The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
by Washington Irving
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valley known as Sleepy Hollow hides from the world in the high hills of
New York state. There are many stories told about the quiet valley. But
the story that people believe most is about a man who rides a horse at
night. The story says the man died many years ago during the American
revolutionary war. His head was shot off. Every night he rises from his
burial place, jumps on his horse and rides through the valley looking for
his lost head.
Near Sleepy Hollow is a village called Tarry Town. It was settled many
years ago by people from Holland. The village had a small school. And one
teacher, named Ichabod Crane. Ichabod Crane was a good name for him,
because he looked like a tall bird, a crane. He was tall and thin like a
crane. His shoulders were small, joined two long arms. His head was small,
too, and flat on top. He had big ears, large
glassy green eyes and a long
Ichabod did not make much money as a teacher. And although he was tall and
thin, he ate like a fat man. To help him pay for his food he earned extra
money teaching young people to sing. Every Sunday after church Ichabod
Among the ladies Ichabod taught was one Katrina Van Tassel. She was the
only daughter of a rich Dutch farmer. She was a girl in
bloom…much like a
round red, rosy apple. Ichabod had a soft and
foolish heart for the
ladies, and soon found himself interested in Miss Van Tassel.
Ichabod's eyes opened wide when he saw the riches of Katrina's farm: the
miles of apple trees and wheat fields, and hundreds of fat farm animals.
He saw himself as master of the Van Tassel farm with Katrina as his wife.
But there were many problems blocking the road to Katrina's heart. One was
a strong young man named Brom Van Brunt. Brom was a hero to all the young
ladies. His shoulders were big. His back was wide. And his hair was short
and curly. He always won the horse races in Tarry Town and earned many
prizes. Brom was never seen without a horse.
Sometimes late at night Brom and his friends would
rush through town
shouting loudly from the backs of their horses. Tired old ladies would
awaken from their sleep and say: "Why, there goes Brom Van Brunt leading
his wild group again!"
Such was the enemy Ichabod had to defeat for Katrina's heart.
Stronger and wiser men would not have tried. But Ichabod had a plan. He
could not fight his enemy in the open. So he did it silently and secretly.
He made many visits to Katrina's farm and made her think he was helping
her to sing better.
Time passed, and the town people thought Ichabod was winning. Brom's horse
was never seen at Katrina's house on Sunday nights anymore.
One day in autumn Ichabod was asked to come to a big party at the Van
Tassel home. He dressed in his best clothes. A farmer loaned him an old
horse for the long trip to the party.
The house was filled with farmers and their wives, red-faced daughters and
clean, washed sons. The tables were filled with different things to eat.
Wine filled many glasses.
Brom Van Brunt rode to the party on his fastest horse called Daredevil.
All the young ladies smiled happily when they saw him. Soon music filled
the rooms and everyone began to dance and sing.
Ichabod was happy dancing with Katrina as Brom looked at them with a
jealous heart. The night passed. The music stopped, and the young people
sat together to tell stories about the revolutionary war.
Soon stories about Sleepy Hollow were told. The most feared story was
about the rider looking for his lost head. One farmer told how he raced
the headless man on a horse. The farmer ran his horse faster and faster.
The horseman followed over bush and
stone until they came to the end of
the valley. There the headless horseman suddenly stopped. Gone were his
clothes and his skin. All that was left was a man with white bones
in the moonlight.
The stories ended and time came to leave the party. Ichabod seemed very
happy until he said goodnight to Katrina. Was she ending their romance? He
left feeling very sad. Had Katrina been seeing Ichabod just to make Brom
Van Brunt jealous so he would marry her?
Well, Ichabod began his long ride home on the hills that surround Tarry
Town. He had never felt so lonely in his life. He began
to whistle as he
came close to the tree where a man had been killed years ago by rebels.
He thought he saw something white move in the tree. But no, it was only
the moonlight shining and moving on the tree. Then he heard a noise. His
body shook. He kicked his horse faster. The old horse tried to run, but
almost fell in the river, instead. Ichabod hit the horse again. The horse
ran fast and then suddenly stopped, almost throwing Ichabod forward to the
There, in the dark woods on the side of the river where the bushes grow
low, stood an ugly thing. Big and black. It did not move, but seemed ready
to jump like a giant monster.
Ichabod's hair stood straight up. It was too late to run, and in his fear,
he did the only thing he could. His shaking voice broke the silent valley.
"Who are you?" The thing did not answer. Ichabod asked again. Still no
answer. Ichabod's old horse began to move forward. The black thing began
to move along the side of Ichabod's horse in the dark. Ichabod made his
horse run faster. The black thing moved with them. Side by side they
moved, slowly at first. And not a word was said.
Ichabod felt his heart sink. Up a hill they moved above the shadow of the
trees. For a moment the moon shown down and to Ichabod's horror he saw it
was a horse. And it had a rider. But the rider's head was not on his body.
It was in front of the rider, resting on the horse.
Ichabod kicked and hit his old horse with all his power. Away they rushed
through bushes and trees across the valley of Sleepy Hollow. Up ahead was
the old church bridge where the headless horseman stops and returns to his
"If only I can get there first, I am safe," thought Ichabod. He kicked his
horse again. The horse jumped on to the bridge and raced over it like the
sound of thunder. Ichabod looked back to see if the headless man had
stopped. He saw the man pick up his head and throw it with a powerful
force. The head hit Ichabod in the face and knocked him off his horse to
the dirt below.
They found Ichabod's horse the next day peacefully eating grass. They
could not find Ichabod.
They walked all across the valley. They saw the foot marks of Ichabod's
horse as it had raced through the valley. They even found Ichabod's old
hat in the dust near the bridge. But they did not find Ichabod. The only
other thing they found was lying near Ichabod's hat.
It was the broken pieces of a round orange
The town people talked about Ichabod for many weeks. They remembered the
frightening stories of the valley. And finally they came to believe that
the headless horseman had carried Ichabod away.
Much later an old farmer returned from a visit to New York City. He said
he was sure he saw Ichabod there. He thought Ichabod silently left Sleepy
Hollow because he had lost Katrina.
As for Katrina, her mother and father gave her a big wedding when she
married Brom Van Brunt. Many people who went to the wedding saw that Brom
smiled whenever Ichabod's name was spoken. And they wondered why he
laughed out loud when anyone talked about the broken orange pumpkin found
lying near Ichabod's old dusty hat.
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·Burial: an area of land where dead bodies are buried
·Crane: a tall bird with long thin legs and a long neck
·Glassy: a person's eyes when they have a fixed expression and seem
unable to see anything
·Bloom: a person who is blooming has a healthy, energetic and
·Fool: a person who behaves in a silly way without thinking
·Wheat: a plant whose yellowish brown grain is used for making
flour, or the grain itself
·Block: something that stops something else passing through, or
when something does this
·Curl: a piece of hair which grows or
has been formed into a curving shape, or something that is the same shape
·To rush: go or do something very quickly
·Wise: possessing or showing the ability to make good judgments,
based on a deep understanding and experience of life
·Bush: a low densely branched shrub
·Stone: the hard solid substance found in the ground which is often
used for building, or a piece of this
·Shine: when something is bright from reflected light on its
·To whistle: to make a high sound by forcing air through a small
hole or passage, especially through the lips, or through a special device
held to the lips
·Dust: dry dirt in the form of powder that covers surfaces inside a
building, or very small dry pieces of earth, sand or other substances
·Pumpkin: a large round vegetable with hard yellow or orange flesh
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