The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a short story written by Washington Irving. It was originally included in his 1820 anthology "The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent". Many themes and characters of the story were re-imagined for the TV-series Sleepy Hollow, which is set in the 21st Century.

The storyEdit

The story is set in the American countryside around 1790, in the Dutch settlement Tarry Town, and the small glen Sleepy Hollow, surrounded with ghost stories.

The main character is the superstitious schoolmaster Ichabod Crane who falls in love with Katrina, the daughter of wealthy farmer Baltus Van Tassel. After having encountered the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow, Crane flees town, and Katrina ends up marrying another suitor, Brom Bones.

Art workEdit

800px-The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane
The story of Sleepy Hollow has been recreated in various formats since its initial publication in 1820. This oil painting that hangs in the Smithsonian Art Museum was painted in 1858 by John Quidor. It depicts the climax of the story when the Headless Horseman hurls his head (actually a Jack O' Lantern) at Ichabod Crane.


Yankee StereotypeEdit

Historical Picture
  • Irving and the New Yorkers viewed the New Englanders with mistrust. They believed them to be cold and calculating people interested only in money.
  • New Yorkers complained that they were always on the move compared to the New York society which was more rooted and conservative.
  • The theme of the poor native against the rich invader became common to the times. Thus the portrayal of Ichabod Crane, an outsider with a hunger for riches is representative of New York views. Ichabod's appetite is thus a metaphor for the devouring of Tarry Town's innocence, along with that of the young Katrina Van Tassel. Katrina however dashs the freeloading Crane hopes of marriage by [wisely] refuting his suit to marry her.
  • One ironic theme is that while supposedly the wise schoolmaster is to teach the children of town, his deep superstition shows him to be a font of surface knowledge...only...and his freeloading... a first class moocher..!

Art and Progress of the early 1800'sEdit

  • Americans of the time rejected artistic activities as unpatriotic, and there were arguments about whose standards would determine national culture.
  • Having recently gained their independence, Americans feared that English taste would become the norm, and thus viewed art as the product of old wealth, and social privilege.
  • As a result Americans viewed poetry and fiction useless, and looked upon creative writing with disdain.
  • Irving writings were largely responsible for changing these attitudes.


  • Science and reason were held in high regard in the United States as well as in Europe in the 1700s.
  • The growth of industry brought changes in society. People left their villages and started to craw cities.
  • As a reaction to the industrial revolution, the Romantic movement developed. The movement validated the emotional, the mysterious, and the imaginative as well as the uniqueness of personal experience.
  • Americans turned to the past for their national customs and origins.

Irving's Sleepy HollowEdit

  • Idealized the past.
  • Viewed the Dutch community as a magical, dreamy and idyllic place.
  • Tarry Town symbolises a colonial past of uncomplicated and pastoral atmosphere.

Film adaptionsEdit

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow maintained its popularity as a story into the age of movies and television. Some of the notable film and television adaptations inclue

  • The Headless Horseman (1922), a silent version directed by Edward Venturini, and starring Will Rogers as Ichabod Crane. It was filmed on location in New York's Hudson River Valley.
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), directed by James Algar, Clyde Geronimi and Jack Kinney, produced by Walt Disney Productions and narrated by Bing Crosby. It is an animated cartoon adaptation of the story, paired with a similar treatment of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. The climactic ride is more extended than in the original story, and the possibility is stressed that the visually impressive Horseman is in fact a human in disguise [Brom Bones] rather than a ghost. Although the villagers conclude the schoolmaster was "spirited away" the thrown not a ghost head..but a lighted Pumpkin [likewise Brom Bones is hinted he knows the fate of Crane-(like the Book) that the witless schoolmaster was actually scared out of town; he married a rich widow and he became a petty court majistrate.Later the Sleepy Hollow portion of the film was separated from the companion film, and shown separately as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in 1958.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1980), directed by Henning Schellerup. A made-for-television movie filmed in Utah, starring Jeff Goldblum as Ichabod Crane, Meg Foster as Katrina, and Dick Butkus as Brahm Bones. Producer Charles Sellier was nominated for an Emmy Award for his work on the movie.[4] The film is not closely adapted to the original story, depicting Crane as a skeptic regarding ghosts and the supernatural, although it foreshadow's Tim Burton's similar 1999 treatment.
Sleepy Hollow - Trailer - HQ

Sleepy Hollow - Trailer - HQ

The trailer for Tim Burtons Adaptation with Icabod Crane reimagined as a forensic detective

  • Tall Tales and Legends episode "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" (1987), starring Ed Begley, Jr. as Ichabod Crane, Beverly D'Angelo as Katrina Van Tassel, and Charles Durning as Doffue Van Tassel who is also the narrator. Produced and hosted by Shelley Duvall.
  • In 1988 PBS and Rabbit Ears Productions produced a multi-award winning animated adaptation and a subsequent book depicting the Irving story. Illustrations, directing, and adaptation was done by Robert Van Nutt, music by Tim Story, and the narration by Glenn Close.
  • The Real Ghostbusters featured an episode with a descendant of Ichabod Crane cursed by a headless apparition on a motorcycle who chases her.
  • In the Nickelodeon television series Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1992), the episode "The Tale of the Midnight Ride" serves as a sequel to the classic story. In this episode a boy moves to Sleepy Hollow where he develops a crush on a girl. One night after the Halloween dance, they see the ghost of Ichabod Crane and send him over the bridge that the Headless Horseman cannot cross, prompting the Headless Horseman to then come after them.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1999) was a Canadian television film starring Brent Carver and Rachelle Lefevre which was filmed in Montreal.
  • Sleepy Hollow (1999) was a feature film directed by Tim Burton, though the adaptation takes many liberties with the plot and characters, changing Crane from the local schoolmaster into a police constable sent from New York to investigate recent murders, with the Horseman being used as a weapon against the local landowners. Johnny Depp starred as Ichabod Crane while Christopher Walken plays the Headless Horseman. The cast also featured Christina Ricci as Katrina, and Casper Van Dien as Brom.
  • The Night of the Headless Horseman (1999) was an hour long computer animated FOX TV special utilizing motion capture.
  • The Hollow (2004) was a TV movie that premiered on the ABC Family channel starring Kaley Cuoco. The adaptation focused on a teenage descendant of Ichabod Crane.
  • "The Legend of Sleepy Halliwell" (2004) was an episode of the TV show Charmed. A headless horseman murders the teachers at Magic School by beheading them.
  • Halloween Hound: The Legend of Creepy Collars is the second-season premiere of the PBS series Wishbone. In this episode, the show's central character and narrator, a talking dog named Wishbone, imagines himself as Ichabod Crane and reenacts the Headless Horseman story in his imagination as his owner, a boy named Joe Talbot, goes on a Halloween night scavenger hunt.
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