The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Reply

legend of sleepy hollow

Ichabod Crane meets the Headless Horseman

THE LEGEND of SLEEPY HOLLOW (Abridged)

by WASHINGTON IRVING

A traditional story from the beginning of the 19th century told on Halloween:

Not far from Tarrytown along the Hudson River, there is a little valley among the hills. It is one

of the quietest places in the whole world. Because it is so peaceful and quiet, this lovely valley is

called Sleepy Hollow. The people of Sleepy Hollow believe all kinds of strange things. They often

see strange sights and hear music and voices in the air. According to many people, the valley is

visited regularly by a ghost. The ghost always rides a horse and has no head. Some people say it is

the spirit of a soldier who lost his head in a nameless battle during the Revolutionary War. They say

the body of the soldier lies under the earth of a churchyard. As the story goes, the ghost rides away

every night to hunt for its head and then rushes back like the wind to get to the churchyard before

dawn. The ghost is known in all the country homes by the name of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy

Hollow.

Once in the early history of this region, a man named Ichabod Crane came to Sleepy Hollow as a

teacher. The name Crane suited him. He was tall and thin with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs,

and big feet. His hands hung a mile out of his sleeves. His head was flat at the top, and he had a long

pointed nose. On a windy day, he looked exactly like a scarecrow, some people said. His school stood

alone in a rather pleasant place at the foot of a hill. It was a log cabin with one large room and a low

roof. The broken windows were covered with pieces of old paper. Ichabod was not a cruel teacher.

On the contrary, he punished his students as fairly as possible. After school hours, he was friendly

with the children. Indeed, it was tactful of him to be their friend. The pay for teaching was small,

and even though he was thin, Ichabod liked to eat. In that part of the country, the teacher lived in

the homes of the children’s parents. He went to all the farms in turn for a week at a time. He carried

all his belongings from house to house in a handkerchief. Because he went from one farmhouse to

another, Ichabod became a kind of traveling newspaper. People were glad to see him because he

carried the news from house to house. The mothers thought well of Ichabod because he was gentle

and kind with their children. He often sat with a child on his knee for hours at a time. The women

also thought well of him because of his great knowledge. He had read several books completely. He

had also studied a whole book about witches.

Of course, Ichabod firmly believed in witches. He also believed all the stories about the ghosts

of Sleepy Hollow. He loved to sit in front of a fireplace with the old Dutch wives on long winter

evenings and talk about ghosts, haunted houses, and the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.

There was pleasure in all this, while he was in a warm lighted room among the company. No ghost

dared to show its face there!

However, that pleasure was always followed by the fears of his walk home. He sometimes jumped

in fear at the sight of a bush covered with snow. He often stopped at the sound of his own steps and

was afraid to look over his shoulder. All of these, however, were just fears of the night.

Many young people came to Ichabod’s singing class one evening each week. Among them, there

was a pretty girl of eighteen named Katrina Van Tassel. She was the daughter and only child of a rich

farmer. She was known far and wide not only for her beauty but also for the money which she would

have some day. Katrina knew that she was pretty, and she liked to catch the boys’ eyes. Her short

skirt showed the prettiest feet in the whole valley. Old Balthus Van Tassel, her father, was a perfect

picture of a happy, kind-hearted farmer. He enjoyed his wealth, but he made no great show of it.

The Van Tassel farm was almost like a nest in a quiet green place along the Hudson River. The large

barn near the house was as big as a church. Men were busy in the barn from morning until night.

There were birds on the roof, fat pigs in the pens, turkeys in the farmyard, geese and ducks in the

fresh water of their stream. The farmhouse had plenty of room for everything. There were bags of

wool in the corners, and the shelves were filled with Indian corn and apples.

Ichabod Crane had a soft and foolish heart toward girls. Naturally, Katrina’s youthful beauty pleased

him very much, especially after he had visited her father’s farm. He rolled his large green eyes over

the rich fields of wheat and the trees which were heavy with fruit, and his heart longed for the girl.

When he entered the house, he wanted to become a member of the family more than ever. From

then on, his peace of mind was at an end. How could he win Van Tassel’s beautiful daughter? Top

II

At the time Ichabod became interested in Katrina, many young men were trying to win Katrina.

