1820: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – Before there was The Scarecrow there was Ichabod Crane

the-legend-of-sleepy-hollow-book-coverFor the origin of the Scarecrow, I’m going all out. I’ve got a few origins to look at and I also went right to the source of inspiration, a Halloween classic itself, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

I really enjoyed it.

It wasn’t really a scary story at all, it was all just a prank. It was more humorous than it was horrifying. The story paints a pretty broad picture of Ichabod Crane, the protagonist. He is a teacher and an outsider and he likes to read by himself. He enjoys horror stories and in some ways he is very much like my wife when he reads them.

My wife doesn’t like horror, but does like crime thrillers. For some reason, the minute the show is done, she thinks every intruder and creep and killer is lurking around the corner, about to attack. This is how Ichabod reads his horror. It talks of him spending time, sharing stories that he has read and tales of haunted areas in the local area with fellow villagers, and then he runs home afraid of everything. These stories include the ghost of true life spy Major AndrĂ© and a headless horseman, a trooper from the Revolutionary War who had had his head removed by a cannon ball.

He also loves food. The book goes into great detail talking about the food he wants to eat. There is one scene that discusses how great the coming winter will be as he looks at all of the birds in the wild and imagining them as their respective dishes. That reminded me of Madagascar when Alex pictures Marty as a steak, and many other cartoons that do the same thing! He isn’t obese either, like many tall lanky people he can eat and eat and not gain a pound.

There are two other people of large importance in the book. The first is the girl of his affections – Katrina Van Tassle, and another man who is keen for her, Abraham Van Brunt, who is a hero and prankster around town and goes by the name Brom Bones.

When he finds out that Ichabod is also into Katrina, Brom starts pranking Ichabod. Both know that they can’t beat the other in their respective areas of expertise, so Brom is left only to pranking and Ichabod is left only waiting to see who Katrina picks.

Things come to a head one night when a party is held at the Van Tassle house. Everything seems to be going well, Ichabod eats well, Katrina dances with him all night, horror stories are told, Ichabod thinks that Katrina has picked him and when the party is done he proposes to her. But she turns him down.

Ichabods_chase_cropIchabod takes off through the forest at midnight, and that’s where his legendary encounter with the headless horseman takes place. The initial appearance, the standoff on the road, the race to the bridge where the horseman isn’t supposed to cross, and the toss of head knocking Ichabod off of his horse. Everything that I remember from other adaptations is all right here. They never say it outright, but its pretty obvious that it is all just a jealous Brom playing a trick on him. and he falls right for it because he is emotional, his fears have been riled up by the storytelling of the evening, and he is where all of the stories take place.

Walt-Sturrock-Sleepy-Hollow-Ichabod-Headless-HorsemanIn the end all they can find is a pumpkin and Ichabod’s old horse, Ichabod himself is nowhere to be found, and isn’t seen again.

I do have to ask the question. How much of this am I really supposed to believe. If these people are the type to embellish their horror tales, how much of this was embellished by our fictional narrator?

Also was Katrina ever into Ichabod or was it all just to light a fire under Brom? Or was he just too quick to propose and she wasn’t ready. He is an outsider and maybe doesn’t quite get social cues?

I guess these things are up to me to decide.

Again. I really enjoyed this story. The old-fashioned language was a little tricky to get into at first, but once i got used to it I had a lot of fun. I especially enjoyed Brom, I love that he is a prankster, he is who I would want to be in that situation. And in the end his plans work, he gets the girl.

94484-167146-scarecrowIchabod Crane and The Scarecrow, Jonathan Crane have way more in common than I expected. Yes they are both lanky, and both kind of awkward, unusual guys. Ichabod is even described as looking like a Scarecrow. But they are both teachers, and both really get into the meaning of fear. For Ichabod, it is about understanding the horrors of goblins and ghosts, and manipulating fear for enjoyment. Jonathan uses it differently as he wants to understand fear for the sake of pure terror. That is probably the biggest difference between the two, and that explains why when Ichabod looses his dignity and respect he simply disappears and presumably re-invents himself for the better. Jonathan re-invents himself as a terror and gets revenge. I would be interested to seeing what it would be like if the roles were reversed.

This is a great story to read at Halloween. First, it could itself take place around Halloween, there is a lot of description about the changes of fall. Second, it could be taken as a prank story, which is great for children, or it could be taken as a full on ghost story. Both are possibilities in the framework that Washington Irving laid down when he wrote this story. Certainly it was a full on ghost story for Ichabod. I choose to take it as a simple prank.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more Scarecrow as I look at his origin next!

Pictures from:,,,,


2 thoughts on “1820: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – Before there was The Scarecrow there was Ichabod Crane

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s