Study Guide

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Quotes

  • Greed and Gluttony

    Ichabod Crane had a soft and foolish heart towards the sex; and it is not to be wondered at, that so tempting a morsel soon found favor in his eyes; more especially after he had visited her in her paternal mansion. (1.21)

    Allow us to translate: it was love at first sight—or actually, love at first sight of her bank account. We learn two things from this little nugget: (1) Ichabod is super greedy, and (2) Washington Irving is subtly (and not so subtly) hilarious.

    The pedagogue's mouth watered, as he looked upon this sumptuous promise of luxurious winter fare. In his devouring mind's eye, he pictured to himself every roasting-pig running about with a pudding in his belly, and an apple in his mouth; the pigeons were snugly put to bed in a comfortable pie, and tucked in with a coverlet of crust; the geese were swimming in their own gravy; and the ducks pairing cosily in dishes, like snug married couples, with a decent competency of onion sauce. (1.22)

    Have you noticed that Ichabod has a really good imagination? If only he could put it to good use. Instead, he just drools over the food that's only found in his mind's eye.

    As the enraptured Ichabod fancied all this, and as he rolled his great green eyes over the fat meadow- lands, the rich fields of wheat, of rye, of buckwheat, and Indian corn, and the orchards burthened with ruddy fruit, which surrounded the warm tenement of Van Tassel, his heart yearned after the damsel who was to inherit these domains, and his imagination expanded with the idea, how they might be readily turned into cash, and the money invested in immense tracts of wild land, and shingle palaces in the wilderness. (1.23)

    In case you were thinking that Ichabod was just greedy for food, he very quickly clears that up for you here. Unfortunately, Biggie wasn't around to tell Ichabod what everyone knows: "Mo money, mo problems."

    Nay, his busy fancy already realized his hopes, and presented to him the blooming Katrina, with a whole family of children, mounted on the top of a wagon loaded with household trumpery, with pots and kettles dangling beneath; and he beheld himself bestriding a pacing mare, with a colt at her heels, setting out for Kentucky, Tennessee, or the Lord knows where. (1.23)

    The Boss said it best: "Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, and a king ain't satisfied 'til he rules everything." Ichabod is so greedy that he's already thinking what his next move will be once he's won the object of his affection.

    "[A]nd anon he passed the fragrant buckwheat fields, breathing the odor of the bee-hive, and as he beheld them, soft anticipations stole over his mind of dainty slapjacks, well buttered, and garnished with honey or treacle, by the delicate little dimpled hand of Katrina Van Tassel. (1.38)

    Yep, we think of pancakes when we are walking through the park. Totally normal.

    As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye, ever open to every symptom of culinary abundance, ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn. (1.38)

    Ichabod in nature is like a kid in a candy store. It's harvest time and there are just so many options. We'll say one thing: as greedy as he is, he definitely has an appreciation for nature. Most of us gluttons would be running to the closest Dairy Queen. Ichabod stops to smell—and possibly eat—the roses.

    I want breath and time to discuss this banquet as it deserves, and am too eager to get on with my story. Happily, Ichabod Crane was not in so great a hurry as his historian, but did ample justice to every dainty. (1.43)

    Even the narrator can't keep up with Ichabod's hunger. He would need to be as quick as an auctioneer to list the food he swallowed.

    He could not help, too, rolling his large eyes round him as he ate, and chuckling with the possibility that he might one day be lord of all this scene of almost unimaginable luxury and splendor. Then, he thought, how soon he'd turn his back upon the old school-house; snap his fingers in the face of Hans Van Ripper, and every other niggardly patron, and kick any itinerant pedagogue out of doors that should dare to call him comrade! (1.44)

    Didn't anyone ever tell Ichabod not to count his chickens before they hatch? He's counting his chickens before the eggs have even been laid. And just when we thought this guy couldn't get any sleazier, we find out that he's ready to turn his back on everyone in his life without blinking an eye.

