Monday, March 7, 2011

Book 8- "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving

So this is the second time I'm going to be struggling to put my thoughts into words. And it makes sense, really... this "book" was even shorter than Alice in Wonderland, at 27 pages (on my Nook). I'm not ashamed to admit I picked "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" this time because I am getting way behind on my reading, due to my son's illness, and thought I could squeeze this one in during nap time with no problem.

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," as most people know, is about Ichabod Crane, a school teacher living in a small, "haunted" town called Sleepy Hollow. The most famous ghost story told amongst the townspeople is of the Headless Horseman who supposedly rides around throughout the night and returns to the church cemetary in the morning. Most of the story is about Crane trying to woo local heiress Katrina Van Tassel, in competition with local eligible bachelor Brom Van Brunt. Eventually, Crane is rejected by Katrina, and on his way home from her house, he is scared by what he believes to be the Headless Horseman. It is later eluded to that the figure Crane saw was actually Van Brunt in disguise, but he is successful in scaring Crane away, as Crane is never seen in Sleepy Hollow again. It is later reported that he moved to New York and became a lawyer, but the townspeople insist on believing instead that he also haunts the town, a victim of the Headless Horseman.

I don't feel bad about "spoiling" the ending of this, as it is a very commonly known story... there are several children's book adaptations and movies of this book, and being that it's so short, it would be hard for me to summarize it without giving the ending away. I will say that, being so familiar with the tale through children's books and movies, the most surprising thing to me was that in my opinion, Ichabod Crane is a pretty unlikeable character; his interest in Katrina Van Tassel is purely financial, as he spends a lot of time fantasizing about all the food he'll eat and people he'll snub when he marries her and gains her riches, even though people treat him kindly and he has no reason to treat them so pompously. His thoughts and fantasies kind of take away some of his "underdog" likability and make him a completely different character, at least to me.

I did like Irving's descriptions of the town and its people... for instance, the description of Crane is as follows:

"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."

Some of Irving's descriptions were a bit too drawn out for my liking, but I did enjoy his word play and general language-- it made the book easy to read without dumbing it down too much.

Overall, it was worth reading, but if you've ever heard the story before, reading the book doesn't really give you any new information or different perspective. It's just a good story.

No comments: