Rip Van Winkle

     By Woden, God of Saxons,
     From whence comes Wensday, that is Wodensday,
     Truth is a thing that ever I will keep
     Unto thylke day in which I creep into
     My sepulchre—
     CARTWRIGHT.

The following Tale was found among the papers of the late Diedrich Knickerbocker, an old gentleman of New York, who was very curious in the Dutch History of the province and the manners of the descendants from its primitive settlers. His historical researches, however, did not lie so much among books as among men; for the former are lamentably scanty on his favorite topics; whereas he found the old burghers, and still more, their wives, rich in that legendary lore, so invaluable to true history. Whenever, therefore, he happened upon a genuine Dutch family, snugly shut up in its low-roofed farm-house, under a spreading sycamore, he looked upon it as a little clasped volume of black-letter, and studied it with the zeal of a bookworm.

The result of all these researches was a history of the province, during the reign of the Dutch governors, which he published some years since. There have been various opinions as to the literary character of his work, and, to tell the truth, it is not a whit better than it should be. Its chief merit is its scrupulous accuracy, which indeed was a little questioned on its first appearance, but has since been completely established; and it is now admitted into all historical collections, as a book of unquestionable authority.

The old gentleman died shortly after the publication of his work; and now that he is dead and gone, it cannot do much harm to his memory to say that his time might have been much better employed in weightier labors. He, however, was apt to ride his hobby his own way; and though it did now and then kick up the dust a little in the eyes of his neighbors, and grieve the spirit of some friends, for whom he felt the truest deference and affection, yet his errors and follies are remembered “more in sorrow than in anger,” and it begins to be suspected, that he never intended to injure or offend. But however his memory may be appreciated by critics, it is still held dear among many folks, whose good opinion is well worth having; particularly by certain biscuit-bakers, who have gone so far as to imprint his likeness on their new-year cakes, and have thus given him a chance for immortality, almost equal to the being stamped on a Waterloo medal, or a Queen Anne’s farthing.



WHOEVER has made a voyage up the Hudson must remember the Kaatskill mountains. They are a dismembered branch of the great Appalachian family, and are seen away to the west of the river, swelling up to a noble height, and lording it over the surrounding country. Every change of season, every change of weather, indeed, every hour of the day produces some change in the magical hues and shapes of these mountains; and they are regarded by all the good wives, far and near, as perfect barometers. When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky; but sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of gray vapors about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory.

At the foot of these fairy mountains, the voyager may have descried the light smoke curling up from a Village, whose shingle roofs gleam among the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the fresh green of the nearer landscape. It is a little village of great antiquity, having been founded by some of the Dutch colonists, in the early times of the province, just about the beginning of the government of the good Peter Stuyvesant (may he rest in peace!), and there were some of the houses of the original settlers standing within a few years, built of small yellow bricks, brought from Holland, having latticed windows and gable fronts, surmounted with weathercocks.

In that same village, and in one of these very houses (which, to tell the precise truth, was sadly time-worn and weather-beaten), there lived, many years since, while the country was yet a province of Great Britain, a simple, good-natured fellow, of the name of Rip Van Winkle. He was a descendant of the Van Winkles who figured so gallantly in the chivalrous days of Peter Stuyvesant, and accompanied him to the siege of Fort Christina. He inherited, however, but little of the martial character of his ancestors. I have observed that he was a simple, good-natured man; he was, moreover, a kind neighbor, and an obedient henpecked husband. Indeed, to the latter circumstance might be owing that meekness of spirit which gained him such universal popularity; for those men are apt to be obsequious and conciliating abroad, who are under the discipline of shrews at home. Their tempers, doubtless, are rendered pliant and malleable in the fiery furnace of domestic tribulation, and a curtain-lecture is worth all the sermons in the world for teaching the virtues of patience and long-suffering. A termagant wife may, therefore, in some respects, be considered a tolerable blessing, and if so, Rip Van Winkle was thrice blessed.

Certain it is, that he was a great favorite among all the good wives of the village, who, as usual with the amiable sex, took his part in all family squabbles, and never failed, whenever they talked those matters over in their evening gossipings, to lay all the blame on Dame Van Winkle. The children of the village, too, would shout with joy whenever he approached. He assisted at their sports, made their playthings, taught them to fly kites and shoot marbles, and told them long stories of ghosts, witches, and Indians. Whenever he went dodging about the village, he was surrounded by a troop of them hanging on his skirts, clambering on his back, and playing a thousand tricks on him with impunity; and not a dog would bark at him throughout the neighborhood.

The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor. It could not be for want of assiduity or perseverance; for he would sit on a wet rock, with a rod as long and heavy as a Tartar’s lance, and fish all day without a murmur, even though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble. He would carry a fowling-piece on his shoulder, for hours together, trudging through woods and swamps, and up hill and down dale, to shoot a few squirrels or wild pigeons. He would never refuse to assist a neighbor even in the roughest toil, and was a foremost man in all country frolics for husking Indian corn, or building stone fences; the women of the village, too, used to employ him to run their errands, and to do such little odd jobs as their less obliging husbands would not do for them. In a word, Rip was ready to attend to anybody’s business but his own; but as to doing family duty, and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible.

In fact, he declared it was of no use to work on his farm; it was the most pestilent little piece of ground in the whole country; everything about it went wrong, in spite of him. His fences were continually falling to pieces; his cow would either go astray, or get among the cabbages; weeds were sure to grow quicker in his fields than anywhere else; the rain always made a point of setting in just as he had some out-door work to do; so that though his patrimonial estate had dwindled away under his management, acre by acre, until there was little more left than a mere patch of Indian corn and potatoes, yet it was the worst-conditioned farm in the neighborhood.

His children, too, were as ragged and wild as if they belonged to nobody. His son Rip, an urchin begotten in his own likeness, promised to inherit the habits, with the old clothes, of his father. He was generally seen trooping like a colt at his mother’s heels, equipped in a pair of his father’s cast-off galligaskins, which he had much ado to hold up with one hand, as a fine lady does her train in bad weather.

Rip Van Winkle, however, was one of those happy mortals, of foolish, well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy, eat white bread or brown, whichever can be got with least thought or trouble, and would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound. If left to himself, he would have whistled life away, in perfect contentment; but his wife kept continually dinning in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his family. Morning, noon, and night, her tongue was incessantly going, and every thing he said or did was sure to produce a torrent of household eloquence. Rip had but one way of replying to all lectures of the kind, and that, by frequent use, had grown into a habit. He shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, cast up his eyes, but said nothing. This, however, always provoked a fresh volley from his wife, so that he was fain to draw off his forces, and take to the outside of the house—the only side which, in truth, belongs to a henpecked husband.

Rip’s sole domestic adherent was his dog Wolf, who was as much henpecked as his master; for Dame Van Winkle regarded them as companions in idleness, and even looked upon Wolf with an evil eye, as the cause of his master’s going so often astray. True it is, in all points of spirit befitting in honorable dog, he was as courageous an animal as ever scoured the woods—but what courage can withstand the evil-doing and all-besetting terrors of a woman’s tongue? The moment Wolf entered the house, his crest fell, his tail drooped to the ground, or curled between his legs, he sneaked about with a gallows air, casting many a sidelong glance at Dame Van Winkle, and at the least flourish of a broomstick or ladle, he would fly to the door with yelping precipitation.

Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle as years of matrimony rolled on; a tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edged tool that grows keener with constant use. For a long while he used to console himself, when driven from home, by frequenting a kind of perpetual club of the sages, philosophers, and other idle personages of the village, which held its sessions on a bench before a small inn, designated by a rubicund portrait of his Majesty George the Third. Here they used to sit in the shade through a long, lazy summer’s day, talking listlessly over village gossip, or telling endless, sleepy stories about nothing. But it would have been worth any statesman’s money to have heard the profound discussions which sometimes took place, when by chance an old newspaper fell into their hands from some passing traveller. How solemnly they would listen to the contents, as drawled out by Derrick Van Bummel, the school-master, a dapper learned little man, who was not to be daunted by the most gigantic word in the dictionary; and how sagely they would deliberate upon public events some months after they had taken place.

