Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow

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Comparing Tim Burton’s "Sleepy Hollow" with Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

In examining Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” alongside Tim Burton’s film adaption of the story, titled “Sleepy Hollow,” a number of fascinating similarities and differences emerge. Though elements of the characters and settings of Burton’s film borrow heavily from Irving’s text, the overall structuring of the film is significantly different, and representations of various elements are crucially re-imagined. Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow” was released on November 19, 1999, a few months before the new millennium. Set in 1799, Burton’s film modifies the 1790 date that Irving’s text is set in, showing an acute concern with living out anxieties surrounding millennial change in the ‘safe’ formats of film and of established folk legend. Irving’s tale, written in 1820, also works with antiquity, but in a different manner: it lives out colonial cultural anxieties of Irving’s present, as he seems to be concerned with constructing archetypes of folk and with placing folk culture in the new American literary landscape. Examining the two versions of the tale, then, provides a fascinating peek into the transformation of concerns and values in America from Irving’s nineteenth century landscape to Burton’s twentieth (on the verge of twenty-first) century.

Burton makes several significant moves that modify the basics of Irving’s tale, frequently at the cost of the folk elements of Irving’s version. The frame narrative of Irving’s story—the tale, part of a series titled “The Sketch Book,” begins with the preface “Found among the papers of the Late Diedrich Knickerbocker—is completely done away with (Irving 41). What is more, t...

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...ntury means a new beginning, and an abandonment of the previous era’s “witchcraft.” “Home is this way,” says Ichabod (Burton 01:45:00). And so the city becomes home for the new family, and the future, completely abandoning the past, becomes their destiny.

Works Cited

Hoffman, Daniel G. "Irving's Use of American Folklore in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"" PMLA 68.3 (1953): 425-35. JSTOR. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.

Irving, Washington. "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th ed. Vol. B. New York: WW Norton &, 2012. 41-62. Print.

Orr, Stanley. "'A Dark Episode Of Bonanza' Genre, Adaptation, And Historiography In "Sleepy Hollow.." Literature Film Quarterly 31.1 (2003): 44. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

Sleepy Hollow. Dir. Tim Burton. Perf. Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci. Paramount Pictures, 1999. Amazon.
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