Friday, 8 July 2011

GoodRead - The Legend Of Sleepy Holllow (Audiobook)

I'm not a person who reads classic novels. I wish I could sit down and read them, but I never seem to find myself enjoying them. They seem to be written for a different audience, for a different time (yes, I know how that sounds, but you know what I mean!). But, recently, I have been wondering if I should, just to see if my views have change, and was thinking of classics I would consider reading or, more likely, listen to on audiobook: Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Jane Eyre, The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, Twas the Night Before Christmas (I had a sheltered childhood, me thinks), The Great Gatsby

I had this audiobook of Washington Irving's most famous tale for quite some time. I got it after reading The Haunted by Jessica Verday, where the trilogy (ending with The Hidden this September) is set in the town of Sleepy Hollow and every chapter starts with a quote from the old tale. And, after reading this book, I decided to download a cheap version and have a listen. Several months later, I actually found the time to listen to it.

We know the basics of the tale, don't we? The town of Sleepy Hollow is haunted by the Headless Horseman and on one fateful night, the Headless Horseman chased Ichabod Crane down a road towards a wooden bridge. But what happened next? Did he flee the town? Was he frightened so much that he was never seen again? Or did he fall into the river and drown, his body swept downstream?

The first thing that surprises me is the length. The audiobook I had is over 1 hour and 25 minutes long, and a minute or two is the reader chatting about the story and talking about his podcast, The Classic Tales Podcast (I went for the cheapest, not the best. I was poor and unemployed at the time of purchase). And it was unabridged! So, for an American classic, it's a surprisingly fast read. Maybe, if the reader is fast, in a space of one dark evening in October…

The second thing that surprise me about this is how long it takes to get to the scene in which makes this tale so famous. It took over an hour to get Ichabod into the situation that he's famous for. Most of the tale was a build-up, of describing the village and the events that led to him being on that road at that time of night.

I think what surprises me the most about the story is how different it is to the stories we know of Sleepy Hollow and how different the writing style is from when Washington Irving wrote the story to stories written today. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow allows the story to expand and describe things and events to the reader/listen to get a feeling for the story. Nowadays, if an author wanted to rewrite the tale, we would go straight to Ichabod fleeing from the Headless Horseman.

Maybe due to the time when the story was written, but I found it hard to relate to any character. We were, I suspect, to relate to Ichabod. But he seemed shallow to me. He seemed to not punish the weak, but doubled his punishment on the strong. He didn't fall in love with Kathleen, but tried to swoon her because of her fortune and the animals she had that would make a lovely feast. But, in those days, people rarely marry for love, so I understand why this was told to us. And yet…

It was a good story. When we FINALLY got to the Headless Horseman and the chase, it was good and fast. But the build-up felt like padding. And what happened after the chase was surprising. I never knew how the tale started or finished, just the middle, so it was interesting that it wasn't never truly explained. Was it trickery of the mind, a cruel practical joke or something all the more disturbing was left to the imaganation of the reader and there are clues to point to either outcomes. But I like that you never really know. It's just hear'say.

How do I feel about Sleepy Hollow? I like it, but I didn't love it, nor do I "get" why it's remained so popular over the years. Maybe if someone could explain it to me… (And yet, is it bad that I now want to go to Sleepy Hollow and see the bridge?)


  1. I've still never read this, but I am familiar with the story. My dad and his family are actually from this area, and he in fact went to Ichabod Crane High School. I saw somewhere in our ancestry research that Washington Irving even mentioned a couple of my distant relatives in a book of his, but I don't know if that is completely true. I do know that is can be creepy up there, especially in the woods at night ;)

    Great. Now I want to watch the Disney cartoon and I don't have it.

  2. I have no idea there was a Disney version of this. Will have to Amazon that. But I became more interested in the Legend while reading Jessica Verday so it was why. I would like to visit there, just to see.

    You had ancestry mentioned in the story. Oh, how have you NOT read it?!