Saturday, October 20, 2012

Inspired By Literature: Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

I find it difficult to sum up just how much I adore the works of Washington Irving. As a child I fell head over heels for Disney's 1949 The Legend of Sleepy Hollow which remains (in my humble opinion) the best film Disney has ever produced. The cartoon, narrated by Bing Crosby, remains synonymous with autumn for me and I often still watch it when Halloween approaches. As I grew older I studied Washington Irving as a part of my English major and examined the ways in which his short stories shaped early American folklore.

Though Washington Irving's iconic story is well known elsewhere, it's easy to see what a profound impact the tale had on the American perception of ghost stories, autumn, and (to some extent) the new world.


As an objective reader, I adore that the story is a simple not too scary ghost story that is as easily enjoyed when read as it is told orally by a grandparent or a parent while being tucked into bed or sitting by the fire. Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has all the classic traits: an unassuming naive victim, forces of greed and jealousy and a complex conclusion. After all, one never really knows who spirited Ichabod Crane away. 

On a more complex level, Washington Irving's tale helped create a sense of history and folklore in a comparatively new place for most settlers and Americans. Set in 1790 but published in 1819, Irving's best known tale focuses on the Dutch in upstate New York and makes a ghost story of the death of a Hessian soldier in the Revolutionary War. Though the tale was actually first published in England, it is a uniquely American ghost story whose local color makes the tale what it is ... hence the autumnal colors I have selected.

(Clockwise from top right): Laura Mercier Mulled Cider Blush, Essie Very Structured, MAC Avenue Fluidline, Bobbi Brown Forest Shimmer Ink*


Shades of deep brown and burnt sienna (above) reflect the rich changing colors that serve as a backdrop for Irving's tale, while neutral shades of brown tinged plum reflect the smell of rich earth during the harvest season. I like to think that these shades of neutral pink and plum also evoke the rich, natural lips of Ichabod's love interest, the beautiful young Katrina Van Tassel. Playing the country coquette, Katrina sparks a deep rivalry between the story's hero and Brom Bonesthe classic brains vs. brawn rivalry. 

(Left to right): Dior Incognito Lipstick, Chanel Troublant Rouge Allure Extrait de Gloss, Chanel Rouge Coco Culte


Deep shades of rich brown evoke the gnarled forest trees stripped of their leaves by an icy wind as Ichabod travels on an old mare to attend the Van Tassel party. As Icabod vies for Katrina's hand the night darkens, and when he leaves to travel from the Van Tassel estate back to his lodgings he is forced to traverse lonely roads through deep forests and past purportedly haunted environs.

(Left to right): Guerlain Ombre Fusion Maya, Guerlain Ombre Fusion Havana, MAC Cocomotion Pigment


Unfortunately for Icabod Craine he never makes it to his lodgings, nor is he able to cross a covered bridge that breaks the Headless Horseman's power and leads to safety. The following morning though horse shoe tracks and a shattered pumpkin are found there is no sight of Ichabod Craine. I've long loved the ending as it lends itself to two possibilities: either Ichabod has truly been "spirited away" by the Hessian ghost or Brom Bones has made use of the local folklore to scare the schoolmaster out of town and away from Katrina Van Tassel. Mysterious shades of deep brown, blue and burgundy mimic the Hessian soldiers uniform and the colors that would have surrounded the covered bridge the morning Craine is discovered missing.

(Clockwise from top left): Burberry Midnight Brown Eye Shadow, MAC Eye Shadows in Antiqued, Bateau, Cranberry and Parisian Skies


Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has reached an incredible status in the United States lending its name to towns and cemetery's across the country. The tale not only helped establish American Literature as a legitimate and unique subset of the the English Canon, but it also molded the way people thought of America and its roots. 

Though I adore other popular Irving tales such as Rip Van Winkle, there will never be another short story as special to me as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Do you associate any special memories with the tale?

*This item was provided by PR for consideration. The ideas and opinions expressed are my own. Do not hesitate to reference my policies in the event that you have any questions.