The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

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The 1999 film Sleepy Hollow is a supernatural horror production that came under the directorship of Tim Burton. This film’s adaptation was loosely inspired by the 1820 short story which was called The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This story was written by Washington Irving and other stars such as Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci, with Miranda, Michael, Van Dien, Parker and Jones as supporters. It plot follows constable Ichabod Crane being sent from the City of New York to investigate many murders in the locality of Sleepy Hollow which were caused by a mysterious Headless Horseman. The Sleepy Hollow film is similar to the Legend of Sleepy Hollow since, in this story, Sleepy Hollow presented for its ghosts as well as the haunting atmosphere that pervaded the thinking of its inhabitants as well as visitors. In the story, some inhabitants say that there was bewitched in the early Dutch settlement days (Irving & West, 1977). Others say that an old Native American chief and a wizard of his tribe held his powwows at that place before the discovery of the country. In this story, the infamous specter in that place was the Headless Horseman, perceived as the ghost of a Hessian trooper.  He had his head shot off by a stray cannonball in unnamed battles of the American Independence War. In the story, he rides forth to the battle scene in a nightly quest of his head. The 1999 film Sleepy Hollow presents the New York police constable Ichabod Crane facing incarceration for turning against traditional approaches. Ichabod accepts the deployment to Westchester County which is the hamlet of Sleepy Hollow. This place is presented having been plagued by many brutal slayings where victims get decapitated. Crane gets informed that the killer is an undead headless Hessian mercenary who rides on a black steed to search for his missing head (Irving, Boughton, Macmillan & Co., & Richard Clay and Sons, 1893).

One of the greatest similarities between the story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Tim Burton’s film, Sleepy Hollow, is presented regarding the setting. On the other hand, the two diverge in character, plot, as well as general style. Despite the fact that the story meant to be a ghost story, no audience familiar with modern special effects would have perceived it scary. Similarly, Burton gave a much better work with creepy as well as chilling as compared to Irving (Irving & Collins, 2005). However, he takes some creative license and changes the original story to come up with something which only vaguely similar to the literary work it is based on.Washington Irving’s style of the story varies from the enchanted as well as mysterious, to downright happiness. The rich language presents Sleepy Hollow as well as Ichabod Crane’s time spent there with lavish scenery and food. Burton’s film starts off creepy and progresses from there. While Irving fills his story with vibrant color descriptions, Burton decides to make everything starkly pale, contrasting while on dark clothing and trees. Nearly all the color comes from flickering firelight or splattered blood.

Among the major differences between the story and the book emerges in the characterization of the key character, Ichabod. When looked at from the story, he is presented as a haughty schoolteacher thinking with his stomach. Additionally, Irving explains, “His appetite for the marvelous, and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary; and both had been increased by his residence in this spellbound region. No story was too gross or monstrous for capacious swallow.” This assertion completely differs with Burton’s Ichabod Crane, a scientist with cynic and disrespects all supernatural explanations for measurable ones. In a great Irony, the end, as well as the explanation of the Headless Horseman, differs in the two productions. In the Legend of Sleepy Hollow story, with Crane hunger for the supernatural, Irving presents with his ending that Brom Bones was the Horseman and that what happened could have a real life explanation. In the1999 film Sleepy Hollow movie, where Johnny Depp’s Ichabod Crane strongly rejects the supernatural view, Burton develops a whole back-story of witchcraft to account for the Headless Hessian. In another similarity, the two contrasted their key character’s belief with what happened realistically. Burton develops more than just a back-story about Sleepy Hollow (Irving, 2015). He devises the whole story; end it with an elaborate killer plot. He even goes ahead to kills off Brom Bones, who on the contrary, Irving ends up pairing with Katrina Von Tassel. Initially in the story, he leaves a written story, a mere “dream montage” of an iconic pumpkin smash.  His story interpretation cannot be seen as accurate, but he achieves one thing that Irving aimed. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow can easily be read aloud on a dark, autumn night like Halloween, to make the audience spooked. Similarly, Sleepy Hollow intends to be dark, even when in typical Burton fashion, it pushes spooky to a new dimension. To conclude, the film is based on the story with nothing knitting to a real life context. Similarities between the two exist, but differences also do.


Irving, W., & West, M. (1977): Rip Van Winkle: And the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. London:      Longman.

Irving, W., & Collins, A. (2005): The Legends of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. Oxford:    Macmillan.

Irving, W., Boughton, G. H., Macmillan & Co., & Richard Clay and Sons (1893): Rip Van           Winkle: And, the legend of Sleepy Hollow. London: Macmillan and Co.

Irving, W. (2015): The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Miller, K. S., & Irving, W. (1994): The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Woodstock, Ill: Dramatic Pub.

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