|Norman Rockwell's "Ichabod Crane"|
Regardless, this seemed like a good enough prompt to finally rope "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" into this Halloween countdown, and think a little bit about its persistence in American culture - like Norman Rockwell's great depiction of Ichabod, left. If you've never read it, here it is in an 1821 John Murray edition.
But what's that you say - does "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" really qualify as a Halloween story? Not exactly, but I feel that it's been embraced in that way, over the years. And there are a couple of good reasons - beyond the comic Gothic of the story itself - for that association. After all, the climax of the story begins on "a fine autumnal day", and a pumpkin has a starring role. So why shouldn't it be October 31st when Ichabod sets out at the "witching hour", never to return? Let's say it is.
Either way, Irving's story, and his superstitious protagonist in particular, have had a long and varied life in American popular culture. Its emergence at a peculiarly formative moment in American literary history and its immediate Transatlantic appeal (early adopters: Scott and Byron) might have something to do with its persistence - not to mention Irving's canny use of imported faux-folklore. While this new rendition of Ichabod Crane fighting evil in the 21st century might seem a peculiarly modern conceit, he had already floated free from Irving's story and was being put to other uses even in the nineteenth century. In an example I've written about here, the great, forgotten actor-dramatist Nathaniel Harrington Bannister used the character of Ichabod Crane in a play called Murrell, The Land Pirate in the 1840s, which was apparently popular throughout America. So there's a good provenance for this sort of curiosity.
Undoubtedly, this latest transfiguration of Irving's story seems to take many of its cues from Tim Burton's 1999 adaptation, also called simply Sleepy Hollow. But there are plenty of others to choose from if you're looking for some Halloween viewing. There's the 1949 Disney adaptation - available in full below - that was originally released along with an accompanying Wind in the Willows short (who signed off on that package?):