Trick or treat! To celebrate Halloween, I re-visited the classic horror story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Listened to it while working out last week and enjoyed it a lot more than I did when I was a younger reader!
My first exposure to this classic story came by way of the annual Halloween episode of The Wonderful World of Disney and clips from the animated version of this story. The images from those clips interested me enough to seek out the original story as a young reader — and to not necessarily love it.
Now that I’m a little (OK, a lot!) older and with an audio reading featured on last week’s Audible Channels, I decided to visit the story again. This time, I came away with a whole different appreciation for the story.
As a younger reader, I grew impatient with the background and set-up for the story. Back then, I was all about getting to the headless horseman and the chase sequence. But as I listened to the story this time, I was impressed by the character and world-building done by Washington Irving. Horror stories are scarier when we have an investment in the characters — and Irving does a masterful job of creating the characters and situation of the story. Irving paints an interesting portrait of our hero, Ichabod. Listening to the story, I couldn’t help but wonder if Ichabod really loved the fair Katrina or instead loved her for her father’s wealth and land. And while we certainly are meant to root against Brom Bones Van Brunt, I couldn’t help but feel like he might be a better suitor in the long run because his intentions could have been more true than those of Ichabod.
With three-quarters of the story devoted to set-up, the final quarter pay-off when Ichabod finally meets the headless Horseman (or does he?) turns out be even more suspenseful and edge-of-your-seat than ever. Even knowing how the story ends and the questions that remain unresolved, I was still on the edge of my seat (or in this case, running a bit faster as I listened during a workout) as the story reached its final paragraphs.
The story also follows the adage that “less is more.” Irving gives us enough details to tell the story, but allows the reader to paint in some of the finer strokes ourselves.
I’ve got to admit I loved visiting this story again. It’s creepy, atmospheric and spooky. A perfect way to celebrate Halloween.