at the local tavern, named for the English King George III, where he and his friends enjoy a quaff of ale. When his wife catches him there, he and his dog, Wolf, head off to go squirrel hunting in the hills.

One autumn day, Rip and Wolf sit down to rest a spell as the sun prepares to set. As they start for home, Rip hears someone calling his name, and sees a short little man in antiquated Dutch clothing calling for help in hauling a keg of liquor.

As they proceed up the mountain, Rip begins to hear noises like thunder. They reach a hollow, and there Rip sees the source of the sounds: a group of men dressed much like the first one, and with grizzled beards, are playing nine-pins.

No one says a word to Rip, who is puzzled at how they know his name. He drinks some of their liquor and soon falls asleep. When he wakes, he discovers the men are all gone. Wolf does not answer when he calls; his gun has rusted almost to nothing; and his beard reaches past his chest!

Bewildered, he heads back down the mountain, but when he reaches his village, he doesn't recognize a soul. The town itself looks different, and the people are asking him how he has cast his ballot. Confused, he tells them he is a loyal subject of King George III, not realizing that the country has become independent while he slept.

He finds his house with difficulty, and discovers it has fallen into ruins. His favorite inn has a new sign: it is now named for George Washington. He asks a group of men there about his old friends, and learns they are all dead, or moved away. Many died in the Revolution.

An old woman says he looks a lot like Rip Van Winkle, but everyone knows that Rip is a much younger man. This turns out to be his son. A young woman appears and says she is old Rip's daughter, Judith; she tells the old man that her mother died of a fit of temper many years ago. Rip at last tells his daughter who he is.

A historian confirms Rip's story about wandering away, and explains that the men Rip saw were the ghosts of the crew of Henry Hudson, an early explorer for whom the river is named. They appear every 20 years to drink and play nine-pins.

Rip moves in with his daughter and continues his indolent ways, hanging out at the re-named inn and telling his story to anyone who will listen. To this day, when thunder rolls, the children of the area say Hudson's men are rolling the ball again.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. antiquated
  2. ballot
  3. genial
  4. grizzled
  5. hollow
  6. indolent
  7. nine-pins
  8. puzzled
  9. shrewishness
  10. tavern

  1. friendly; agreeable
  2. old-fashioned
  3. lazy
  4. confused
  5. an inn; a public house
  6. bad temper; nagging
  7. a mountain valley
  8. a game like bowling
  9. gray
  10. a voting document

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for May 24, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. b; 2. j; 3. a; 4. i; 5. g; 6. c; 7. h; 8. d; 9. f; 10. e