Near Tarrytown on the Hudson River is a little valley populated by Dutch folk that seems to be the quietest place in the world. A drowsy influence hangs over the place and people so that the region is known as Sleepy Hollow, and the lads who live there are called Sleepy Hollow boys. Some say that the valley is bewitched.
A schoolteacher named Ichabod Crane arrives in the valley, looking like a scarecrow because of his long, skinny frame and his snipelike nose. As is customary, Crane circulates among the homes in Sleepy Hollow, boarding with the parents of each of his pupils for one week at a time. Fortunately for him, the valley’s larders are full and the tables groan with food, for the schoolmaster has a wonderful appetite. He is always welcome in the country homes because in small ways he has contrived to make himself useful to the farmers. He takes care to appear to be patient with the children, and he loves to spend the long winter nights with the families of his pupils, exchanging tales of ghosts and haunted places, while ruddy apples roast on the hearths.
The main figure said to haunt Sleepy Hollow is a man on horseback without a head. The villagers speculate that the specter is the apparition of a Hessian horseman who lost his head to a cannonball; whatever it may be, the figure is often seen in the countryside during the gloomy winter nights. The specter is known to all as the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.
A fan of the writings of Salem Witch Trial chronicler Cotton Mather and a believer in ghosts, haunts, and spirits of all description, Ichabod is often filled with fear as he walks home after an evening of storytelling. His only source of courage at those times is his loud and nasal voice, which makes the night resound with many a sung psalm.
The schoolteacher picks up a little extra money by holding singing classes. One student who captures his fancy is the plump and rosy-cheeked Katrina Van Tassel. She is the only child of a very substantial farmer, a fact that contributes to her charms for the ever-hungry Ichabod. Since she is not only beautiful but also lively, she is a great favorite among the lads in the neighborhood.
Abraham Van Brunt—Brom for short—is Katrina’s favorite squire. Known for his tall and powerful frame, the locals have taken to calling him Brom Bones. A lively lad with a fine sense of humor and a tremendous amount of energy, Brom scares away Katrina’s other suitors. Brom Bones is a formidable rival for the gaunt and shaggy Ichabod. Brom would like to carry their battle over Katrina into the open, but the schoolteacher knows better than to tangle with him physically. Brom can do little more than play practical jokes on the lanky Ichabod.
One fall evening, the whole countryside is invited to a quilting frolic at Mynheer Van Tassel’s farm. Ichabod borrows a horse for the occasion from his current host. The horse, called Gunpowder, is as gaunt as Ichabod himself but still possesses a spark of spirit. The two of them are a sight as they trot happily to the party. Everything Ichabod sees on the Van Tassel farm pleases him. He revels in the pretty picture painted by fields full of shocks of corn and pumpkins, granaries stuffed with grain, and meadows and barn lots filled with sleek cattle and plump fowl. The farm is clearly the most prosperous holding for miles around. Ichabod thinks that, upon winning the hand of Katrina, he could perhaps sell the farm and, with the proceeds, move farther west.
The party is merry and exciting, punctuated by grand feasts and lively dances. Ichabod is enraptured by the cakes, pies, meats, and tea. He joins in the dancing, feeling himself to be at his best when he dances with Katrina. Later, he listens to the men exchange Sleepy Hollow ghost stories on the porch. As the...
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