They watched each other carefully, and they were ready to fight together against any new fellow.

Among these, the most dangerous was a big, loud fellow named Brom Van Brunt. The countryside

was full of stories of his strength. He had broad shoulders and curly black hair. His face was bold but

pleasant. He was famous as a brave horseback rider. he was first at all races. He was always ready

for a fight, but he liked fun even more than a fight. Whenever any wild trick was played, everyone

knew Brom was at the bottom of it. For some time, Brom had wanted to win Katrina. Whenever

Brom’s horse was outside Van Tassel’s farmhouse, everyone else kept away. Naturally, no one dared

to go against Brom openly. Therefore, Ichabod went on in a quiet and gentle manner. As the singing

teacher, he often visited the Van Tassel farmhouse. In this way, Ichabod often had a chance to sit

with Katrina or walk with her in the evening. Of course, bad feelings developed between Brom and

the teacher of Sleepy Hollow, but Ichabod was too wise to quarrel openly with Brom.

Matters went on this way for some time. Then, on a fine fall afternoon, Ichabod was sitting on the

tall chair where he usually watched over his school. All the boys and girls were busy with their books

or were whispering behind them with one eye on the schoolmaster. Suddenly, a boy rode up on the

back of a wild little horse. He ran into the schoolhouse loudly and asked Ichabod to attend a party at

the Van Tassel farm that evening. Then the boy left in a hurry. In a moment, everything became alive

in the classroom. The children raced through their lessons. The whole school was let out an hour

before the proper time.

Ichabod took at least a half hour to get ready for the party. He brushed up his best and only suit

and combed his hair in front of a piece of mirror on the schoolhouse wall. Of course, he wanted to

appear before his lady in a fine manner. Therefore, he borrowed a horse from a cross old Dutchman

named Hans Van Ripper. When he started, the afternoon sky was clear, and nature was dressed in

rich gold colors. Wild ducks flew high in the air. The sound of squirrels echoed among the trees.

The schoolmaster arrived at Balthus Van Tassel’s home toward evening. People from all over the

country were there. Naturally, Brom Van Brunt was there too. He had come to the gathering on a big

horse named Daredevil. The old farmers wore homemade suits, blue stockings, and big shoes with

shining buckles. Their wives wore tight caps and long dresses. The young girls were dressed like their

mothers. Plenty of food waited for the Van Tassels’ company. There were cakes of all kinds. There

were peach and pumpkin pies, ham, roast beef, and chicken together with bowls of milk and cream.

Ichabod was not in a hurry. He took time to eat all that he could hold. His heart warmed with thanks

as he filled himself with food. He smiled at the thought of owning all this someday. Old Balthus

Van Tassel moved about among the company. His face was spread with joy and was as round as

the full moon. Then the musicians began to play. Ichabod was almost as proud of his dancing as of

his singing. The lady of his heart danced with him and smiled in reply to all his smiles. Brom sat by

himself in one corner jealously.

When the dance was at an end, Ichabod joined some of the older people. They told stories about

ghosts and the strange things people had seen and heard. Many people had heard terrible cries near

the tree by the church where Major Andre had been captured. Most of the stories were about the

Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. Several people had seen this ghost lately. Old Brouwer, who

did not believe in ghosts, said he had met the Horseman on his ride into Sleepy Hollow. Then Brom

said that he had met the Horseman one night. Brom had offered to race with the Horseman. Brom

had almost won the race too. But the Horseman had rushed on at the bridge by the church and

had disappeared in a flash of fire. These stories were told in front of the fire in a low voice. Ichabod

listened to everything. Then he told about parts of his book about witches.

At last the party began to break up. The old farmers gathered their families in their wagons. Some

of the girls sat on horses behind their young men. The sound of their laughter soon died away in the

distance. At last, everything was quiet at the Van Tassel farm. Ichabod stayed behind for a moment

to speak to Katrina. He was sure that he was going to win her. But apparently something went

wrong. After a while, he walked away with a sad expression on his face. Without looking to the right

or left to notice Van Tassel’s rich lands, he went straight to his horse. Top

III

When Ichabod left the Van Tassel farm, it was the exact time of night for witches. As he rode along

the sides of the hills above Tarrytown, he could hear the sound of a dog from the other side of the

river. There was no sign of life near him except from some little animal in the woods. All the stories

of ghosts and strange things came back to Ichabod’s mind. As he came near Major Andre’s tree,

he began to whistle. He thought his whistle was answered, but it was the wind in the dry leaves.

