Get Scared (By a Classic)

The Headless Horseman

It’s that time of year. How are you planning to face your fears this Halloween? Here’s a suggestion. Find the nearest fireplace. Kindle a brilliant fire. Turn out the lights and let the shadows dance. Pour a glass of wine, something red, and sink into a large, soft easy chair. Sip the wine, breathe deep and open a copy of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Word by word, slip into that story, the history it presents, and the darkness it will surround you with.  Oh, lock your doors. The Horseman is about.

Disney’s Ichabod Crane

In my opinion, Disney’s 1949 animated adaptation of Irving’s tale did much to turn readers away. Why read such a goofy, yes goofy, tale? Disney’s portrayal of Ichabod Crane, the story’s protagonist (of sorts), diminishes the character; it make Ichabod a fool, a cartoonish fool whose sole obsession is food. The Ichabod Crane of Irving’s original story is far different.

“As described in the story, Ichabod Crane follows strict morals in the schoolroom, including the proverbial “Spare the rod and spoil the child”; outside the schoolroom, he is shown to have few morals and no motive but his own gratification. Despite being thin, he is capable of eating astonishingly large amounts of food and is constantly seeking to do so. In addition to this, he is excessively superstitious, often to the extent of believing every myth, legend, tall tale, etc. to be literally true. As a result, he is perpetually frightened by anything that reminds him of ghosts or demons.”

In other words, Ichabod is an ass; therefore, when he’s perused by the Headless Horseman, the ghost of a Hessian soldier who was decapitated by a cannonball during the American Revolutionary War, you (well, I) want Ichabod to suffer. I want the Horseman to take Ichabod’s head. There, for me, lies the story’s horror. It’s not the Headless Horseman. It’s the knowledge that I applaud Ichabod’s death…or does he die?

Read the story. It’s a great one.


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