Tuesday Terror! The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

The Horror of the Headless Horseman…

What could possibly be scarier than the idea of a headless horseman haunting a lonely valley in the dark of the night? Well, almost anything, as it turns out. This isn’t so much a ghost story as a gentle mockery of ghostly superstition – but it’s still an enjoyable read. So despite the lack of chill factor, it has still earned its place in this week’s…


The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irvine


Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane by John Quidor
Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane by John Quidor

The story begins by describing the valley of Sleepy Hollow, a drowsy, dreamy place, where the people believe in the many superstitions and ghostly stories that are passed down through the generations.

They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights and hear music and voices in the air…

The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head.

Tales are told of how this creature has chased unwary travellers who take the road through the valley in darkness – tales believed by the new teacher, Ichabod Crane, a man whose favourite reading material is Cotton Mather’s History of New England Witchcraft. Ichabod is not the heroic type, in either character or appearance…

His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snip nose, so that it looked like a weathercock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew.

from the Disney version...
from the Disney version…

Although poor, Ichabod is not without ambition, and when he meets Katrina, the lovely but flirty daughter of a wealthy farmer, he is smitten by her charms…and even more so by the prospect of her inheriting all of her father’s wealth. Perhaps it’s because he’s always hungry that he sees Farmer van Tassel’s livestock in the way he does…

In his devouring mind’s eye he pictured to himself every roasting-pig running about with a pudding in his belly and an apple in his mouth; the pigeons were snugly put to bed in a comfortable pie and tucked in with a coverlet of crust; the geese were swimming in their own gravy; and the ducks pairing cosily in dishes, like snug married couples, with a decent competency of onion sauce.

Unfortunately Katrina has another suitor, a ‘burly, roaring, roistering blade’, Brom Bones. Could it be that Katrina’s seeming preference for Ichabod is designed merely to make sure of the heart of this magnificent (and gorgeous) creature? Surely not! But, sad to tell, one evening when Ichabod’s hopes are highest (as is Brom’s jealousy) Katrina sends him away disappointed. It seems he is neither to have the girl nor the riches. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, as he makes his way home on his borrowed old horse he finds himself on the very spot where the Headless Horseman is known to roam…

In the dark shadow of the grove on the margin of the brook he beheld something huge, misshapen, black, and towering. It stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic monster ready to spring upon the traveller.

from the Scooby Doo version...
from the Scooby Doo version…

Kicking and beating his old, half-starved horse into a frenzy (he’s a real charmer, did I mention that?), Ichabod tries to race for safety…

“If I can but reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod, “I am safe.” Just then he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied that he felt his hot breath…

* * * * * * *

After all the Hallowe’en chills, this is a lovely light little ghost-story, humorous and fun. Ichabod is just the type of person you’d hope would get his come-uppance at the hands of a spooky spectre, so the real hero of the story is the Headless Horseman, whoever he may be. There’s lots of lovely descriptive writing about the valley and farms, and the people are beautifully drawn – somewhere between real and caricature. It all has the feel of a kind of Hobbiton about it, where all the rustics are cheery and rosy-cheeked, and where even bad things aren’t really terribly bad after all. It won’t give you nightmares, but it will make you smile. And that’s not a bad thing either, is it?

from the Tim Burton version... Johnny Depp looking far, far too gorgeous and heroic to be Ichabod, but frankly, girls, who cares? Still great casting...
from the Tim Burton version…
Johnny Depp looking far, far too gorgeous and heroic to be Ichabod, but frankly, girls, who cares? Still great casting…
But golly! Casper Van Dien as Brom Bones isn't to be sneezed at either, eh? Decisions, decisions - poor Katrina! Lucky Katrina!
But gosh! Casper Van Dien as Brom Bones isn’t to be sneezed at either, eh? Decisions, decisions – poor Katrina! Lucky Katrina!

Fretful Porpentine Rating:      😯

Overall story rating:                😀 😀 😀 😀

30 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

  1. Lucky Katrina indeed! I agree, FictionFan, this is a great little story. It’s quite well-written and to me, gives a really interesting picture of life in that place at that time. Perhaps not the scariest story ever written, but still…


    • Yes, I thought it painted a lovely picture of the place – all that lush farm land, and an isolated community with its own traditions. I must read more of his stories….


  2. It’s funny, I couldn’t get along with this at all. It was an early freebie download on the Kindle, and rather fell into half read darkness, as it didn’t register on the chucklometer or the shiverometer this end. But I love that headless horseman picture – a definite like for that!


    • Really? I’d have thought you’d have liked this one – isn’t it odd what takes our fancy and what doesn’t? But I always like these stories that have been adapted a million times – it makes for great illustrations…plus Johnny Depp, of course!


  3. Mr Crimeworm enjoys the new version of Sleepy Hollow which he watches at a ridiculous hour somewhere on Sky…actually, I don’t know who the chap in that is, but he’s rather easy on the eye too…whether the programme’s any good, I couldn’t say, but Mr Crimeworm assures me it’s “alright”…


  4. I loved this story when I was little. It was scary enough for me because I didn’t get the tongue-in-cheek nature of the story. One of these years, I’d like to dress up as the headless horseman.

    And YES!!! Johnny Depp!!! Drool….


  5. I haven’t seen the film, but I know the story well. There is a good (and actually quite scary) cartoon version too. Enjoy the rest of Washington Irvine – I always have.


  6. You know, I think she should choose Brom Bones on the name alone. Katrina Bones sounds cool–much better than Katrina Crane. (Do you know that the horseman is headless ’cause this professor cut it off?)

    Seriously, this is a book I should probably read. I think I’ve seen one film some time ago…but I don’t think Depp was in it.


    • *laughs* But that would mean she’d have to turn down Johnny Depp! (I suspected that – it looked like it had been caused by a katana…)

      I think there have been about a million adaptations. The Burton/Depp one is good, but it’s almost completely different from the original story. It’s quite a short short-story though and available online, so you could fit it in between chapters of B…


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