October 9, 2013

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (Review)

Title: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Author: Washington Irving
First published: 1820
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

All of you native English speakers probably don't need any plot summary of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, because, as I've heard, it's included in nearly every school program. Even for me the story felt very familiar, although I don't remember actually reading it. I guess it's already in the domain of collective unconscious. What I consciously knew about it, however, is just that it had a headless specter in it. So, naturally, I expected it to be this normal creepy ghost story. What I didn't expect at all is that it would be so funny!

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is not in the least about something paranormal, it instead deals with people's beliefs and superstitions and how they influence their everyday lives. Nothing assuredly unnatural actually happens, but in a small village like Sleepy Hollow, superstitions flower in uneducated minds of people to such extent that they explain many things with ghosts, and it's not surprising that they tend to start seeing them :)

The main character, Ichabod, is a school teacher, but he can't be called particularly enlightened. He enjoys sitting in front of a hearth with older ladies and share ghost stories, and when he is alone he imagines supernatural things all around him. But that doesn't prevent him from having a practical mind, and so he enters an open competition for the hand of a rich farmer's daughter with the village's most reckless youth Brom Bones. It would be stupid of Bones not to use Ichabod's inclination to superstitions to his own benefit, and Bones is not stupid :)

I find characters in the story to be very lively and Irving's kind mockery of them really endearing. I was smiling a lot and sometimes even laughed at the descriptions of Ichabod's courting and then of his misfortunes. There is only one problem with this story: I intended it to count for RIPVIII event, but now that I know it's not scary, I'm not so sure :) But I'm very glad I read it anyway :) 

In my book:
A very well written, funny and entertaining story. Definitely recommended to anybody who hasn't yet had the pleasure of discovering it for himself :)



8 comments:

  1. It counts for the event, in my opinion. It's always been considered a "scary story" not because it is, of itself, scary, but it looks at, as you pointed out the superstitions and anxieties we experience and how we respond to them. Thematically, there are a lot of stories from early American literature where the protagonist goes into the woods and faces something within their psyche. Irving also wrote Rip Van Winkle about a man who encounters some elves in the woods. Nathaniel Hawthorne also explored this in many of his short stories. Of course, this is not unique to American literature. Fairy tales have plenty of examples of a character going into the woods/forest and encountering something/someone, etc.

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    1. Well, going into the wood fits more into fairy-tale category, which is not in this event, but I like your point that exploring the experience of scary stuff counts as a scary story :) I ended up linking it anyway :) Hawthorne was goood at it, although sometimes a bit tiresome, as I remember :)

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  2. Do read Rip Van Winkle, too. It's a lot of fun.

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    1. I suspect I have read it already, but I don't remember it well, so I will :) Thanks for recommendation :)

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  3. I was thinking about reading this book for RIP VIII too because it looks like a lot of fun. Is it a short read?

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    1. Yes, very! 90 pages only! Definitely a good choice!

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  4. I've seen the Tim Burton movie based on this one, but the book plot sounds different - for one, in the movie, Ichabod was a detective! The movie was okay, but your review makes it sound like a delightful book! Thanks, I'll definitely add this to my wishlist.

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