The opinions of this junto were completely controlled by Nicholas Vedder, a patriarch of the village, and landlord of the inn, at the door of which he took his seat from morning till night, just moving sufficiently to avoid the sun, and keep in the shade of a large tree; so that the neighbors could tell the hour by his movements as accurately as by a sun-dial. It is true, he was rarely heard to speak, but smoked his pipe incessantly. His adherents, however (for every great man has his adherents), perfectly understood him, and knew how to gather his opinions. When any thing that was read or related displeased him, he was observed to smoke his pipe vehemently, and to send forth, frequent, and angry puffs; but when pleased, he would inhale the smoke slowly and tranquilly, and emit it in light and placid clouds, and sometimes, taking the pipe from his mouth, and letting the fragrant vapor curl about his nose, would gravely nod his head in token of perfect approbation.

From even this stronghold the unlucky Rip was at length routed by his termagant wife, who would suddenly break in upon the tranquillity of the assemblage, and call the members all to nought; nor was that august personage, Nicholas Vedder himself, sacred from the daring tongue of this terrible virago, who charged him outright with encouraging her husband in habits of idleness.

Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair; and his only alternative, to escape from the labor of the farm and the clamor of his wife, was to take gun in hand, and stroll away into the woods. Here he would sometimes seat himself at the foot of a tree, and share the contents of his wallet with Wolf, with whom he sympathized as a fellow-sufferer in persecution. “Poor Wolf,” he would say, “thy mistress leads thee a dog’s life of it; but never mind, my lad, whilst I live thou shalt never want a friend to stand by thee!” Wolf would wag his tail, look wistfully in his master’s face, and if dogs can feel pity, I verily believe he reciprocated the sentiment with all his heart.

In a long ramble of the kind, on a fine autumnal day, Rip had unconsciously scrambled to one of the highest parts of the Kaatskill mountains. He was after his favorite sport of squirrel-shooting, and the still solitudes had echoed and re-echoed with the reports of his gun. Panting and fatigued, he threw himself, late in the afternoon, on a green knoll, covered with mountain herbage, that crowned the brow of a precipice. From an opening between the trees, he could overlook all the lower country for many a mile of rich woodland. He saw at a distance the lordly Hudson, far, far below him, moving on its silent but majestic course, with the reflection of a purple cloud, or the sail of a lagging bark, here and there sleeping on its glassy bosom and at last losing itself in the blue highlands.

On the other side he looked down into a deep mountain glen, wild, lonely, and shagged, the bottom filled with fragments from the impending cliffs, and scarcely lighted by the reflected rays of the setting sun. For some time Rip lay musing on this scene; evening was gradually advancing; the mountains began to throw their long blue shadows over the valleys; he saw that it would be dark long before he could reach the village; and he heaved a heavy sigh when he thought of encountering the terrors of Dame Van Winkle.

As he was about to descend, he heard a voice from a distance hallooing: “Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!” He looked around, but could see nothing but a crow winging its solitary flight across the mountain. He thought his fancy must have deceived him, and turned again to descend, when he heard the same cry ring through the still evening air, “Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!”—at the same time Wolf bristled up his back, and giving a low growl, skulked to his master’s side, looking fearfully down into the glen. Rip now felt a vague apprehension stealing over him; he looked anxiously in the same direction, and perceived a strange figure slowly toiling up the rocks, and bending under the weight of something he carried on his back. He was surprised to see any human being in this lonely and unfrequented place, but supposing it to be some one of the neighborhood in need of his assistance, he hastened down to yield it.

On nearer approach, he was still more surprised at the singularity of the stranger’s appearance. He was a short, square-built old fellow, with thick bushy hair, and a grizzled beard. His dress was of the antique Dutch fashion—a cloth jerkin strapped round the waist—several pairs of breeches, the outer one of ample volume, decorated with rows of buttons down the sides, and bunches at the knees. He bore on his shoulders a stout keg, that seemed full of liquor, and made signs for Rip to approach and assist him with the load. Though rather shy and distrustful of this new acquaintance, Rip complied with his usual alacrity; and mutually relieving each other, they clambered up a narrow gully, apparently the dry bed of a mountain torrent. As they ascended, Rip every now and then heard long rolling peals, like distant thunder, that seemed to issue out of a deep ravine, or rather cleft between lofty rocks, toward which their rugged path conducted. He paused for an instant, but supposing it to be the muttering of one of those transient thunder-showers which often take place in the mountain heights, he proceeded. Passing through the ravine, they came to a hollow, like a small amphitheatre, surrounded by perpendicular precipices, over the brinks of which impending trees shot their branches, so that you only caught glimpses of the azure sky, and the bright evening cloud. During the whole time Rip and his companion had labored on in silence; for though the former marvelled greatly what could be the object of carrying a keg of liquor up this wild mountain, yet there was something strange and incomprehensible about the unknown, that inspired awe, and checked familiarity.

On entering the amphitheatre, new objects of wonder presented themselves. On a level spot in the centre was a company of odd-looking personages playing at ninepins. They were dressed in quaint outlandish fashion; some wore short doublets, others jerkins, with long knives in their belts, and most of them had enormous breeches, of similar style with that of the guide’s. Their visages, too, were peculiar; one had a large head, broad face, and small piggish eyes; the face of another seemed to consist entirely of nose, and was surmounted by a white sugar-loaf hat, set off with a little red cock’s tail. They all had beards, of various shapes and colors. There was one who seemed to be the commander. He was a stout old gentleman, with a weather-beaten countenance; he wore a laced doublet, broad belt and hanger, high-crowned hat and feather, red stockings, and high-heeled shoes, with roses in them. The whole group reminded Rip of the figures in an old Flemish painting, in the parlor of Dominie Van Schaick, the village parson, and which had been brought over from Holland at the time of the settlement.

What seemed particularly odd to Rip was, that though these folks were evidently amusing themselves, yet they maintained the gravest faces, the most mysterious silence, and were, withal, the most melancholy party of pleasure he had ever witnessed. Nothing interrupted the stillness of the scene but the noise of the balls, which, whenever they were rolled, echoed along the mountains like rumbling peals of thunder.

As Rip and his companion approached them, they suddenly desisted from their play, and stared at him with such a fixed statue-like gaze, and such strange uncouth, lack-lustre countenances, that his heart turned within him, and his knees smote together. His companion now emptied the contents of the keg into large flagons, and made signs to him to wait upon the company. He obeyed with fear and trembling; they quaffed the liquor in profound silence, and then returned to their game.

By degrees, Rip’s awe and apprehension subsided. He even ventured, when no eye was fixed upon him, to taste the beverage which he found had much of the flavor of excellent Hollands. He was naturally a thirsty soul, and was soon tempted to repeat the draught. One taste provoked another; and he reiterated his visits to the flagon so often, that at length his senses were overpowered, his eyes swam in his head, his head gradually declined, and he fell into a deep sleep.

On waking, he found himself on the green knoll whence he had first seen the old man of the glen. He rubbed his eyes—it was a bright sunny morning. The birds were hopping and twittering among the bushes, and the eagle was wheeling aloft, and breasting the pure mountain breeze. “Surely,” thought Rip, “I have not slept here all night.” He recalled the occurrences before he fell asleep. The strange man with the keg of liquor—the mountain ravine—the wild retreat among the rocks—the woe-begone party at ninepins—the flagon—“Oh! that flagon! that wicked flagon!” thought Rip—“what excuse shall I make to Dame Van Winkle?”

