What better time is there to read this popular tale to your children or grandchildren than just before Halloween!
Sometimes we think the popular American tale of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is pure fiction. However, this classic tale contains factual names and places.
There is a Sleepy Hollow!
Northwest of White Plains, New York, along the Hudson River Valley, lies the village of North Tarrytown. The town’s name was changed to Sleepy Hollow in 1997. Along Route 9, a large statue of the headless horseman chasing Ichabod Crane was erected and commemorates the tale written by Washington Irving in 1820. The tale is set around the bridge over the Pocantico River, near the Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground.
There was an Ichabod Crane and a Katrina
Once an Aide-de-camp to New York Governor Daniel Tompkins, Washington Irving met Army Captain Ichabod Crane while inspecting fortifications in 1814 at Sackets Harbor, New York. He likely borrowed the name and matched it with the persona of local schoolmaster Jesse Merwin in Kinderhook. Ichabod’s love, Katrina Van Tassel, was named for a local resident’s aunt, Catriena Ecker Van Tessel.
The Dutch believed many tales of ghosts, apparitions and witchcraft. The headless horseman supposedly was the ghost of a Hessian trooper whose head was shot off by a cannon during a battle in the American Revolutionary War, and rode his black steed from the Old Dutch Church graveyard on a nightly quest to find his head.
There is a Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Founded in 1849, this cemetery lies adjacent to the Old Dutch Burying Ground. Washington Irving completed a five-volume biography of George Washington just eight months before his death in 1859, at age 76. Irving is buried at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
Washington Irving’s Inspiration to write the tale
Irving lived for several months in Hudson River Valley area.The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was derived from German folklore, and set in a Dutch village following the Revolutionary War in the State of New York. Karl Musäus recorded the original folktale when he wrote, “The headless horseman was often seen here. An old man who did not believe in ghosts told of meeting the headless horseman coming from his trip into the Hollow. The horseman made him climb up behind. They rode over bushes, hills, and swamps. When they reached the bridge, the horseman suddenly turned into a skeleton. He threw the old man into the brook and sprang away over the treetops with a clop of thunder.”
About the author and his works
Irving was born in New York City, and lived from 1783 to 1859. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1804. He began writing in 1807. Irving’s collection, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent (his pen name), contains short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, and it was first published in 1820. Irving also authored “Columbus”, “The Companions of Columbus”, and “Conquest of Granada” while living in Spain. He later served an appointment as U.S. Ambassador to Spain from 1842-46.
Over the past 88+ years, several film adaptations have been aired…The Headless Horseman (1922), The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1980 and 1999), Tall Tales and Legends (1987), The Real Ghostbusters (c. 1990), Are You Afraid of the Dark? The Tale of the Midnight Ride sequel (1992), The Night of the Headless Horseman (1999), The Hollow (2004), The Legend of Sleepy Halliwell, a Charmed episode (2004), and Halloween Hound: The Legend of Creepy Collars on PBS Television.
Stage adaptations, operas and stage performances have won numerous awards. CD Audio books include: Sleepy Hollow (1999), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (2003), and Historic Hudson Valley (2008).
Irving’s Influence in American Society
In October 1974, the US Postal Service issued a “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” postage stamp. Sleepy Hollow’s high school teams are “The Horsemen.” There is an Ichabod Crane School District in Valatic, New York, and their teams are “The Riders.” Streets, housing subdivisions, restaurants, and lodgings across the nation have been named after Sleepy Hollow and its characters. T-shirts were created depicting the Headless Horseman. Kansas music composer Kirt Moiser, completed two movements entitled “Ichabod’s Walk” and “Hessian’s Ride.”
Since 1996, the Historic Hudson Valley Organization holds an annual Legend Weekend at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, New York, where a headless horseman is portrayed, and the story is read. Thousands have attended this historic celebration just before Halloween. This yearly event is now on numerous bucket lists!
Wikipedia.org: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special%3ASearch&search=Legend+of+Sleepy+Hollow&fulltext=1
Wikipedia.org: Washington Irving. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_Irving
Hudson Valley Organization. http://www.hudsonvalley.org/content/view/14/44/
Penguin Encyclopedia. New Edition 2004. Irving, Washington.