  • The Supernatural

    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)

    Right away, we're told that something fishy is going down in Sleepy Hollow. Would we read the supernatural elements of the story differently if Irving didn't lay it out for us right from the get go?

    Another of his sources of fearful pleasure was, to pass long winter evenings with the old Dutch wives, as they sat spinning by the fire, with a row of apples roasting and spluttering along the hearth, and listen to their marvellous tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges, and haunted houses, and particularly of the headless horseman, or galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as they sometimes called him. (1.17)

    The natural and the supernatural seem pretty cozy in "Sleepy Hollow." You know, cooking, sewing, and telling ghost stories—no biggie.

    He would delight them equally by his anecdotes of witchcraft, and of the direful omens and portentous sights and sounds in the air, which prevailed, in the earlier times of Connecticut; and would frighten them woefully with speculations upon comets and shooting stars; and with the alarming fact that the world did absolutely turn round, and that they were half the time topsy-turvy! (1.17)

    Do Ichabod's stories seem out of place to anyone? The old wives are talking about hauntings, and he comes in with (pseudo) science. Does he think they're the same thing? True, the iPhone is a magical thing, but are science and the supernatural the same thing in Sleepy Hollow?

    "[H]e would have passed a pleasant life of it, in despite of the devil and all his works, if his path had not been crossed by a being that causes more perplexity to mortal man than ghosts, goblins, and the whole race of witches put together, and that was—a woman. (1.19)

    Oh, Irving.

    They harried his hitherto peaceful domains; smoked out his singing school, by stopping up the chimney; broke into the school-house at night, in spite of its formidable fastenings of withe and window stakes, and turned every thing topsy-turvy: so that the poor schoolmaster began to think all the witches in the country held their meetings there. (1.31)

    Ichabod is so obsessed with the supernatural that he thinks these very human pranks are something much more frightening. For a teacher, he sure isn't the smartest guy.

    Many dismal tales were told about funeral trains, and mourning cries and wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the unfortunate Major André was taken, and which stood in the neighborhood. (1.52)

    War is a tragic part of Sleepy Hollow's history, there's no avoiding it. But scary stories are a great way to keep the legend alive. We're pretty sure we would have remembered more about history class if it were told in scary story form while our teacher made spooky noises. What do you think, Teach?

    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)

    The supernatural wins again. According to the citizens of Sleepy Hollow, there can be no other, more probable explanation. What does this tell us about this little town?

    The school-house being deserted, soon fell to decay, and was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue; and the ploughboy, loitering homeward of a still summer evening, has often fancied his voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow. (1.73)

    Just like that, Ichabod becomes a scary story himself. It's the circle of life. Elton John music not included.

  • Wealth

    [Old Baltus Van Tassel] was satisfied with his wealth, but not proud of it; and piqued himself upon the hearty abundance, rather than the style in which he lived. (1.21)

    For once, a rich guy in a fable that isn't like Scrooge McDuck. Baltus shows us the decent way to be rich. Don't be greedy and don't be proud. Just be chill.

    It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day, the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. (1.36)

    Basically, nature is majorly blinged out in autumn. Bet you never thought of Mother Nature posing with a gold chain like Flavor Flav before. You're welcome.

    On all sides he beheld vast store of apples; some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees; some gathered into baskets and barrels for the market; others heaped up in rich piles for the cider-press. Farther on he beheld great fields of Indian corn, with its golden ears peeping from their leafy coverts, and holding out the promise of cakes and hasty pudding; and the yellow pumpkins lying beneath them, turning up their fair round bellies to the sun, and giving ample prospects of the most luxurious of pies. (1.38)

    Early Americans were super practical. Their wealth comes from using what they're given to make something awesome. We wonder what they did when life gave them lemons…

    [C]onch-shells decorated the mantelpiece; strings of various colored birds' eggs were suspended above it: a great ostrich egg was hung from the centre of the room, and a corner cupboard, knowingly left open, displayed immense treasures of old silver and well-mended china. (1.24)

    This isn't how we decorate our house, but to each his own. These improvised decorations are probably pretty shabby compared to the riches Irving had seen in Europe.

