Folklore in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

May 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

Folklore is the traditional beliefs and stories of a community throught generation by orality. The historical context is introduced by place and time. The action was in a small village named Sleepy Hollow around where a hessian soldier was decapited after the Revolutionary War. With the help of imagination Irving Washington created a supernatural world. He wrote a biblical myth under his characters. The villagers trust in a ghost, Headless Horseman, in witches, demons etc. The most important thing is the conflict between Brom Bones and Ichabod Crane because reflect the conflict found in early American folklore. In my paper I will prove that folklore is constructed by a true historical story with a supernatural contrast.

According to narrator in paragraph 50, ”This neighborhood, at the time of which I am speaking, was one of those highly favored places which abound with chronicle and great men. The British and American line had run near it during the war – it had, therefore, been the scene of marauding, and been infested with refugees, cow boys, and all kinds of border chivarly. Just sufficient time had elapsed to enable each story teller to dress up his tale with a little becoming fiction, and in the indistinctness of his recollection, to make himself the hero of every exploit.”

This paragraph suggest that the past and the historical truth became malleable because they should to be exist in future. To improve somethig mean that should to be exist something and cand be transmitted by mouth. Also, the passage present the fact that in Sleepy Hollow the villagers have our version of history. It is suggest the presence of a war where as a pricipal subject a hessian soldier was killed near Sleepy Hollow. Irving Washington centred the fiction in a real village started with a horror scene, a decapitation around the village after Revolutionary War. Those, the time and the place are really truly. Dealing with American scenes, adaptations of German folklor the story is a romantic defense of Native Americans.

One of the supernatural elements is the legend of Headless Horseman. ”Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered, long settled retreats; but are trampled under foot, by the shifting throng that forms the population of most of our country places. Besides, there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they have scarce had time to finish their first nap, and turn themselves in their graves, before their surviving friends have traveled away from the neighborhood, so that when they turn out of a night to walk the rounds, they have no acquaintance left to call upon. This is perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts except in our long established Dutch communities.” According to narrator in paragraph 52 it is suggest the superstition of community in a ghost. There are crime and they are scary. For that they search an explanation. Headless Horseman is a demon, a collector of souls and heads who ride every night of Halloween. ”The stories of Brouwer, of Bones, and a whole budget of others, were called to mind; and when they had diligently considered them all, and compared them with the symptoms of the present case, they shook their heads, and came to the conclusion that Ichabod had been carried off by the galloping Hessian.” (1.71)

Another supernatural aspect is the town. It is describe with a atmosphere of terror: the valley around the soldier died, a supernatural tree, a church where the ghost cannot entry and the bridge where Ichabod Crane saw a black horse and a rider without head. ”A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a high German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson.” (1.3)

The action focus on the conflict between Ichabod Crane and Bram Bones. They are rivall and Brom try to intimidate Ichabod. Also, they fight for Katrina Van Tassel. When Ichabod come bach on a path he was scaried by a dark horse with a rider without head. In fact the conflict between them reflect the conflict between Englithment and Romantic ideals.

In conclusion, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving is a folktale with a supernatural elements. Firstly, the historical context is a real story and centred the fiction in time and space very favorable for that time.Secondly, the supernatural is present in description of the legend, in background, but so in characters. On the other hand, the conflict suggest very well the evil showed by Headless Horseman. Those, with the contrast of natural, truth and imagination Washington Irving create a fascinated book represent the myths of American ideals.


  1. Christopher R. and Jeffrey B. Webb Editors, American Myths, Legends, and Tall Tales: An Encyclopedia of American Folklore, Vol. I: A-F, p. 463-467.
  2. History and Storytelling,Theme Analysis, Avalabile at Accessed on 23 August 2019.
  3. Patrick, Browne, October 31, 2011, The Story Behind Sleepy Hollow, Available at Accessed on 15 August 2019.
  4. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – Summary and Analysis. (2016, Oct 30). Available at Accessed 19 August 2019.
  5. Washington, Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
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