Suddenly he heard a groan. He began to shake, and his knees hit against the saddle. But it was only

one large branch which was rubbing against another in the wind.

About two hundred yards from the tree, a small stream crossed the road and entered the woods. A

few logs side by side formed a crude bridge over the stream. Passing this bridge was the hardest part

of Ichabod’s journey. His heart began to jump, but he tried to be brave. He gave his old horse a few

kicks and tried to rush across the bridge. But it was no use. His horse took a step forward and then

jumped into the bushes along the side of the road.

Just at this moment, Ichabod heard a step by the side of the bridge. In the darkness beside the

stream, he saw a peculiar black shape. The poor schoolmaster’s hair rose on his head in fear. What

could he do? It was too late to turn around and go back.

“Who are you?” Ichabod called. Then he asked the question again in a shaking voice. There was still

no answer!

Once more, he beat the sides of the old horse. At the same time, he started to sing a church song.

Just then, the black object moved to the side of the road. Ichabod could see its form. It was a large

horseman on a black horse with a big body. The horseman kept off to one side of the road and

moved at the same speed as Ichabod. The schoolmaster remembered Brom’s meeting with the

Headless Horseman. Although Ichabod’s horse moved a little faster, the other came on just as fast.

Ichabod’s heart stood still. He tried to sing again, but his tongue was dry. Finally, Ichabod could

see the horseman clearly against the open sky. He was headless! Then the teacher’s horror was

increased. The horseman carried his head in front of him on the saddle!

Ichabod suddenly kicked his heels, and his old horse began to run. The horseman started right

behind him. The two horses galloped down the road madly. Stones flew, and sparks flashed at

every step. Ichabod’s loose clothes flew in the wind. They reached the road to Sleepy Hollow, but

Ichabod’s horse made the wrong turn down the hill to the left. This road crossed a bridge close

beside the white church. By the bridge, Ichabod’s saddle started to slip off. Ichabod threw his arms

around the neck of his horse to save himself, and the saddle fell to the ground.

Then the schoolmaster saw the walls of the church under the trees. This gave him hope. The ghost

usually disappeared by the church bridge. “I am safe if I can reach the bridge,” Ichabod thought.

At that moment, he heard the black horse behind him. Ichabod’s horse rushed over the boards of

the bridge. Then Ichabod looked behind himself. The Headless Horseman rose in his stirrups and

threw his head at Ichabod! The poor schoolmaster tried to dodge, but the awful thing hit him with

a great noise. Ichabod fell into the dust, and the two horses and the ghost passed by like the wind.

Top

IV

The next morning, the old horse was found without his saddle at his master’s gate. Ichabod did not

appear at breakfast. The boys came to school and walked along the banks of the stream, but there

was no schoolmaster. The neighbors started to hunt for Ichabod. After a while, they came upon the

marks of his horse’s shoes. The saddle was found alongside of the road by the church. Ichabod’s

hat was found by the broad part of the stream. Beside the hat, there was a broken pumpkin. The

neighbors hunted in the stream, but the schoolmaster’s body was not discovered. Hans Van Ripper

looked after Ichabod’s things. There were a few clothes and a book of church songs. Van Ripper also

found his book about witches and a paper with several lines in honor of Katrina Van Tassel. Hans

Van Ripper burned these books and decided not to send his children to school anymore. He said that

nothing good ever came from reading and writing.

V

The event was talked of at church on the following Sunday. People gathered in the churchyard at

the bridge. They began to shake their heads. They decided that the Headless Horseman had taken

Ichabod away. No one worried about Ichabod anymore. The school was moved to a different place,

and another schoolmaster came to teach.

Soon after Ichabod disappeared, Brom Van Brunt married the beautiful Katrina. He always laughed

loudly when people spoke of Ichabod and the pumpkin. Some people even thought that Brom knew

a great deal about the matter. However, the old country wives are the best judges of these things.

To this day, they say that Ichabod was taken away by some strange means. The story is often told by

neighbors in front of the fire on cold winter evenings.

End of the Tale.

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