He looked round for his gun, but in place of the clean well-oiled fowling-piece, he found an old firelock lying by him, the barrel encrusted with rust, the lock falling off, and the stock worm-eaten. He now suspected that the grave roysterers of the mountains had put a trick upon him, and, having dosed him with liquor, had robbed him of his gun. Wolf, too, had disappeared, but he might have strayed away after a squirrel or partridge. He whistled after him and shouted his name, but all in vain; the echoes repeated his whistle and shout, but no dog was to be seen.

He determined to revisit the scene of the last evening’s gambol, and if he met with any of the party, to demand his dog and gun. As he rose to walk, he found himself stiff in the joints, and wanting in his usual activity. “These mountain beds do not agree with me,” thought Rip, “and if this frolic, should lay me up with a fit of the rheumatism, I shall have a blessed time with Dame Van Winkle.” With some difficulty he got down into the glen: he found the gully up which he and his companion had ascended the preceding evening; but to his astonishment a mountain stream was now foaming down it, leaping from rock to rock, and filling the glen with babbling murmurs. He, however, made shift to scramble up its sides, working his toilsome way through thickets of birch, sassafras, and witch-hazel; and sometimes tripped up or entangled by the wild grape vines that twisted their coils and tendrils from tree to tree, and spread a kind of network in his path.

At length he reached to where the ravine had opened through the cliffs to the amphitheatre; but no traces of such opening remained. The rocks presented a high impenetrable wall, over which the torrent came tumbling in a sheet of feathery foam, and fell into a broad deep basin, black from the shadows of the surrounding forest. Here, then, poor Rip was brought to a stand. He again called and whistled after his dog; he was only answered by the cawing of a flock of idle crows, sporting high in the air about a dry tree that overhung a sunny precipice; and who, secure in their elevation, seemed to look down and scoff at the poor man’s perplexities. What was to be done? The morning was passing away, and Rip felt famished for want of his breakfast. He grieved to give up his dog and gun; he dreaded to meet his wife; but it would not do to starve among the mountains. He shook his head, shouldered the rusty firelock, and, with a heart full of trouble and anxiety, turned his steps homeward.

As he approached the village, he met a number of people, but none whom he new, which somewhat surprised him, for he had thought himself acquainted with every one in the country round. Their dress, too, was of a different fashion from that to which he was accustomed. They all stared at him with equal marks of surprise, and whenever they cast eyes upon him, invariably stroked their chins. The constant recurrence of this gesture, induced Rip, involuntarily, to do, the same, when, to his astonishment, he found his beard had grown a foot long!

He had now entered the skirts of the village. A troop of strange children ran at his heels, hooting after him, and pointing at his gray beard. The dogs, too, not one of which he recognized for an old acquaintance, barked at him as he passed. The very village was altered: it was larger and more populous. There were rows of houses which he had never seen before, and those which had been his familiar haunts had disappeared. Strange names were over the doors—strange faces at the windows—everything was strange. His mind now misgave him; he began to doubt whether both he and the world around him were not bewitched. Surely this was his native village, which he had left but a day before. There stood the Kaatskill mountains—there ran the silver Hudson at a distance—there was every hill and dale precisely as it had always been—Rip was sorely perplexed—“That flagon last night,” thought he, “has addled my poor head sadly!”

It was with some difficulty that he found the way to his own house, which he approached with silent awe, expecting every moment to hear the shrill voice of Dame Van Winkle. He found the house gone to decay—the roof had fallen in, the windows shattered, and the doors off the hinges. A half-starved dog, that looked like Wolf, was skulking about it. Rip called him by name, but the cur snarled, showed his teeth, and passed on. This was an unkind cut indeed.—“My very dog,” sighed poor Rip, “has forgotten me!”

He entered the house, which, to tell the truth, Dame Van Winkle had always kept in neat order. It was empty, forlorn, and apparently abandoned. This desolateness overcame all his connubial fears—he called loudly for his wife and children—the lonely chambers rang for a moment with his voice, and then all again was silence.

He now hurried forth, and hastened to his old resort, the village inn—but it too was gone. A large rickety wooden building stood in its place, with great gaping windows, some of them broken, and mended with old hats and petticoats, and over the door was painted, “The Union Hotel, by Jonathan Doolittle.” Instead of the great tree that used to shelter the quiet little Dutch inn of yore, there now was reared a tall naked pole, with something on the top that looked like a red nightcap, and from it was fluttering a flag, on which was a singular assemblage of stars and stripes—all this was strange and incomprehensible. He recognized on the sign, however, the ruby face of King George, under which he had smoked so many a peaceful pipe, but even this was singularly metamorphosed. The red coat was changed for one of blue and buff, a sword was held in the hand instead of a sceptre, the head was decorated with a cocked hat, and underneath was painted in large characters, “GENERAL WASHINGTON.”

There was, as usual, a crowd of folk about the door, but none that Rip recollected. The very character of the people seemed changed. There was a busy, bustling, disputatious tone about it, instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquillity. He looked in vain for the sage Nicholas Vedder, with his broad face, double chin, and fair long pipe, uttering clouds of tobacco-smoke, instead of idle speeches; or Van Bummel, the schoolmaster, doling forth the contents of an ancient newspaper. In place of these, a lean, bilious-looking fellow, with his pockets full of handbills, was haranguing, vehemently about rights of citizens-elections—members of Congress—liberty—Bunker’s hill—heroes of seventy-six-and other words, which were a perfect Babylonish jargon to the bewildered Van Winkle.

The appearance of Rip, with his long, grizzled beard, his rusty fowling-piece, his uncouth dress, and the army of women and children at his heels, soon attracted the attention of the tavern politicians. They crowded round him, eying him from head to foot, with great curiosity. The orator bustled up to him, and, drawing him partly aside, inquired, “on which side he voted?” Rip stared in vacant stupidity. Another short but busy little fellow pulled him by the arm, and rising on tiptoe, inquired in his ear, “whether he was Federal or Democrat.” Rip was equally at a loss to comprehend the question; when a knowing, self-important old gentleman, in a sharp cocked hat, made his way through the crowd, putting them to the right and left with his elbows as he passed, and planting himself before Van Winkle, with one arm akimbo, the other resting on his cane, his keen eyes and sharp hat penetrating, as it were, into his very soul, demanded in an austere tone, “What brought him to the election with a gun on his shoulder, and a mob at his heels; and whether he meant to breed a riot in the village?”

“Alas! gentlemen,” cried Rip, somewhat dismayed, “I am a poor, quiet man, a native of the place, and a loyal subject of the King, God bless him!”

Here a general shout burst from the bystanders-“a tory! a tory! a spy! a refugee! hustle him! away with him!” It was with great difficulty that the self-important man in the cocked hat restored order; and having assumed a tenfold austerity of brow, demanded again of the unknown culprit, what he came there for, and whom he was seeking. The poor man humbly assured him that he meant no harm, but merely came there in search of some of his neighbors, who used to keep about the tavern.

“Well—who are they?—name them.”

Rip bethought himself a moment, and inquired, Where’s Nicholas Vedder?

There was a silence for a little while, when an old man replied, in a thin, piping voice, “Nicholas Vedder? why, he is dead and gone these eighteen years! There was a wooden tombstone in the churchyard that used to tell all about him, but that’s rotten and gone too.”

“Where’s Brom Dutcher?”

“Oh, he went off to the army in the beginning of the war; some say he was killed at the storming of Stony-Point—others say he was drowned in a squall at the foot of Antony’s Nose. I don’t know—he never came back again.”

“Where’s Van Bummel, the schoolmaster?”

“He went off to the wars, too; was a great militia general, and is now in Congress.”