    A stately squadron of snowy geese were riding in an adjoining pond, convoying whole fleets of ducks; regiments of turkeys were gobbling through the farmyard, and guinea fowls fretting about it, like ill-tempered housewives, with their peevish discontented cry. (1.21)

    We're not sure what kind of psychedelic dream Irving was having while describing the farm, but yikes. The farm is like some kind of feudal city where Baltus is the rich king and the animals are his worthy subjects.

    Benches were built along the sides for summer use; and a great spinning-wheel at one end, and a churn at the other, showed the various uses to which this important porch might be devoted. (1.24)

    Let's get historical for a minute: did you notice that all of this stuff is pretty practical? Nowadays (and even in Europe in those days), wealth is displayed by all the stuff you have that you don't need. (Yep, even those Louboutins.) But here, even Ichabod's wildest dreams are all about the spinning-wheels and churns. Go crazy, Ich!

    There was the doughty dough-nut, the tenderer oly koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes. (1.43)

    We get it. There were a lot of cakes at the Van Tassels' mansion. This whole passage seems like a still life painting, existing only to show off how much food you can waste at once.

    She wore the ornaments of pure yellow gold, which her great-great-grandmother had brought over from Saardam. (1.20)

    Mother Nature isn't the only one wearing gold chains. This is the only time we see someone acting wealthy in a way we would recognize today. What do you make of that?

  • Man and the Natural World

    Then, as he wended his way, by swamp and stream and awful woodland, to the farmhouse where he happened to be quartered, every sound of nature, at that witching hour, fluttered his excited imagination. (1.16)

    Ichabod is a scaredy cat, but what exactly is he afraid of? Supernatural beasts or plain old natural phenomena?

    From hence the low murmur of his pupils' voices, conning over their lessons, might be heard in a drowsy summer's day, like the hum of a beehive; interrupted now and then by the authoritative voice of the master, in the tone of menace or command; or, peradventure, by the appalling sound of the birch, as he urged some tardy loiterer along the flowery path of knowledge. (1.9)

    We often see animals taking on human features in literature (if you want to get fancy, that's called anthropomorphism), but here the students become a garden filled with buzzing bees (zoomorphism at its best!).

    A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose. (1.1)

    We knew we recognized that river. Last time we saw it, it was called Lethe and was making people forget stuff in Ovid's Metamorphoses. So now the natural is the supernatural?

    Though many years have elapsed since I trod the drowsy shades of Sleepy Hollow, yet I question whether I should not still find the same trees and the same families vegetating in its sheltered bosom. (1.7)

    Get it? Vegetating? Because the people are just like the nature around them? Irving is giving us some pretty important information—that is, that Sleepy Hollow never changes—but he always manages to keep it interesting.

    […] and the blue-jay, that noisy coxcomb, in his gay light-blue coat and white underclothes; screaming and chattering, nodding and bobbing and bowing, and pretending to be on good terms with every songster of the grove. (1.37)

    For a town where nothing happens, the animals sure seem to have busy social lives. At times they seem more human than the humans.

    He had, in fact, been a favorite steed of his master's, the choleric Van Ripper, who was a furious rider, and had infused, very probably, some of his own spirit into the animal; for, old and broken-down as he looked, there was more of the lurking devil in him than in any young filly in the country. (1.34)

    Humans and nature are so connected that the animals get some of their owners' spirit. Kind of like Shmoop and our labradoodle. Van Ripper probably only grows sour apple trees and crab grass, too.

    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)

    What's the difference between Ichabod and these birds? No, this isn't a cheesy joke—we're really asking!

