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This American classic (112 pages) was published in March of 2014 by Milestone Productions. The book takes you to a small town in 18th century New York. Melissa read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
This is one of those stories that’s seeped into our shared consciousness: gangly Ichabod Crane, the spine-chilling headless horseman, a flaming pumpkin. But if you’ve never read the original source material, you are in for a treat.
The story begins in 1790 when our mostly unlikeable hero — school teacher Ichabod Cran — arrives in the village of Tarrytown in upstate New York. Tucked away in the secluded valley of Sleepy Hollow, it’s a primarily Dutch settlement that’s well known for its ghost stories. The residents of the town are said to possess a dreamy quality. Some people even whisper that the town is bewitched.
The ghost story the townsfolk most like to tell is that of the infamous Headless Horseman, the spirit of a Hessian soldier whose head was blown off by a cannonball during ‘some nameless battle’ of the American Revolution. Unable to rest, he rides his mighty black steed through the local woods on a nightly quest for his head.
Ichabod is a grasping, gluttonous, judgmental social climber — and a _terrible_singer. He immediately becomes obsessed with two things: the ghosts and Katrina Van Tassel, the beautiful daughter of one of the wealthiest men in town. As he tries to wriggle himself into Tarrytown society, he earns a rival for Katrina’s affection: The handsome local gentlemen named Abraham, but called Brom Bones by his friends.
On the night of the big autumn party at the Van Tassel’s, all of the tensions that have been simmering come to a head, and, eventually, the Headless Horseman gallops onto the scene.
Irving’s prose is unexpectedly funny; the unnamed narrator is quick-witted and has a wry, teasing approach to the people and events in the story. These residents of Sleepy Hollow are bougie and snobby, yet all-together unsophisticated. Underneath its Gothic trappings, this story is an astute look at the class consciousness of rural America, as well as the tension between Christianity and paganism, the city and the country. It would all be heady stuff were it not for the showdown on the covered bridge and the projectile pumpkin.
Fun fact: Should you find yourself in Tarrytown, New York, you can visit Washington Irving’s grave in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
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. — Washington Irving
We love this thoroughly entertaining Audible version of the book, narrated by Tom Mison, star of the TV series Sleepy Hollow.
Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
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