Study Guide

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Appearances

By Washington Irving


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.