Rip’s heart died away, at hearing of these sad changes in his home and friends, and finding himself thus alone in the world. Every answer puzzled him too, by treating of such enormous lapses of time, and of matters which he could not understand: war—Congress-Stony-Point;—he had no courage to ask after any more friends, but cried out in despair, “Does nobody here know Rip Van Winkle?”

“Oh, Rip Van Winkle!” exclaimed two or three. “Oh, to be sure! that’s Rip Van Winkle yonder, leaning against the tree.”

Rip looked, and beheld a precise counterpart of himself as he went up the mountain; apparently as lazy, and certainly as ragged. The poor fellow was now completely confounded. He doubted his own identity, and whether he was himself or another man. In the midst of his bewilderment, the man in the cocked hat demanded who he was, and what was his name?

“God knows!” exclaimed he at his wit’s end; “I’m not myself—I’m somebody else—that’s me yonder-no—that’s somebody else, got into my shoes—I was myself last night, but I fell asleep on the mountain, and they’ve changed my gun, and everything’s changed, and I’m changed, and I can’t tell what’s my name, or who I am!”

The by-standers began now to look at each other, nod, wink significantly, and tap their fingers against their foreheads. There was a whisper, also, about securing the gun, and keeping the old fellow from doing mischief; at the very suggestion of which, the self-important man with the cocked hat retired with some precipitation. At this critical moment a fresh, comely woman pressed through the throng to get a peep at the gray-bearded man. She had a chubby child in her arms, which, frightened at his looks, began to cry. “Hush, Rip,” cried she, “hush, you little fool; the old man won’t hurt you.” The name of the child, the air of the mother, the tone of her voice, all awakened a train of recollections in his mind.

“What is your name, my good woman?” asked he.

“Judith Cardenier.”

“And your father’s name?”

“Ah, poor man, Rip Van Winkle was his name, but it’s twenty years since he went away from home with his gun, and never has been heard of since,—his dog came home without him; but whether he shot himself, or was carried away by the Indians, nobody can tell. I was then but a little girl.”

Rip had but one more question to ask; but he put it with a faltering voice:

“Where’s your mother?”

Oh, she too had died but a short time since; she broke a blood-vessel in a fit of passion at a New-England pedler.

There was a drop of comfort, at least, in this intelligence. The honest man could contain himself no longer. He caught his daughter and her child in his arms. “I am your father!” cried he-“Young Rip Van Winkle once-old Rip Van Winkle now—Does nobody know poor Rip Van Winkle!”

All stood amazed, until an old woman, tottering out from among the crowd, put her hand to her brow, and peering under it in his face for a moment exclaimed, “sure enough! it is Rip Van Winkle—it is himself. Welcome home again, old neighbor. Why, where have you been these twenty long years?”

Rip’s story was soon told, for the whole twenty years had been to him but as one night. The neighbors stared when they heard it; some were seen to wink at each other, and put their tongues in their cheeks; and the self-important man in the cocked hat, who, when the alarm was over, had returned to the field, screwed down the corners of his mouth, and shook his head—upon which there was a general shaking of the head throughout the assemblage.

It was determined, however, to take the opinion of old Peter Vanderdonk, who was seen slowly advancing up the road. He was a descendant of the historian of that name, who wrote one of the earliest accounts of the province. Peter was the most ancient inhabitant of the village, and well versed in all the wonderful events and traditions of the neighborhood. He recollected Rip at once, and corroborated his story in the most satisfactory manner. He assured the company that it was a fact, handed down from his ancestor, the historian, that the Kaatskill mountains had always been haunted by strange beings. That it was affirmed that the great Hendrick Hudson, the first discoverer of the river and country, kept a kind of vigil there every twenty years, with his crew of the Half-moon; being permitted in this way to revisit the scenes of his enterprise, and keep a guardian eye upon the river and the great city called by his name. That his father had once seen them in their old Dutch dresses playing at ninepins in the hollow of the mountain; and that he himself had heard, one summer afternoon, the sound of their balls, like distant peals of thunder.

To make a long story short, the company broke up, and returned to the more important concerns of the election. Rip’s daughter took him home to live with her; she had a snug, well-furnished house, and a stout cheery farmer for a husband, whom Rip recollected for one of the urchins that used to climb upon his back. As to Rip’s son and heir, who was the ditto of himself, seen leaning against the tree, he was employed to work on the farm; but evinced an hereditary disposition to attend to any thing else but his business.

Rip now resumed his old walks and habits; he soon found many of his former cronies, though all rather the worse for the wear and tear of time; and preferred making friends among the rising generation, with whom he soon grew into great favor.

Having nothing to do at home, and being arrived at that happy age when a man can be idle with impunity, he took his place once more on the bench, at the inn door, and was reverenced as one of the patriarchs of the village, and a chronicle of the old times “before the war.” It was some time before he could get into the regular track of gossip, or could be made to comprehend the strange events that had taken place during his torpor. How that there had been a revolutionary war—that the country had thrown off the yoke of old England—and that, instead of being a subject to his Majesty George the Third, he was now a free citizen of the United States. Rip, in fact, was no politician; the changes of states and empires made but little impression on him; but there was one species of despotism under which he had long groaned, and that was—petticoat government. Happily, that was at an end; he had got his neck out of the yoke of matrimony, and could go in and out whenever he pleased, without dreading the tyranny of Dame Van Winkle. Whenever her name was mentioned, however, he shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, and cast up his eyes; which might pass either for an expression of resignation to his fate, or joy at his deliverance.

He used to tell his story to every stranger that arrived at Mr. Doolittle’s hotel. He was observed, at first, to vary on some points every time he told it, which was, doubtless, owing to his having so recently awaked. It at last settled down precisely to the tale I have related, and not a man, woman, or child in the neighborhood, but knew it by heart. Some always pretended to doubt the reality of it, and insisted that Rip had been out of his head, and that this was one point on which he always remained flighty. The old Dutch inhabitants, however, almost universally gave it full credit. Even to this day, they never hear a thunder-storm of a summer afternoon about the Kaatskill, but they say Hendrick Hudson and his crew are at their game of ninepins; and it is a common wish of all henpecked husbands in the neighborhood, when life hangs heavy on their hands, that they might have a quieting draught out of Rip Van Winkle’s flagon.

NOTE.

The foregoing tale, one would suspect, had been suggested to Mr. Knickerbocker by a little German superstition about the Emperor Frederick der Rothbart and the Kypphauser mountain; the subjoined note, however, which had appended to the tale, shows that it is an absolute fact, narrated with his usual fidelity.

“The story of Rip Van Winkle may seem incredible to many, but nevertheless I give it my full belief, for I know the vicinity of our old Dutch settlements to have been very subject to marvellous events and appearances. Indeed, I have heard many stranger stories than this, in the villages along the Hudson; all of which were too well authenticated to admit of a doubt. I have even talked with Rip Van Winkle myself, who, when last I saw him, was a very venerable old man, and so perfectly rational and consistent on every other point, that I think no conscientious person could refuse to take this into the bargain; nay, I have seen a certificate on the subject taken before a country justice, and signed with cross, in the justice’s own handwriting. The story, therefore, is beyond the possibility of doubt.

“D. K.” POSTSCRIPT.

The following are travelling notes from a memorandum-book of Mr. Knickerbocker:

The Kaatsberg or Catskill mountains have always been a region full of fable. The Indians considered them the abode of spirits, who influenced the weather, spreading sunshine or clouds over the landscape, and sending good or bad hunting seasons. They were ruled by an old squaw spirit, said to be their mother. She dwelt on the highest peak of the Catskills, and had charge of the doors of day and night to open and shut them at the proper hour. She hung up the new moons in the skies, and cut up the old ones into stars. In times of drought, if properly propitiated, she would spin light summer clouds out of cobwebs and morning dew, and send them off from the crest of the mountain, flake after flake, like flakes of carded cotton, to float in the air; until, dissolved by the heat of the sun, they would fall in gentle showers, causing the grass to spring, the fruits to ripen, and the corn to grow an inch an hour. If displeased, however, she would brew up clouds black as ink, sitting in the midst of them like a bottle-bellied spider in the midst of its web; and when these clouds broke, woe betide the valleys!

