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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Research Paper

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Updated: Mar 29th, 2019


Written by Washington Irving, “the legend of the sleepy hollow” is a horrific, comical story that alludes from a German tale. Filled with greed and passion for wealth, Ichabod Crane strives to win the heart of Katrina van Tassel who is both beautiful and rich.

Similarly, Brom Bones eyes the same girl, which leads to a tussle between the two men. In 1999, Tim Burton directed a film, which draws from the story “the legend of the sleepy hollow”. Besides few differences, the film has the same character names and themes.

There is also a profound difference in the plot and the setting of the story and the film. Therefore, using literary elements like theme, character, and plot among others, the following discussion expounds the differences and similarities between the film adaptation and the story.

In both the film and the story, Ichabod Crane is the main character. In the story, he relocates to New York as a music teacher. Cranes is greedy and selfish because he becomes interested in Katrina not because he loves her but to make sure he amasses wealth, which she will inherit.

Irving describes the materialistic nature of Crane when he says, “his heart yearned after the damsel who was to inherit these domains, and his imagination expanded with the idea, how they might be readily turned into cash, and the money invested in immense tracts of wild land” (966).

Katrina’s father is a rich man thus the reason she attracts many suitors including Crane. Despite his lean figure, he eats large quantities of food especially during the party held at Baltus Van Tassel. The unrealistic character of Crane is also clear because he imagines he already posses Katrina plus her wealth even before she accepts his moves.

His power of imagination and fantasies denies him the effort to face the real world and fight for success. Furthermore, his superstitious behavior propels him to listen and believe in traditional stories eventually creates fear in him.

Consequently, Cranes greed for money and eventual attraction to a rich man’s daughter leads to conflicts with other suitors like Brom Bones. His ability to disagree and fight over a woman who even does not love him proves excessive wish to acquire wealth. He does not consider the means of acquiring the wealth.

On the other hand, although the main character in the film is also Ichabod Crane, his wish is to bring justice and shut inhumanity in the world. As a police officer, he sets out to investigate murder cases using limited skills in forensics.

Although his superior rejects to adopt his scientific investigation techniques, he does not give up. His character as a just, skeptical, determined, and human propels him to resolve the murder cases in Hudson valley, Sleepy Hollow.

His skeptic nature motivates him to investigate the community’s assumptions that the murderer was a supernatural being. He fearlessly unravels the mystery behind the headless equestrian and the perpetrator behind the murders.

Eventually crane returns the skull to the headless equestrian and at the same time halts Lady Van Tassel (Katrina’s stepmother) evil nature. Crane’s, wish for justice puts his life in danger because he had to face the ghost and Katrina’s stepmother, whose aim was to kill Katrina and acquire her wealth. Unlike Crane in the story, the character in the film is fearless, skeptical, and trustworthy.

However, the two characters have the same dream, to win the love of Katrina. While the Crane in the story falls in a love triangle, the character in the film smoothly wins over Katrina without experiencing any obstacles because of his trustworthy nature.

Similarly, the two characters are strangers or guests in sleepy Hollow. While the character in the story has just moved in as a schoolteacher, the one in the film moves in as a police officer (investigator), but each of them has a goal in the new town; nevertheless, only Crane in the film achieves his dream.

The plot of the story in the film and book differ slightly. While the story revolves around a conflict between crane and Brones, the film focuses on murder issues.

At the end of the story, Crane does not only lose but also disappears while in the film Crane applies his scientific strategies to meet his goal the main character in the film resolves the mystery behind the headless horseman, which is not the same case in the story.

For instance in the book, the setting of the tale is around 1790 and Irving bases his story line on the Dutch culture. Ichabod Crane relocates to New York as a teacher. Unfortunately, his greed controls him forcing him to woo Katrina who is a daughter of a rich man, Baltus Van Tassel.

A conflict ensues between him and Brom Brones who also eyes Katrina. On one occasion, Crane gets an invitation to attend a party at Van Tassel’s farm where he practices shows his prowess in dancing especially with Katrina. Due to jealousness, Brones plans to destroy Crane. After the party, Crane encounters a man without a head but on a horse.

Consequently, he disappears from the town never to return. Therefore, did Brone murder Crane or did he scare him away? The story leaves the reader in suspense. On the contrary, the filmsetting is in 1799. Ichabod goal is to adapt scientific techniques in resolving murder cases.

However, his superiors oppose his efforts by giving him a tough task, which is to unravel the mystery behind murder cases in Sleepy Hollow.

Using his own wits, he encounters the mysterious headless equestrian and confronts Lady Van Tassel who is behind the murders. Luckily, he recovers the skull taking back to the headless equestrian who then decides to go to hell. During his stay, he falls in love with Katrina whom he goes away with after the mission.

The major theme, which is similar in the story and the film, is human conflict. For example, in the story Crane with Brones fight over Katrina. Both of them aspire to marry her, but eventually, crane loses out mainly because of his unrealistic nature.

Brones is energetic, muscular, and feared in the community while Crane is slender meaning he cannot fight with his rival. Eventually, Crane mysteriously disappears after seeing the headless equestrian. Did Brone murder him? Similarly, in the film Crane is in contestant tangle with his bosses who dislike his proposal about using scientific techniques to resolve murders.

To keep him at bay, they send him to investigate murder cases without help from other officers. Did they want him to die in the dangerous land? Secondly, Lady Van Tassel envies Katrina, and she is the brain behind the murders in the town. She plans to kill Katrina so that she can inherit her vast land. Unfortunately, through discoveries of Crane her evilness ends.

The second theme, which is similar, is supernatural. In the story, Irving paints Ichabod Crane as a superstitious man who believes and loves stories about ghosts. The town people believe there are ghosts an issue that has created fear among them.

Irving writes, they “maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural” (985) When Ichabod disappears, the town put the blame on the headless equestrian. In the same way, when Ichabod arrives, in Sleepy Hollow, to investigate about the murders, the town people tell him that, not a human being is committing them, but a headless equestrian, a ghost.

Prompting him to search for the grave of the equestrian, he discovers the site, but the skull is missing. Surprisingly, Katrina’s stepmother commits the murders through manipulation of the equestrian. Intuitively, there is no a headless equestrian, but Lady Van Tassel disguises herself to keep investigations at bay.

In conclusion, the film the legend of sleepy hollow is alludes from Washington Irving book the legend of the sleepy hollow. With a similar plot, the story and the film explore the same themes and characters. Ichabod Crane is the main character in both of the writings, but their behavior is different.

Superstition and human conflicts are the main themes because the main characters are fighting to overcome their obstacles to realize their dreams. Finally, by including a headless equestrian in the stories, Burton and Irving condemn the superstitious nature of people in the society.

Works Cited

Burton, Tim, dir. Sleepy Hollow. Paramount Pictures, 1999. Film

Irving, Washington. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. USA: The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, 1820.

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