    The hour was as dismal as himself. Far below him, the Tappan Zee spread its dusky and indistinct waste of waters, with here and there the tall mast of a sloop, riding quietly at anchor under the land. (1.58)

    This, dear Shmoopers, is what tweed-jacket sporting Shmoop calls a pathetic fallacy. No, not that kind of pathetic—sympathetic. The scenery is sad because Ichabod got dumped, when just a little while ago, the exact same scenery was beautiful.

  • Warfare

    When he entered the house the conquest of his heart was complete. (1.24)

    Love = battlefield. Doesn't get any plainer than that. The funny thing is, it's not Katrina's gentle soul, generous spirit, or even hot bod that wins Ichabod over. Nope, it's her dad's fancy house.

    Ichabod, on the contrary, had to win his way to the heart of a country coquette, beset with a labyrinth of whims and caprices, which were forever presenting new difficulties and impediments. (1.25)

    Hitting on a girl seems to be more dangerous than fighting a dragon for our Ichabod.

    To have taken the field openly against his rival would have been madness; for he was not a man to be thwarted in his amours, any more than that stormy lover, Achilles. (1.29)

    This is like comparing Steven Tyler to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Hilarious, and a good way to shout out to the most epic legend of all time (Achilles, not Schwarzenegger).

    On a fine autumnal afternoon, Ichabod, in pensive mood, sat enthroned on the lofty stool whence he usually watched all the concerns of his little literary realm. In his hand he swayed a ferule, that sceptre of despotic power; the birch of justice reposed on three nails, behind the throne, a constant terror to evil doers […] (1.32)

    Ichabod's classroom is a bit like a warzone, too. Ichabod is holding down the fort, preventing any revolutions from rising up.

    Brom, who had a degree of rough chivalry in his nature, would fain have carried matters to open warfare, and have settled their pretensions to the lady, according to the mode of those most concise and simple reasoners, the knights-errant of yore—by single combat; but Ichabod was too conscious of the superior might of his adversary to enter the lists against him. (1.31)

    Irving brings us back to those days when knights jousted and quests took up most of their time, but Ichabod doesn't want to play along. He prefers less competitive time periods, it seems. Why is he such a wuss?

    That he might make his appearance before his mistress in the true style of a cavalier, he borrowed a horse from the farmer with whom he was domiciliated, a choleric old Dutchman, of the name of Hans Van Ripper, and, thus gallantly mounted, issued forth, like a knight-errant in quest of adventures. (1.34)

    Right. Just like borrowing your friend's Escalade makes you rich and not just a poser. Man, Ichabod really doesn't know how to make a name for himself.

    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 infested with refugees, cow-boys, and all kinds of border chivalry. (1.49)

    "Back in my day, you were lucky if you could cross the street without getting hit by a cannonball." Sure, Grandpa, whatever you say. It's easy to miss, but amidst all these war references, there was an actual war that happened not too long before the story takes place.

    In the centre of the road stood an enormous tulip-tree, which towered like a giant above all the other trees of the neighborhood, and formed a kind of landmark. […] It was connected with the tragical story of the unfortunate André, who had been taken prisoner hard by; and was universally known by the name of Major André's tree. (1.59)

    The residents of Sleepy Hollow seem to forget what happened. Are they honoring the memory of the Revolutionary War heroes, or are they just haunted by it?

  • Truth

    Indeed, certain of the most authentic historians of those parts, who have been careful in collecting and collating the floating facts concerning this spectre, allege that the body of the trooper having been buried in the church-yard, the ghost rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head […] (1.4)

    What are historians doing collecting "facts" about ghosts? Shouldn't they be writing about wars and economic policy in a dark room somewhere? Who gets to decide what history is, anyway?

    However wide awake they may have been before they entered that sleepy region, they are sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching influence of the air, and begin to grow imaginative—to dream dreams, and see apparitions. (1.6)

    Do you think Irving is trying to drop us a hint here with that word "imaginative"? As in, it's in their (and our!) imaginations?

    There was a contagion in the very air that blew from that haunted region; it breathed forth an atmosphere of dreams and fancies infecting all the land. (1.52)

    Is superstition a disease? If so, Ichabod needs to get a cure—and quick.