In old times, say the Indian traditions, there was a kind of Manitou or Spirit, who kept about the wildest recesses of the Catskill mountains, and took a mischievous pleasure in wreaking all kind of evils and vexations upon the red men. Sometimes he would assume the form of a bear, a panther, or a deer, lead the bewildered hunter a weary chase through tangled forests and among ragged rocks, and then spring off with a loud ho! ho! leaving him aghast on the brink of a beetling precipice or raging torrent.

The favorite abode of this Manitou is still shown. It is a rock or cliff on the loneliest port of the mountains, and, from the flowering vines which clamber about it, and the wild flowers which abound in its neighborhood, is known by the name of the Garden Rock. Near the foot of it is a small lake, the haunt of the solitary bittern, with water-snakes basking in the sun on the leaves of the pond-lilies which lie on the surface. This place was held in great awe by the Indians, insomuch that the boldest hunter would not pursue his game within its precincts. Once upon a time, however, a hunter who had lost his way penetrated to the Garden Rock, where he beheld a number of gourds placed in the crotches of trees. One of these he seized and made off with it, but in the hurry of his retreat he let it fall among the rocks, when a great stream gushed forth, which washed him away and swept him down precipices, where he was dished to pieces, and the stream made its way to the Hudson, and continues to flow to the present day, being the identical stream known by the name of the Kaaterskill.

Footnotes

  1. Upon his introduction, Nicholas Vedder was described at length, using language that tied him closely to the preceding image of the Catskill mountains. When Rip returns to the village, however, the surrounding mountains are unchanged—”every hill and dale precisely as it had always been”—and Vedder has vanished completely, reinforcing themes of human insignificance and transience as compared to the natural world.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Nicholas Vedder is here described using visual imagery very similar to that which defined the Catskill mountains in the story’s opening paragraph. The “hood of gray vapors” gathered “about their summits” is mirrored in the “light and placid clouds” of Vedder’s pipe. Vedder is stolid and reliable, and can be seen to “lord over” his fellow villagers much as the mountains do “over the surrounding country.”

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Colonists who sided with the British during the American Revolution were called “tories,” in reference to Britain’s monarchist political faction of that name. Rip’s being called a tory shows the time gap between him and the present inhabitants, which adds to his confusion.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Note how the words “precipices” and “glimpses of the azure sky” give the visual image of how the encroaching path Rip and the stranger take gets smaller and smaller, creating a place resembling an enclosure. This contrasts the once expansive description of the mountains before and depicts the hollow as a mystical place cut off from the rest of the world.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Even within the stories he chooses to contextualize “Rip,” Knickerbocker/Irving echoes back to the plot of his own tale. Just as the lost hunter takes a gourd, Rip takes from the flasks he is serving, and both actions summon mountain streams.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. This latter half of “Rip Van Winkle” combines the inn’s conflation of George III and George Washington with Rip’s own momentary loss of self to show how difficult it can be to place oneself in a political and social context. In this moment, Rip stands in for the rural American everyman, unsure of his place in a new landscape that demands active engagement from its inhabitants.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Mythological traditions of sleeping kings hidden in mountains are prevalent throughout Europe. These traditions frequently include promises of the kings’ eventual return to their countries. The United States is no longer under the sway of a monarchy, but Hudson is fulfilling the role of an attentive ruler, watching with “a guardian eye” over the land he mapped for settlement. By incorporating this European tradition into “Rip Van Winkle,” Irving is elevating the mythology of the United States the the same level as that of more firmly established countries. He is also implying for the US a longevity that will be comparable to that of European empires.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. The strong visual imagery of these metaphors, which show clouds made of cobweb that look like cotton, develops throughout the remainder of the paragraph to strengthen the connection between the myth of the spirit and the environment of the mountains. “Cobwebs,” “dew,” and “spiders” could all be seen in the Catskills, and the invocation of these tangible elements in the description of the spirit’s powers elevates them to places of power themselves.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. The noun “squaw” is derived from an Algonquin language. It refers to a Native American woman, and it could be used in an arguably neutral context until the mid 20th century (as Irving does here). However, its specific etymology is unclear, and today “squaw” is interpreted as an offensive term.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. The inclusion of stories collected by Diedrich Knickerbocker while on his travels further contextualizes “Rip Van Winkle” as part of the folkloric tradition of the Catskills.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. At the conclusion of the story, which has taken the form of a potentially familiar folktale, Irving returns to the voice of Geoffrey Crayon to remind the reader of Knickerbocker’s “usual fidelity” to “absolute fact”—which, according to the preface, is probably not much fidelity at all.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Rip’s village is idealized as a quiet, stable, secluded hamlet, rural and peaceful, much like Rip himself. This is a common feature of folktales: protagonists being driven from their secure, idyllic surroundings and encountering something strange in the wild. In following this convention, Irving is priming his readers for a fairy-tale-like story, supporting his intended placement of “Rip Van Winkle” into a folklore tradition for the United States.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. This description of the Catskill mountains began with an appeal to the lived experiences of travelers who have seen them. To then describe them as “fairy mountains” removes them from that realm of lived experience and gives them an air of mystery and otherworldliness. While the mountains are a real place, they given over in this story to unreal forces, foreshadowing both the story’s function as a fairy tale and strangeness of the events it describes.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. All of the descriptions of the men and their dress, such as the laced doublet and high-crowned hat, give the men an out-of-time feel akin to figures featured in a Flemish painting. Alluding to the painting that was brought over during the establishment of New Netherland depicts the time period in which the men may be from.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. Henry Hudson (1565–1611) was an English explorer who traveled and sailed through the northeastern parts of North America. Commissioned by the Dutch East India Company to find a Northwest Passage to Asia, he navigated through what would become New York which led to the colonization of the area by the Dutch. Peter Vanderdonk claims Hudson and his crew are seen every twenty years. Since this is the same amount of time that Rip has been missing, it’s implied that the stranger carrying the liquor was a member of Hudson’s crew, and the leader of the men playing ninepins was Hudson himself.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. Anthony’s Nose is a peak along the Hudson River named so by its close proximity to rock formations named St. Anthony’s Face. Other myths on the name’s origins exist, but Irving himself gives one in his satirical work A History of New York and states that it comes from a trumpeter named Antony on Henry Hudson’s ship.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. Babylon was a vast empire in ancient Mesopotamia, and here the expression also refers to the biblical Tower of Babel. In that story, the world spoke a united language and attempted to build a tower that could reach the heavens. However, God caused the citizens to speak different languages so that they could no longer understand each other, halting the tower’s construction for all eternity. The allusion emphasizes that Rip is from a different time, as the topics now being discussed are completely incomprehensible to him.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. Ninepins is a game where nine pins are set up to be knocked down by a rolled ball. Its presence here confirms the origin of the mysterious sound that Rip mistakes as thunder. Also, note how seriously the strangers are playing what is supposed to be an amusing sport. There is something ominous going on here, something unnatural, and it is a clear sign that a foreboding event will occur.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. The stranger’s Dutch clothing is from the distant past and would be odd in a place that has been taken over by the English. This detail not only suggests that the man Rip encounters is out of the ordinary, but also that other extraordinary things are possible.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. The gallows were a form of execution originating in Europe in which the condemned were hanged from a suspended wooden post. As the the gallows were a place marked by death, the usage of the word gives Wolf a solemn appearance of someone anticipating his end. The scene emphasizes Dame Van Winkle’s dictatorship within the household and gives a reason for Rip and Wolf’s constant outings.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. Galligaskins were loose trousers or breeches common in the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the story takes place in the 18th century, Irving may be using this word for comedic effect: the galligaskins emphasize the “wild” look Rip’s son displays because such clothes were out of style.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  22. The corn here is referred to as “Indian corn”, because it was cultivated by the Native Americans and is also known as maize or flint corn. While the kernels vary in color, with purples, reds and blues, it is the same species of corn that we are familiar with today as a decoration during harvest time or Halloween. Because of its hard outer shell that keeps it from spoiling when dried, it is ideal for preserving for the winter.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. The Tartars were members of the nomadic Turkic people who allied themselves with the Mongol empire and took part in an expansive invasion of Europe during the 13th century. Alluding to their lances emphasizes the weight of the fishing rod and by extension, the strength and commitment of Rip to his task.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  24. The use of the words “worth all the sermons” just prior goes well with this line, drawing religious themes into what would actually be quite undesirable. The irony here is that no one would reasonably describe a “fiery furnace of domestic tribulation” as a “blessing.” To some extent, Irving may be sincerely commending the sort of flexibility Rip has developed through his wife’s harangues; however, he is doing so in a very mocking way.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  25. The mentioning of Great Britain indicates that the time period of the story is set before the American Revolution, which occurred from 1765 to 1783. During this time the colony of New Netherland was no longer controlled by the Dutch, and Great Britain had taken over as the reigning government.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  26. Peter Stuyvesant (1610–1672) was appointed director of New Netherland by the Dutch West India Company in 1645. He was largely involved in the beginnings of New Amsterdam, which was renamed New York when it was taken over by the English in 1664. Referencing a historical figure adds authenticity to the story because realistic foundations anchor the fictional story to history. By describing Stuyvesant as “the good,” Knickerbocker is also creating an idealized past, a “once upon a time,” a common setting in folk tales.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  27. By giving life to this area of nature that surrounds the relatively peaceful town the author gives the mountains a mystical aura. Doing this sets a magical tone early on in the story, before the reader enters the forest. Irving will continue to personify the natural environment—the mountains, the river—as “lordly” throughout “Rip Van Winkle.” A common theme in romantic literature is the relative smallness of the individual contrasting with the unknowable vastness of nature, with the latter held to be inherently superior.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  28. The Kyffhäuser mountain is home to the myth of Emperor Frederick I. In that myth, he doesn’t drown in the 12th century; rather, he is resting and waiting to be revived as his beard continually grows, a trait that Rip shares.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  29. Despite the revolution and the political investment that the inhabitants exhibit, Rip’s son is just as lethargic and poor as his father was. This perhaps symbolizes that while times have changed, at the core, things have remained the same.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  30. Stony Point is a town in New York that was the site of multiple battles during the Revolutionary War. On the night of July 15, 1779, American troops attacked the fortification that was occupied by the British and won. Though they were unable to keep the fort, the victory boosted the soldiers’ morale. While taking part in this battle would have been considered an honor, the villagers do not know if Brom Dutcher really participated in it or died in a ditch, denoting their indifference to the past and isolation from the important events of the time.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  31. “Firelock” is another historical word for firearm. Evident from the events that will soon unfold, this is the same gun, or “fowling piece,” that Rip took with him to the mountains. However, changing the term for the same object denotes Rip’s confusion at its rusty state, which leads him to believe that it is not the same gun.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  32. Hollands, or jenever, is a traditional liquor of the Netherlands. The strong spirit flavored with juniper berries is, apart from their clothing, another way of identifying the strange men as Dutch.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  33. This is an example of auditory imagery. By depicting the apparently natural sound of thunder—through words like “peals” and “thunder”—Irving not only disturbs the peaceful environment that readers have become accustomed to, but draws their attention towards the ominous path, giving it a foreboding presence. Notice how the sound comes from a rather specific place—from within the ravine. This detail suggests that the sound can’t actually be thunder.

