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Symbols in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Symbols Examples in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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"The wavering reflection of a silver star in the bosom of the brook told him that he was not mistaken..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The image of a single star is an ancient symbol for one’s goal, hope, or aim. For Ichabod Crane, the reflection of the star in the direction of the church indicates to him that he is headed on the correct course to safety. That the reflection is “wavering,” however, in the waters of the brook indicates that his hope and aim are uncertain.

"his steed started, it is true, but it was only to plunge to the opposite side of the road into a thicket of brambles and alder bushes...."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

Horses often serve as literary symbols for the unconscious mind, the substratum of human impulse, instinct, and intuition. That crane’s old horse Gunpowder is acting up in a frightened manner indicates that there is something instinctively awry about the situation.

"tulip-tree..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The tulip-tree is a symbol for where the supernatural arises in the reality of the story. The tree is personified as a giant human and carries with it the grim tale of Major André. The tree is an important milestone in the story, for it signals a transition into the realm of the supernatural, as if the tree itself were a kind of portal.

"a ferule, that sceptre of despotic power..."   (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

A “ferule” is a stalk of ferula, or fennel. In the Greek tradition, the ferule figures prominently in the thyrsus, a scepter comprised of a ferule topped with a pine cone. The thyrsus—a phallic symbol—was associated with Dionysus, a god of harvest, fertility, and ecstasy. Thus the ferule represents all that Ichabod strives for: the bountiful crops and harvests of the Van Tassel homestead, and the promise of Katrina’s hand in marriage.

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