    An inquiry was set on foot, and after diligent investigation they came upon his traces.[…] [O]n the bank of a broad part of the brook, where the water ran deep and black, was found the hat of the unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it a shattered pumpkin. (1.69)

    You know what they say: you see what you want to see. Apparently this "diligent investigation" didn't want to see a shattered pumpkin as evidence that there is no Headless Horseman.

    It is true, an old farmer, who had been down to New York on a visit several years after, and from whom this account of the ghostly adventure was received, brought home the intelligence that Ichabod Crane was still alive; […] and finally had been made a justice of the Ten Pound Court. (1.72)

    No one believes this guy. They think he's talking crazy talk. But what makes him so much crazier than Team Headless Horseman?

    The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means; and it is a favorite story often told about the neighborhood round the winter evening fire. (1.73)

    Why do the old country wives get to be "the best judges of these matters"? We want that title. Dibs! Okay, now that we've claimed it, we declare that bacon is good for you.

    "Faith, sir," replied the story-teller, "as to that matter, I don't believe one-half of it myself." (2.7)

    If the storyteller doesn't believe his story is true, can it be true? How important is the narrator to the story?

  • Appearances

    The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person. He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. (1.8)

    Take a second and draw this guy out. Does he look like this? Or like this? (P.S. Cognomen means last name. So maybe he looks like this?)

    She was a blooming lass of fresh eighteen; plump as a partridge; ripe and melting and rosy cheeked as one of her father's peaches, and universally famed, not merely for her beauty, but her vast expectations. (1.20)

    Ichabod and Katrina couldn't be more different—on the outside, at least. But that whole thing about "vast expectations" definitely makes us think of our greedy anti-hero.

    She wore the ornaments of pure yellow gold, which her great-great-grandmother had brought over from Saardam; the tempting stomacher of the olden time; and withal a provokingly short petticoat, to display the prettiest foot and ankle in the country round. (1.20)

    Imagine, the scandal of showing off some ankle skin! Sometimes physical descriptions can help us, as modern readers, remember that we're dipping back into the past. Not the intention, sure, but it's a-okay to think as 21st-century readers.

    He was broad-shouldered and double-jointed, with short curly black hair, and a bluff, but not unpleasant countenance, having a mingled air of fun and arrogance. From his Herculean frame and great powers of limb, he had received the nickname of BROM BONES, by which he was universally known. (1.26)

    We're not sure what being double-jointed has to do with it, but his looks majorly define him. As if the nickname BROM BONES (all caps!) didn't give it away.

    In cold weather he was distinguished by a fur cap, surmounted with a flaunting fox's tail; and when the folks at a country gathering descried this well-known crest at a distance, whisking about among a squad of hard riders, they always stood by for a squall. (1.26)

    The mischievous fox is Brom's knightly crest. The fox is a tricky animal, just like Brom. And hey, you might say that he's a foxy guy.

    The gallant Ichabod now spent at least an extra half hour at his toilet, brushing and furbishing up his best, and indeed only suit of rusty black, and arranging his looks by a bit of broken looking-glass, that hung up in the school-house. (1.34)

    Ichabod is trying his best—he really is—but this is obviously a losing battle. Goes to show you how important appearances are in this little town, though.

    He was gaunt and shagged, with a ewe neck and a head like a hammer; his rusty mane and tail were tangled and knotted with burrs; one eye had lost its pupil, and was glaring and spectral; but the other had the gleam of a genuine devil in it. (1.34)

    A silly-looking horse for a silly-looking guy. Is this a jab at Ichabod? (Speaking of humans looking like their animals, your day is about to be made.)

    Old Baltus Van Tassel moved about among his guests with a face dilated with content and good humor, round and jolly as the harvest moon. (1.45)

    Irving obviously believes the old myth that all fat people are jolly. Not quite true, but Old Baltus is happy to oblige.