    — Jin, Owl Eyes Staff
  34. These familial dynamics should feel familiar to Rip, as they duplicate the gender roles displayed in his own marriage. Rip’s daughter keeps a neat home, and his son is uninterested in profitable work. Unlike her mother, though, Judith appears to have settled down with a husband well-suited to structured commercial work. Perhaps the village is no longer as widely supportive of Rip’s preferred lifestyle, or perhaps Dame Van Winkle’s demands were not as unreasonable as they seemed.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  35. This is a sign that perhaps things have not changed as much as Rip fears. Much as his coevals were called “philosophers” and compared to Benjamin Franklin’s Junto, these men are no true politicians. Despite their intense and focused debate, they’re still hampered in their topics by distance and delay.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  36. The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought in 1775, the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, and in a few sentences, an election will be mentioned between two political parties, the Federals and the Democrats. The first major partisan election was George Washington’s second presidential election, held in 1792. While the villager’s spirits may have caught up with the political fervor of the time, the conflation of these widely spaced events implies that seclusion is still preventing them from participating in political discourse in a seriously meaningful way.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  37. The appearance of the town, the behavior of its inhabitants, and indeed, the government of the country, have changed significantly while Rip has been gone. However the face of King George III’s looking out from the clothes of George Washington shows that at the core, some things are much as Rip left them. Rip’s blurring together of George Washington and George III is indicative of his “missing time” on a personal level, as he looks for links to the familiar past. It is also symbolic of the distance governments often have from the everyday lives of people, rendering authority figures somewhat interchangeable to Rip and his village.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  38. We know from Rip’s reexamination of the wooded glen that this statement is not strictly true: there is a stream flowing where there wasn’t one before. The overall appearance of the land surrounding his village hasn’t changed, though, contributing to the theme of nature’s independence from human governance.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  39. Before Rip left for his jaunt, the children of the village habitually teased and played with him, and “not a dog would bark at him throughout the neighborhood.” Now as he returns, these two groups that should love him instead treat him with derision, and it is clear that whatever about him is out of place, it is more than simply his long beard.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  40. This “different fashion” is not described at the same length as the clothing of the strange men in the glen. By omitting detail, Irving is instructing readers to focus on the fact of the strangeness itself rather than to look for details or clues regarding its cause.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  41. Both times Rip enters the glen, he is accompanied by sound: firstly the ninepins, which he interpreted “the muttering of...thunder-showers,” and now the “babbling murmurs” of a stream. Each description invokes the confusion of unclear speech, and each time Rip does not understand what is happening around him. Here, though, the sound is being correctly interpreted and has a natural source; Rip’s confusion is no longer justified by his surroundings alone, and it is apparent something may have happened to him.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  42. In folklore, running water frequently denotes a barrier between the magical and mortal realms or something over which magic cannot cross. Here it has replaced the site of Rip’s adventure, showing that any otherworldliness has left the glen.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  43. The noun “roysterers” refers to someone who is reveling or partying. In contrast, the adjective “grave” indicates a more serious atmosphere, literally meaning “serious or solemn” and having connotational connections with death. This oxymoronic description of the scene estranges Rip’s night of drinking on the mountain and gives it an air of the unnatural.

