August 30, 2021

#08-128: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

pencil drawing of two men racing on horse back through the woods, one lookingback in fear, and the other, cloaked figure with no head
Ichabod races against the Headless Horseman

Note: Schoolmaster Ichabod Crane is in love with the wealthy Katrina Van Tassel, but bully Brom Bones has other plans for him--which involve a Headless Horseman!

Get Ready: On a moonless night, when you're on your own in a dark forest, are you just a little more likely to believe in ghosts?

We've met Washington Irving, author of "Rip Van Winkle," before. Now let's look at his other famous story, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

The story is set in roughly the same time and place as "Rip," the era when Dutch and English people were living side-by-side in New York State.

And it features another hapless fellow, one Ichabod Crane, a schoolmaster who has moved to the Sleepy Hollow area from Connecticut. He is tall and lanky, and more than just a bit of a scaredy-cat. This is not good, as Sleepy Hollow is well-known for its ghosts! The most famous of these is "The Headless Horseman," said to have been a soldier whose head was shot off by a cannonball in "some nameless battle" of the American Revolution. He often rides out of night, looking for his head. Or so they say.

In a typical arrangement for the time, the schoolmaster would stay with different families in rotation. Crane helps out around the house or farm of whomever he's staying with, and he helps out with the children, which endears him to the town's women. It seems he's also a bit of a gossip--another thing the ladies love about him! He especially loved to hear stories from the older women, and of course these included stories of ghosts and the Horseman.

Ichabod is enamored of an 18-year-old named Katrina Van Tassel, daughter of a wealthy farmer. He hopes that by marrying Katrina he can better his station in life, and even become wealthy. But the town bully, Abraham Van Brunt (known as "Brom Bones"), is his rival. Brom tries to get Ichabod into a fight, man to man, but the teacher is too clever for that, so Brom is always playing pranks on Crane, to make him look foolish and perhaps to provoke him.

One autumn night, Crane attends a harvest party at the Van Tassels' farm, after which he proposes to Katrina. She turns him down, and--"heavy-hearted and crestfallen"--he heads toward his lodging on his old horse, "Gunpowder." Each time he passes the site of a supposed haunting he gets more and more fearful, until at last he meets a cloaked rider--whose head is not on his shoulders, but sitting on his saddle!

In a well-known feature of the Horseman's legend, he cannot cross the water in the stream that runs next to the Old Dutch Burying Ground. Every time, he vanishes as soon as he reaches the bridge. Naturally, Ichabod turns his horse that way immediately and races against the specter.

He makes it! But after crossing the bridge, he turns back, only to see the specter hurl its head directly at him! It strikes his own head, and he falls in the dust senseless.

The next morning, poor Ichabod is nowhere to be found. But near the bridge they find his hat, his horse's saddle, and the remains of a shattered pumpkin. The old women say he was taken by the Headless Horseman, and that his spirit is sometimes still seen in the area.

Later, Brom Bones marries Katrina.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. enamored (of)
  2. hurl
  3. lodging
  4. provoke
  5. rival
  6. scaredy-cat
  7. senseless
  8. shattered
  9. specter
  10. vanishes

  1. push someone into action
  2. throw with great force
  3. a person who's easily frightened
  4. disappears
  5. the place where someone stays
  6. in love (with)
  7. broken; smashed
  8. a competitor; an "enemy"
  9. unconscious
  10. another word for ghost

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for August 30, 2021

1 comment:

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