Study Guide

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Wealth

By Washington Irving


[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?