Folk Tale Characteristics in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow Essays

Folk Tale Characteristics in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow Essays

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Folk Tale Characteristics in the Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of the most well-known stories in
American literature, and with good reason. Throughout his story,
Washington Irving uses many stylistic ideas to create a fantastically
detailed and descriptive romantic folk tale.

Irving begins The Legend of Sleepy Hollow with a vivid description of
the setting of his story. Beginning with the Dutch history of the area,
he goes on to describe the town as "one of the quietest places in the
whole world", with a tranquil brook running through it and the sweet
sounds of chirping birds all around (1). Irving delves into the town's
history, citing Indian legends which say that the town is "bewitched",
and that those who live there often have their eyes and ears play
tricks on them (1). His focus in this description is to give the
history of a little sleepy town, using an element of romanticism to
choose his peaceful, remote setting, and paying special attention to
the nature and native legends of the area. He spices up his story with
many other examples of this local color, such as the details of Baltus
Van Tassel's farm. His land is described as being "one of those green,
sheltered, fertile nooks in which the Dutch farmers are so fond of
nesting," with elms, alders, dwarf willows, and a well which contained
the sweetest, softest water imaginable (5). This description of the
land also ties into the traditional romantic technique of having a
person's house represent the character of that person. Baltus Van
Tassel is directly characterized as "a perfect picture of a thriving,
contented, libral-hearted farmer" (5). Si...

... middle of paper ...

... gives him the dancing skills of St. Vitus,
patron of the dance. As he is courting Katrina on the dance floor,
Brom Bones is left brooding in the corner. This again pokes fun at the
traditional sense of romanticism, because one would think that it
would be Brom who would be wooing Katrina at the party. Through these
tiny, laughable moments in his story, Irving brings a light, playful
tone to the drowsy, dreamy, deeply romantic Sleepy Hollow.

It is through the ample and skillful use of these stylistic ideas that
Washington Irving is able to weave the characteristics of a folk tale
such as humor, hearsay, and local color together to create a
deliciously romantic story of nature, love, and supernatural events.

Irving, Washington. "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Ed. Illustrated Arthur Rackham. United States: David McKay, 1928.

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