Saturday, 11 October 2014

'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' by Washington Irving (1820)

Synopsis: The year is 1790. Ichabod Crane, an extremely superstitious schoolteacher from Connecticut, moves to a small Dutch settlement called Sleepy Hollow in upstate New York. One of Ichabod's pupils is a beautiful 18 year old girl called Katrina Van Tassel who is the only child of the wealthiest farmer in the town. Ichabod attempts to court Katrina but soon discovers that he has a rival called Bram Bones who is the town hero. Ichabod then becomes the victim of cruel practical jokes as Bram attempts to make Ichabod look like a fool in front of Katrina. Ichabod then accepts an invitation to a large party at the Van Tassel's estate. At the party, Ichabod overhears several locals talking about the local legend of the Headless Horseman. The Horseman is said to be the ghost of a Hessian soldier who had his head shot off by a cannonball during the American Revolution. When Ichabod leaves the party he then finds himself being chased by a mysterious figure on the lonely road back to his house.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a story that I'd been wanting to read for quite a long time. Both this story and Irving's Rip Van Winkle are classics of American literature but Irving wrote them when he was living in Birmingham, England. That's where I'm from! The other reason why I've been wanting to read this story for quite a while is because I'm a big fan of two of its adaptations. I'm extremely fond of the 1999 Tim Burton film and last year I completely fell in love with the new Sleepy Hollow TV show. The show is set in the modern-day and tonally it's kind of like a cross between Sherlock and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Season two isn't being aired in the UK until 15 October and I'm so excited for it! :)

Washington Irving's short story is as different to those two adaptations as those two adaptations differ from each other. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow isn't really a proper ghost story and Ichabod is a coward and not at all handsome. And yet I was actually very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this story! Irving was a great writer and I can definitely understand why the story is considered a classic. It's really quite enchanting and beautiful. The writing is full of charming and lovely descriptions of Autumn, the Hudson Valley, and the people and animals who live there. It's surprisingly funny in places too. I especially liked the part where Ichabod went over to the Van Tassel's estate and got ridiculously excited over all of the food that he could eat.

After I read this story I was thrilled to discover that there was a free audiobook version of it on Audible with Tom Mison as the narrator. Tom Mison plays Ichabod Crane in the Sleepy Hollow TV show and I absolutely love him in the role! If you're a period drama fan then you might also know him from his minor roles in Lost in Austen and Parade's End. Mison does a brilliant job reading this story and I would completely recommend the audiobook. He has a gorgeous voice and his acting really brings the spookier elements of the story to life. Also, it's free!

Although I personally find the TV show and the Tim Burton film more entertaining I still thoroughly enjoyed this story and I'm happy to say that I really like all of the versions of the Sleepy Hollow story that I've come across.

Rating: 4/5

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