The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
by Washington Irving

Download the Free PDF ebook, Read the Summary, and Watch a Movie adaptation all right here!

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of the earliest and most celebrated pieces of American literature.

Washington Irving published the short story, along with his other classic, Rip Van Winkle - as part of a collection of short stories and essays called the Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. in 1820.

the legend of sleepy hollow

Headless Horseman Statue Near Old Dutch Church Burial Grounds

Sleepy Hollow NY


The story takes place in a very real place that you can still visit today -  Sleepy Hollow country, just north of Tarrytown NY - a hilly and wooded enclave on the hudson river.

Back in the days after the American Revolution - in our once sleepy dutch village - the superstitious villagers said the Headless Horseman roamed the burial grounds near the Old Dutch Church. 

Ichabod Crane, a gangly school master, comes in from Connecticut and takes up a job teaching the local kids. But he lusts for riches and "falls in love" with the blossoming heiress, Kartina Van Tassel - daughter to the wealthy Baltus Van Tassel.

(The Van Tassels, btw, were a prominent family settled in Tarrytown in Washington Irving's time. Their family grave stones are in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.)

Brom Bones, a charming rough-boy, also aspires to win Katrina's heart. He attempts to thwart Ichabod and mocks him, but Ichabod stays cool and resilient throughout the romantic contest.

Ichabod outshines Brom with ghost stories and dances with Katrina at a party at the Van Tassels. But, Katrina resists him and sends him off after the party.

In John Kruk's live telling of it at the old dutch church (which you can attend) - this part is explained as Katrina only trying to drive Brom Bones crazy.

Frustrated, Ichabod leaves alone on horseback.

As he strolls past the brook - which is today Tarrytown NY's Patriot Park and also the sight of Major John Andre's capture - he encounters the Headless Horseman. A chase ensues.

Ichabod reaches the bridge by the Old Dutch Church. He's heard the Headless Horseman cannot cross the bridge without bursting into flames. But at that moment, he sees the figure behind him and the horseman hurls his missing head directly at him.

There’s a big crash, Ichabod’s left in the dust, and his borrowed horse runs off.

The next morning there’s no sight of Ichabod, and the villagers of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown NY are left to gossip about his demise it becomes a favorite story told about the neighborhood.

Some say Brom Bones chased him off, and that Ichabod is alive and well, perhaps in New York. “The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means"

Watch the Disney version here!

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Movie Adaptations

The story has been adapted and re-adapted in film many times. 15 times in fact, according to Wikipedia. Few of them are true to the original story.

Notably, the first Legend of Sleepy Hollow movie was filmed on location here in the Hudson Valley in 1922. The B&W silent movie titled, The Headless Horseman, featured Will Rogers as Ichabod Crane.

Also, Disney's 1949 Legend of Sleepy Hollow, voiced and sung in by Bing Crosby is an enjoyable 30 minute classic. (see below)

Tim Burton's 1999 movie Sleepy Hollow, stars Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci, with Christopher Walken playing the Headless Horseman.

Burton's treatment of the tale heavily skews the plot and characters.

For one, Ichabod Crane, (played by Depp) is a detective for a New York City police bureau, not a gangly schoolmaster from Connecticut.

The biggest departure from the original plot includes the character Lady Van Tassell (Katrina's mother). She turns out to be the ultimate villain, with the Headless Horseman as her pawn.

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