Monday, October 29, 2007

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

I read this on my own last night in lieu of going to Babbo's, mainly because I was too tired and lazy after cooking and baking most of the evening. Who would leave an apartment that smells like freshly baked brownies, I ask you.

Anyway, I love how this short story almost parodies the idea of the ghost story itself: Ichabod Crane is fooled into thinking he's being chased by the Headless Horseman because he's so susceptible to the idea of it. Sleepy Hollow itself seems to render its inhabitants susceptible to imaginative wanderings in the first place, no matter how rational they may be when they arrive. Woe, then, unto Ichabod, for "His appetite for the marvellous, and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary; and both had been increased by his residence in this spellbound region."

The story's quite subtle, actually, and the fear comes from many places: not only the ghostly chase, but the weird insularity of the characters in the town, the strange, grasping nature of Ichabod Crane himself, the idea of a haunted vale that takes people under its spell ... the thrills of it creep up on you.

I also love the descriptions in this thing (Katrina is "a blooming lass of fresh eighteen; plump as a partridge; ripe and melting and rosy cheeked as one of her father’s peaches," and Brom Bones is a "a burly, roaring, roystering blade"), especially the way Irving goes into rapturous, detailed descriptions of food, baked goods in particular ("the doughty dough-nut, the tenderer oly koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes ..."), plus I get a big kick out of the setting, since I'm such a big fan of the Hudson Valley.

It's a marvelous short story and I remember loving the Disney cartoon version of it when I was a kid (Bing Crosby sings!), and I even like the Tim Burton version well enough, though I remember being a little disappointed by it after I left the theatre.

Also, I learned what a Hessian was.

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