Study Guide

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Warfare

By Washington Irving


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?