Monday, October 31, 2016

Special Halloween Post: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Okay, yes, for those of you familier with great literature, this isn't a fairy tale. And, it's also implied to not even be a fantasy story. But, I needed a post for Halloween, so I chose one of my favorite "spooky" stories, and went with it. (One these days, I'll have to start a Nerd's Great Blog of Great Literature.)

Now anyway, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is one of those stories that our parents had never heard before we read it. My parents didn't really like scary stories, and had not read this particular one. In case any of my readers don't know the significance of this story, it's basically famous for having the legendary "Headless Horseman" in it. Now, even though the Headless Horseman legend did not derive from this tale, it is notable that this story is the reason most people nowadays even know about it.

Anyway, my parents had some books with lots of stories in them, and my brother and I decided one day to read them by ourselves (we were like 7 or 8 at the time). One of the stories in the books was "Sleepy Hollow," and I said, "Mom says that's a scary story." My brother said, "Scary stories are cool sometimes." So we sat down and read it together.

The story is about a school teacher named Ichabod Crane. He is a weird guy who wants to marry a girl named Katrina (presumably because she's very rich). His rival, Brom Bones, also wants to marry Katrina. Brom is a prankster, and, knowing that Ichabod is superstitious, he makes a mess of the schoolhouse, and makes Ichabod think it was a ghost. But this does not stop Ichabod.

Katrina invites Ichabod and Brom to a party, and will only dance with Ichabod. Brom is jealous because of this, and he wants to find some way to stop him.

Later, the guests tell ghost stories, and Brom decides to tell a story about how he was chased by the Headless Horseman. He says that he was chased to the bridge, but the legends say that the bridge is the Horseman's weakness, so the Horseman disappears once Brom crosses it.

Ichabod learns at the end of the party that Katrina does not really like him, and was just using him to make Brom jealous. As he rides home in the dark, he actually meets the Headless Horseman. The Horseman chases him, and Ichabod rides towards the bridge, thinking that crossing it will make the Horseman disappear, like he did in Brom's story. But he crosses it, and the Horseman does not disappear. Instead, the Horseman crosses the bridge and throws his head at Ichabod, knocking him off his horse. The next morning, Ichabod is gone, and none of the people in the town ever see him again. Brom marries Katrina. The End.

Now, when we got to the end of the story, I turned to my brother and said, "I think that the Headless Horseman was really Brom pulling a prank." My brother agreed with me.

And the text actually supports this.

Brom Bones too, who shortly after his rival's disappearance conducted the blooming Katrina to the altar, was observed to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related, and always burst into a hearty laugh at the mention of the pumpkin, which led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter than he chose to tell.

As for the "pumpkin" the text talks about, it was a pumpkin that was shattered at the site where Ichabod was supposedly "spirited away." Now, where in that entire encounter was there a pumpkin? There wasn't one. The only item mentioned in the encounter was the Horseman's head. But if Brom was pulling a prank, this means that there was no head to throw at Ichabod, which means he had to throw something else, and hope that Ichabod thought it was a head. The pumpkin? Most likely.

We also are told that a visitor to the town claims that Ichabod is still alive with a family in another town. But the people of the town "know" that it has to be true that Ichabod has been spirited away by the Horseman. Isn't this very similar to some people you know? I hear people claim all the time that think there was an alien or a ghost around, and no amount of evidence that it could be something other than that is going to change their opinion.

And think about it, this was only our first time reading the story, and we were little kids! And it was obvious to us that there wasn't really a Headless Horseman in the story. Washington Irving (the author) couldn't have made it any more obvious other than right out telling us it was so.

And this is one of the reasons why I like this story so much. It has that implication to it, and it also has characters similar to people you will meet in real life. Fun story.

Happy Halloween everyone!

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