Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Washington Irving

Many years ago in New York State when the country we know as the United States was still young there was a village called Tarry Town in a valley called Sleepy Hollow. In Tarry Town was a young school teacher named Ichabod Crane.

Ichabod was a tall and skinny man who strongly resembled his namesake, the crane. He had small shoulders, long skinny arms and legs, large ears, thick, heavy glasses that made his eyes stand out and a large nose that resembled a beak. To see him was to laugh uncomfortably at him despite yourself.

The young school teacher soon found himself in love with one of the local citizens, one Miss Katrina Van Tassel. Katrina was a beautiful young lady who just happened to be the daughter of one of the wealthiest farmers in Sleepy Hollow. From the first day he met her he was smitten and she, oddly, found that she liked Ichabod. It did not take long for them to admit their affection for each other; however, there was a problem: Brom Van Brunt.

Brom was a rather large and handsome man who had only two problems: he was as dumb as a post and prideful. In fact, he was so proud of himself, he thought that he could have whatever he wanted, and he wanted Katrina.

This proved to be a problem for poor Ichabod. Brom went out of his way to hurt or embarrass him every chance he got. Many an encounter ended with Ichabod on the ground or in a mud puddle. The citizens of Tarry Town feared him, so there was little that Ichabod could do to stop him.

However, everything Brom did made Katrina like him less and less and like Ichabod more and more. The two found ways to meet without letting Brom know. He would travel to her farm to teach her to sing. She would deliver food from the farm to him. And they came up with dozens of other ways.

Soon Brom stopped bothering them and everyone assumed that Ichabod had won their little fight. He became something of a hero when Brom wasn’t in town.

Then one day the Van Tassels had a large party and Ichabod was invited. He and Katrina danced all night together. They thought that nothing could ruin their night, until Brom arrived.

He seemed scared and out of breath. He told them all that he had just escaped from the Headless Horseman. The people at the party were shocked, but Ichabod had never heard of the legend. Katrina explained that years ago, during the Revolutionary War, a group of Americans caught a Hessian, a German ally of the British. They shot him and removed his head from his body. A headless phantom had haunted the valley ever since.

A nearby farmer nodded his agreement. He said that he had been riding back to the valley one night and was soon being chased by a headless apparition. It nearly caught him too, but he arrived at and crossed the covered bridge at the edge of town. The ghost, he said, could not cross running water.

This was utter foolishness, Ichabod decided and declared so to everyone present. He bid them all a goodnight and set out on his horse. He thought he saw Brom smile, but he wasn’t sure.

Ichabod soon found he was scared and was surprised to find that was so. He laughed at his own foolishness, amused that he was actually expecting to see a headless rider. He let his horse slow down and stopped holding his breath.

After a while, as the full moon painted an eerie picture of the small town approaching in the distance, he discovered that he was being followed. He laughed and shouted out to Brom that he was surprised it had taken him so long to catch up. He told him that he must be upset that he had lost Katrina to such a small man. Brom did not respond.

Slowly Ichabod began to think that it was not Brom that followed him. He risked a glance over his shoulder to see a dark figure mounted on a large horse riding some distance behind him. His heart jumped into his throat when he realized that the rider did not seem to have a head.

He coaxed his horse into a trot and noticed that the rider kept pace. One hand reached over and drew a sword slowly from his sheath while the other held something in its lap. Something the size of a head…

That was enough for Ichabod. He drove his horse into a frantic run and was alarmed to note that the rider still kept pace. His heart racing even faster than his horse, Ichabod suddenly noticed the covered bridge in the distance and remembered the farmer’s tale. If only he could get to the bridge, he would be safe!

The headless Hessian began to close the distance between them. It was going to be close, Ichabod knew. The bridge loomed large before them. Suddenly he knew that he would make it. He would reach the bridge before the horseman and he would live.

Then the horseman lifted the object in his lap over his head. It was a pumpkin with a hideous face upon it. Ichabod watched in horror as it threw the gourd at him. It struck him and he fell from his horse just as it crossed the bridge. He looked to see the horseman point its sword at him.

The villagers tell the tale of Ichabod Crane to this very day. No one ever saw him again, although some swore they saw the horseman riding through the woods only he was no longer headless. Mounted there upon his powerful shoulders was a head, a head with large ears and a long nose that resembled a beak.