    — Owl Eyes Reader
  44. Norse and Germanic gods of thunder were frequently depicted with beards. It is already apparent that the men Rip has encountered in the mountain are unusual, and combining this allusion with the thundering sounds of their ninepins gives them a distinctly supernatural air.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  45. Beginning with a quote from another text is what’s known as an epigraph. Each chapter of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent, in which “Rip Van Winkle” was first published, opens with a different epigraph. This one is from the play The Ordinary, written in 1634 by English playwright William Cartwright. While popular in his time, Cartwright’s work may not have been widely familiar to Irving’s readers. Moreover, the character quoted in this passage explicitly copies his words from Chaucer’s “The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale.” Neither Chaucer’s nor Cartwright’s speaker has any intention of keeping the promise he’s made with this oath. For Irving, this provides multiple layers of commentary. The presence of the epigraph, the elevated tone of the words themselves, and the oath of truth to a pagan god all imply that his story is weighty and worth believing. However, appropriate understanding of the quote’s original context reveals that it is actually implying the complete opposite. By employing an epigraph from the consciously plagiarizing work of a lesser-known writer, Irving both alludes to his own frame device and sets a mocking tone for the story to follow.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  46. The emigration of early American colonists was frequently in the aim of directing natural resources back to their homelands. Over time, the colonies formed a shared national identity independent of their European governors. The ensuing American Revolution was against the British government, represented in the American consciousness by the figure of King George III. The perceived misgovernment by George III of his American colonies is outlined in detail in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, and he is described repeatedly as a tyrant of the worst degree. While this is the most common understanding of George’s role in the American Revolution, more recent historical analysis depicts George III in a more favorable light as a constitutional monarch attempting to maintain an elected body’s right to govern its constituents. The portrait on the inn of Rip’s village thus serves to explicitly date the story: events taking place in an American village that displays a portrait of the king of England must predate the Revolutionary War.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  47. The idiom “a dog’s life” refers to a life of misery and hardship. Using this colloquial phrase (without acknowledging the pun contained) strengthens the folkloric tone of “Rip Van Winkle.” It creates a contrast with the heightened language used to describe Rip’s despair, revealing the absurdity of that despair’s cause.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  48. The repeated “s” sound in “squirrel,” “still,” “solitudes,” and “reports” is an example of alliteration. It serves here to link Rip’s “squirrel-shooting” with the “still solitudes” of the mountains, subsuming him within his environment on a linguistic, as well as a spatial, level.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  49. This passage shares features with Irving’s “The Devil and Tom Walker,” also published in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon. In both, the titular protagonists meet strange men in the wilderness. Tom Walker finds himself in a “lonely, melancholic place” when he meets his stranger, and Rip’s approaches from out of a “wild, lonely, and shagged” glen. European settlers in America would have been suspicious of the unexplored country around them, and Irving is linking this to the romantic idea of the natural world as a strange and forceful place.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  50. “Rip Van Winkle”’s rich visual descriptions of the Catskill Mountains draw from other works in the romantic tradition. For instance, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan” describes a “deep romantic chasm which slanted/Down the green hill,” the rapturous imagining of which causes ecstasy in the poet and confusion in his onlookers. Like the narrator of “Kubla Khan,” Rip experiences rich and wild natural beauty, and will find himself changed by his exposure to it.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  51. Whereas Irving has described the sound Rip hears as “long rolling peals,” Rip himself revises the noise to a much gentler “muttering.” The specificity of these words and the huge difference in volume between the sounds they describe show that Rip is either not experiencing his environment accurately, or that he is unwilling to confront what he is experiencing.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  52. It is notable that Rip’s first thought upon awakening is an expression of fear of his wife. This can be understood to be a fear of leaving the freedom of the forest for the demands of village commercialism. Rip has essentially woken up after a great party and is dreading his return to work.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  53. Rip himself is added as another dubious layer through which his story percolates to the reader. As Knickerbocker explains away the variances in Rip’s story, so has Crayon explained away the poor veracity of Knickerbocker’s. The result is a narrative that is completely untrustworthy, presented with every assurance of its truthfulness and value.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  54. This explicit comparison between Rip and the American colonies does not necessarily show the latter in a favorable light. Irving was deeply invested in the cause of the United States, but he held no illusions about its questionable impact on the everyman. National identity is depicted in this story as a choice made on the individual level rather than the civic one: Rip may technically now be “a free citizen of the United States,” but it is doubtful whether he ever participates in the structures that uphold that status.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  55. If reading “Rip van Winkle” as a fairy tale, this is the reward Rip has been given in exchange for helping magical beings complete a task. In this instance, Rip aided the strange man in bringing the keg to the hollow, and has been rewarded with the complete removal of the sort of personal responsibility he particularly disliked. He is essentially gifted a second childhood, where he is not expected to contribute to his home in any commercial way.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  56. A wooden tombstone decomposes over time, removing the information about the deceased. The fact that it lasted less than 18 years shows just how uninterested the village of Rip’s time was in leaving a permanent legacy. However, Dame Van Winkle seems to have been a forerunning influence, and the village is moving slowly toward a more participatory role in the world.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  57. The adjective “bilious” refers to the type of spiteful, unpleasant personality thought in medieval times to be caused by an overabundance of bile in a person’s composition.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  58. Irving uses the sounds of words as well as their meanings to inform his sentences. The hissing, biting consonance of “busy,” “bustling,” and “disputatious” moves quickly and sharply through the mouth, while “phlegm” and “drowsy tranquillity” use more languid vowels and softer consonants. This contrast in sound supports the contrast between Rip’s experience and his memories, emphasizing the newness of what he’s experiencing.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  59. Despite borrowing heavily from German stories, Irving wants the stories he creates for the United States to stand on their own. To do so, he describes a rich folkloric tradition to which his stories contribute. That a party of ghosts can be treated as a “fact” from a “historian” references the dubious scholastic qualifications of Knickerbocker and by extension the doubtful veracity of all such stories.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  60. Peter Vanderdonk’s description here hearkens back to the prefacing introduction of Diedrich Knickerbocker. His inclusion in the story creates yet another layer through which the explanation of Rip’s adventure must pass before reaching readers. Vanderdonk’s authority is trusted implicitly by the village, much as Diedrich Knickerbocker’s is by Geoffrey Crayon, and by extension, Irving semi-satirically wishes to be trusted by his readers.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  61. The villagers are celebrating the freedom to elect their leaders, and Rip is discovering a freedom of a different sort. He is able to become a full member of the community again after sharing this experience with them, but the cynical implications of its cause—his wife’s death—show Irving to be somewhat dubious about the degree to which liberty reflects well on its beneficiaries.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  62. The names in Rip’s village when he left were entirely Dutch in origin—Derrick Van Bummel, Nicholas Vedder, Brom Dutcher, Dominie Van Schaick. This introduction of the French “Cardenier” (and its familial erasure of his own name, as his son is not shown to have married) shows that the demographics of the town have also changed in his absence, and with them perhaps the prevailing cultural influences.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  63. “Junto” here refers to the Junto, a club formed and led by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia in 1729. Its members were from varying backgrounds and they exchanged ideas about morals and philosophy, actively discussing topics such as politics, science, and strategies for self improvement. Its use here is ironic: despite referring to them as sages and philosophers, Irving has made it clear that the men on the bench before the inn are nothing of the sort.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  64. Similar in definition to “ruddy,” the adjective “rubicund” describes someone’s complexion as colored, flushed, and reddish. Here, it means that King George III is depicted with a healthy reddish glow.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  65. Once again, Dame Van Winkle is characterized by a metaphor that references industrial tool use. Despite describing what must be a miserable existence for Rip and Wolf, the bitter irony of this metaphor—that unlike other tools, Dame Van Winkle’s tongue will never wear out—brings some levity to the description and lightens the situation’s direness.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  66. It is hard to resolve Irving’s feelings about women in “Rip Van Winkle.” Diedrich Knickerbocker respected them as a rich source of historical information, but he is an unreliable source. The wives of the village are positively disposed toward Rip, except for his own, and she is either a shrewish caricature or has been misrepresented in her silence. This inconsistency of opinion lends weight to the interpretation of Dame Van Winkle as a symbol of a larger tyranny, perhaps that of England or of civilized society, more than as a well-rounded character in her own right.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  67. One of the themes Irving returns to throughout his story is that of the freedom of the natural world set against the confinement of civilization. By invoking an industrial metaphor—that of a blacksmith’s furnace, used to make tools such as plows—to describe the natures of men with difficult wives, Irving is potentially making a larger statement about the damaging effects of societal expectations on the character of the individual.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  68. In colloquial usage, “henpecked” refers to someone who is overwhelmed and controlled by a nagging wife. It derives from the communal behavior of chickens, which use pecking to maintain a social hierarchy that controls access to resources. There is also a metaphorical layer to the phrase: the hen, the wife, is described as petty and domestic, and her nagging is as sharp and repetitive as the pecking of a hen.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  69. Building on his earlier statement that Rip has “inherited little of the martial character of his ancestors,” Irving defines Rip’s marital relationship as a martial one. While his predecessors “figured gallantly” in battle, though, Rip is unable to muster more than a shrug of his shoulders and a shake of his head when confronted by his wife.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  70. This is the source of the conflict between Rip and his wife, and by extension the obstacle standing between Rip and a peaceful life in his village. It is not strictly true that Rip is unable to provide for himself and his family; he fishes and hunts, and his children are messy but not starving. Moreover, Rip is a conscientious and helpful member of his community, behaving appropriately for the earlier days of American settlement. However, he does not perform the sort of farm work considered productive in the more commercially established American colonies. As the colonies stabilized and began to move toward unification, programs for the encouragement of a market-based economy spread outward from major commercial hubs. Mountain communities like Rip’s would have been slowly converted from subsistence farming, relying on barter and self-reliance to survive, into commercial farming, using money to attempt a betterment of station.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  71. The origins of the word “termagant” are unknown, but as a proper noun in medieval English plays it came to reference a supposed god worshipped by Muslims. The Termagant character was violent and angry, and the word evolved to its modern usage as an overbearing, harsh woman, similar to a “shrew.”

