When Washington Irving was a teenager, he wandered from one small Catskill town to another talking to everyone he met and writing down every strange tale he heard – all the while writing down accurate descriptions of towns, forests and riverbanks. Later, when he began writing short stories, his descriptions were so vivid that they made his fiction read like history, especially since he would make up imaginary scholars and professors that would attest to their truth.
One of his earliest stories, which would also prove one of his most famous and enduring, was based, in part, on an Old Dutch legend but was intermingled with images from the American Revolution. The American colonists held a special loathing and fear of Hessian mercenaries hired by the British and came to think of them as monsters in human form – Horsemen, perhaps, with no heads.
Creating characters that were composites of real Catskill people, adding his characteristic humor and humanity, and creating a landscape so believable that it leant his stories authenticity, Washington Irving, stepped into literary history with a story about a sequestered glen named Sleepy Hollow – “A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land…”
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” first appeared in THE SKETCH BOOK OF GEOFFREY CRAYON, GENT. alongside “Rip Van Winkle” in 1819 and quickly became America’s favorite ghost story. Reprinted and retold countless times, THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW would be a contender for most illustrated book of all times and entertains both young and old just as much today as the day it was written.