Perhaps the marker of a true mythos is when the stories themselves overshadow their creator. Originally published under a pseudonym as The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW AND OTHER STORIES (A Penguin Classics Original; On-sale date: September 30, 2014; $11.00) gave America its own haunted mythology. This new collection of larger-than-life tales contains Washington Irving’s best-known literary inventions—Ichabod Crane, the Headless Horseman, and Rip Van Winkle—that continue to capture our imaginations today, and features an introduction and notes by Elizabeth L. Bradley, author of Knickerbocker: The Myth Behind New York and literary consultant to Historic Hudson Valley, the caretakers of Irving’s Tarrytown, New York home.
The setting of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is renowned for the supernaturalism that pervades the imaginations of its inhabitants and visitors. The most infamous specter in the Hollow is the Headless Horseman, said to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper who had his head shot off by a stray cannonball during the American Revolutionary War, and who “rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head.” The “Legend” relates the tale of Ichabod Crane, a superstitious schoolmaster from Connecticut, who competes with townsman Abraham Van Brunt for the hand of 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and sole child of a wealthy farmer, Baltus Van Tassel. Crane sees marriage to Katrina as a means of procuring Van Tassel’s extravagant wealth. Bones, the local hero, vies with Ichabod for Katrina’s hand, playing a series of pranks on the jittery schoolmaster, and the fate of Sleepy Hollow’s fortune weighs in the balance for some time. The tension among the three is soon brought to a head.
WASHINGTON IRVING (1783–1859) is generally credited with being the father of the American short story and was the first American writer to achieve international renown. He debuted in 1802 with a series of observational letters to the Morning Chronicle, and is best known for his short stories Rip Van Winkle (1819) and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He has written several historical works covering figures such as George Washington and Christopher Columbus.
About Elizabeth L. Bradley:
ELIZABETH L. BRADLEY, the author of Knickerbocker: The Myth Behind New York, serves as literary consultant to Historic Hudson Valley, the caretakers of Sunnyside—Irving’s Tarrytown, New York, home. She also wrote the introduction and notes for the Penguin Classics edition of Irving’s A History of New York.
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