Irving must have had a soft spot for creatures of all kinds; the animals in this novel are more human than the humans. While all the humans are one-dimensional characters (see, um, any "Character Analysis" for proof), it feels like there is a whole world of animals with some major behind-the-scenes drama in Sleepy Hollow. They have families, they bicker, they have parties, everything. Check out the birds:
The small birds were taking their farewell banquets. In the fullness of their revelry, they fluttered, chirping and frolicking, from bush to bush, and tree to tree, capricious from the very profusion and variety around them. (1.36)
Who cares? We do. The focus on animals highlights the fact that nature is the starring character in "Sleepy Hollow"—it actually gets more description and more screen time than most of the characters. And you know what? Nature and the animals are the only things in the story that we can trust as real. The flimsiness of the human characters, on the other hand, reminds us that it's all just a fairy tale.
Names are simple things in the world of "Sleepy Hollow." Sort of like Superman, Batman, or Spiderman, you know what you're getting before you even meet the person. Since the characters aren't super complex otherwise, Irving gives us a lot of really easy ways to remember who we're are dealing with—naming is one of those tools.
Think Brom Bones. You should already know that this guy means business since he's named after Abraham, the forefather of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Who would win in a fight, the guy whose name means "no glory" (Ichabod) or the guy whose namesake is revered in three major religions? It's pretty obvious. Irving doesn't go as far as naming Ichabod egghead, but he's pretty close.
Ichabod and Brom look like your stereotypical nerd and jock, so that must be who they are. And sure enough, Ichabod is all about the books and Brom is all about the brawn. Surf on over to the "Appearances" theme section to get a more in-depth look at this tool of characterization.