I’m loathe to include Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in my Halloween Countdown because it’s not scary. At all. It’s actually funny. It’s definitely not what you’d expect from the TV/movie adaptations.
Ichabod Crane, goofy-looking school teacher circa 1790s in Colonial America, is courting the local heiress. But will the legend of the headless horseman get to him before he can close the deal?
Entertaining, but not terrifying. Or even scary.
Ichabod Crane is the scariest part of this story. Irving certainly knows how to paint a portrait with words:
“He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield.”
I can see the awkward Ichabod with his crane-like stature, long nose, and saturnine face. His personality is far less colorful. In fact, I’m not sure he has a personality.
Abraham Van Brunt may not be the main character, but I like him much better. Especially there at the end. I laughed and laughed.
This storyline could only work in a novella. If it was drawn out, it would be too ridiculous. But maybe a back story about the supposed headless horseman could’ve been included because it was a truly fascinating tidbit. Lots of scary potential.
Washington Irving certainly knows how to write. His prose is practically poetic:
“Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. 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.”
Irving can certainly tell a story, but The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is not my favorite (Rip Van Winkle, on the other hand, is magical). Credit should be given to the centuries of stories inspired by it, but it wasn’t my cup of soup and definitely not scary enough for my Halloween reading list.