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  72. The farthing was an English coin with the value of a quarter of a penny, making it the smallest English coin minted for general use in Britain. Queen Anne delayed production of farthings in her reign due to market saturation, and so while a design existed for a Queen Anne’s farthing, they were never minted for mass distribution. Only about 400 “pattern” (design proof) coins reached the market, contributing to a misconception that there were only three Queen Anne’s farthings made, making it an exceptionally rare and valuable coin.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  73. Two years before the publication of “Rip Van Winkle,” the original Waterloo medal was issued by Prince George (later King George IV) of England to the entirety of the English forces present at any of three significant battles against Napoleon’s French army in June of 1815. This action was a source of controversy within the British army, as the medal was the first to be granted equally across all ranks and many did not believe that it was appropriate to reward soldiers simply for doing their jobs.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  74. The phrase Irving is alluding to here is “old wives’ tales,” which is a term used to describe traditional folk beliefs or stories that become part of a cultural narrative without necessarily holding any truth. The story of “Rip Van Winkle” is based on a number of German folktales: Geoffrey Crayon implicates the story of Emperor Frederick I in his note following the story’s end, and the tale of a man wandering into the mountains and sleeping for twenty years is explicitly borrowed from the German figure of Peter Klaus.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  75. The colony of New Netherland was established in the early 1600s by the Dutch West India Company. At the peak of its power, New Netherland included parts of Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. It was gradually encroached upon by English settlements to the south, and after a series of conflicts the territory was ceded to England in 1674.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  76. Washington Irving introduces “Rip Van Winkle” in the voice of “Geoffrey Crayon”. Crayon relates the story from the papers of the fictional Diedrich Knickerbocker, allowing Irving to raise questions of reliability and truthfulness. Irving first introduced Diedrich Knickerbocker as the purported author of his 1809 book, A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty. That work was explicitly satirical, and readers familiar with it would know not to trust Knickerbocker’s word.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  77. The contrasting characters of Rip Van Winkle and his wife speak in a subtle way to the nature of how stories can be defined by their tellers. The villagers see a kind and helpful man being constantly berated, and draw the conclusion that Dame Van Winkle is a dreadful wife. The untold story is that of Dame Van Winkle’s attempts to make a life for herself and her children without the support of her husband, who at that time would have been the primary breadwinner in the household.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  78. Irving has set “Rip Van Winkle” in a very tangible place and time. As he consciously creates folkloric traditions for the American colonies, he involves the traditions that were already there. Stories of ghosts and witchcraft codified fears of the unknown into familiar stories for American colonists, and while relations with Native Americans had been relatively peaceful in the early days of Dutch settlement, continued European expansion eventually resulted in war. By the time of “Rip Van Winkle,” the tribes that used to inhabit the Catskills were widely assumed by settlers to be violent devil-worshippers and had been almost entirely pushed out of the area. This foreshadows how the Dutch and their traditions are being overridden by the English, and will soon be subsumed entirely into the new United States.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  79. German and Celtic mythologies contain stories about people who fall asleep on green hills which turn out to be entrances to the fairy realm. “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” by John Keats, is a poetic treatment of this type of story. Often, the person who has been spirited away experiences time differently than those they leave behind.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  80. While his wife considers him to be lazy and useless, Rip is repeatedly described to be industrious and helpful in his own way. Despite finding his new companion unusual, he nevertheless wants to help. This is a common trope of fairy tales, where good-hearted protagonists are rewarded in some way for helping a mysterious figure complete a task.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  81. While modern readers might find it strange, and even silly, that Rip doesn’t question his circumstances, the theme of human helplessness when confronted by an unknown force was common for romantic writers in the 18th and 19th centuries. This contributed to the evolution of gothic literature, in which characters frequently find themselves in thrall to strange and indescribable powers. For Irving’s readers, a character who is unwilling or unable to question a strange experience would not be unusual or jarring.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  82. A sugar-loaf hat is a brimmed hat shaped like a rounded cone. The name is a reference to the shape of the loaves of sugar imported to Europe from the Americas.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  83. In this respect, it is possible to trace Rip’s dilemma to his home life. Made pliable by the scolding of his wife, he doesn’t hesitate to obey the unspoken commands of these strange men.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  84. By modern definition, the noun “virago” refers to a domineering or ill-tempered woman. However, its latin root refers to a heroic woman or female warrior. This could imply that Rip not only views his wife as a domineering woman, but that he views his marriage in general as a battleground between his listlessness and her attempts to get him to work.

    — Owl Eyes Reader
  85. The siege of Fort Christina occurred in 1655 and was a ten-day campaign by the Dutch against the colony of New Sweden and its base, Fort Christina. Upon the Stuyvesant-led Dutch victory, Sweden’s presence in North America was essentially eradicated. The mention of the siege and the military history of the Van Winkle family serves to contrast with Rip’s more simple and listless character.

    — Owl Eyes Reader
  86. The adjective “connubial” describes something either related to marriage or the relationship between a married couple. Rip’s marital fears are only overcome upon seeing the desolate and rundown state of his old house. His dread over seeing his wife is immediately alleviated upon realizing she is not there and apparently has not been for some time.

    — Owl Eyes Reader
  87. The introduction to this short story uses a “framing device”; that is, the narrator tells us that he’s recounting a story that was told to him. This accomplishes several things: it draws attention to the fictional narrator, which encourages us to question the truth of the story, and it gives “Rip Van Winkle” an element of historical truth mixed with legend. Since we are encouraged to question the truth from the start, all themes and statements present in the text must be considered both at face value and satirically.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  88. The American sycamore tree, platanus occidentalis, is a large species of maple known as a shady, ornamental tree with decent quality wood for construction and craft. These trees can grow to impressive proportions of around a hundred feet in height and six feet in diameter.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  89. The noun “burgher” refers to the inhabitant of a burgh, borough, or corporate town. It shares a similar meaning with “citizen” and has its linguistic roots in early modern German or Dutch. Notice too, how Irving’s narrator, Geoffrey Crayon, talks about Diedrich Knickerbocker’s fascination with Dutch culture in North America.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor