• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


Farm-Fresh balance.pngYMMVTransmit blue.pngRadarWikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotes • (Emoticon happy.pngFunnyHeart.pngHeartwarmingSilk award star gold 3.pngAwesome) • Refridgerator.pngFridgeGroup.pngCharactersScript edit.pngFanfic RecsSkull0.pngNightmare FuelRsz 1rsz 2rsz 1shout-out icon.pngShout OutMagnifier.pngPlotGota icono.pngTear JerkerBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersHelp.pngTriviaWMGFilmRoll-small.pngRecapRainbow.pngHo YayPhoto link.pngImage LinksNyan-Cat-Original.pngMemesHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconicLibrary science symbol .svg SourceSetting
File:LegendOfSleepyHollow 9428.jpg

"On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless!"


"The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow" (also known informally and somewhat incorrectly as "The Headless Horseman") is a short story by American author Washington Irving, first published in February 1820 as part of a series of stories later collected as The Sketch-book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. As with a number of Irving's stories, the plot is based on German legend (particularly in the re-told versions of Karl Musäus), transplanted to a New York state setting, and mingled with Irving's genial satire of human, and particularly American, foibles.

The story has been subject to a great deal of adaptations since Irving's time. The "quilting frolick" of the original is often transferred to Halloween. In more than one adaptation it is strongly hinted that the Horseman is a genuine supernatural apparition.

Tropes used in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow include:
  • The American Revolution: Concluded not very long before the opening of the story; the Horseman himself is supposed to have been one of the Hessian mercenaries who fought for the British.
  • Big Eater: Ichabod
  • Cool Horse: Both played straight, with Brom's black horse, Daredevil, and inverted, with Gunpowder, the broken-down hack Ichabod borrows from an irascible farmer.
  • Ghostly Goals: The Headless Horseman can't move on to the afterlife until he's found a head to replace his own.
  • Headless Horseman: The Trope Codifier
  • Hellish Horse
  • Horror Struck: Averted in the original, in that Ichabod fervently believes in all supernatural phenomena — even when (as it is strongly implied) the phenomena aren't supernatural. Later adaptations sometimes play the trope straight.
  • Jerkass: Ichabod gets less and less appealing as the story goes on, peaking when he thinks of how, once he's married Katrina and accquired her father's great wealth, he'll tell everyone he associated with as a schoolteacher to screw off.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The story purports to have originated at some four removes from Irving himself, as 1) Geoffrey Crayon's recounting of 2) the notes of American Dutch "historian" Diedrich Knickerbocker containing an account by 3) a poor and whimsical storyteller of 4) the legendary lore of the old Dutch wives of the New York colony.
  • Lost in Imitation: Pretty much every interpretation after the original either has the Headless Horseman be truly supernatural (when the original strongly implies it was Brom Bones in disguise), Ichabod be slain by the Headless Horseman (in the original, it's declared he ran away from the Hollow and has taken to living elsewhere, though the locals prefer to ignore that news because him being carried away makes for "a better story"), or both.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The story hints at both a natural and a supernatural explanation for Crane's disappearance.
  • Meaningful Name: "Ichabod" is traditionally translated as "Inglorious," while "Crane" hints at the schoolmaster's tall, thin frame and beaky nose.
    • "He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield."
  • Moody Mount: Ichabod's borrowed horse Gunpowder: "The animal he bestrode was a broken-down plow-horse, that had outlived almost everything but its viciousness."
  • Never Found the Body
  • Operation: Jealousy: Katrina uses Ichabod to pull this on Brom.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Besides the Horseman himself, references are made to ghostly funeral processions, a wailing woman in white, and the ghost of British spy Major John André.
  • Scarecrow Solution: Why Brom laughed whenever the pumpkin was mentioned.
  • Shout-Out: Not only the usual literary allusions of the period, but especially to Irving's own fanciful Knickerbocker History of New York.
  • Purple Prose: Some modern readers may be put off by Irving's luxuriant descriptions, typical of the early nineteenth century, of the New York landscape, or the heaped-up delicacies of an old Dutch table, or the varied apparitions that haunt the Hollow.
Adaptations based on "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow":

Live Action Film

  • A silent version of the story appeared as early as 1908 ; in 1912 Ichabod was played by Alec B. Francis.
  • The best known silent version appeared in 1922: The Headless Horseman, directed by Edward Venturini, and starring Will Rogers as Ichabod Crane, filmed on location in New York's Hudson River Valley.
  • Sleepy Hollow, perhaps the best known version in recent times, is a Tim Burton adaptation which takes considerable liberties with the original Story, making it radically Darker and Edgier. Jonny Depp's secret agent Ichabod Crane is a much more heroic figure than Irving's grotesque, pedantic, cowardly schoolmaster. There is also a subtle theme of the complexity of religion, reason, and the supernatural. This adaptation is not without its individual merits.

Live Action TV

  • A made-for-TV movie version, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was made in 1980, starring Jeff Goldblum as Ichabod Crane and Dick Butkus as Brom Bones. In this version Ichabod has become a disbelieving rationalist.
  • The Tall Tales and Legends series, produced and hosted by Shelley Duvall, featured a "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" episode in 1987, starring Ed Begley, Jr. as Ichabod Crane, Beverly D'Angelo as Katrina Van Tassel, and Charles Durning as Doffue Van Tassel, the narrator.
  • In 1992 Are You Afraid of the Dark? aired an episode entitled "The Tale of the Midnight Ride," in which a boy and girl save the ghost of Ichabod Crane from the Horseman. However, this caused the Horseman to chase them instead.
  • Wishbone reenacted the role of Ichabod Crane in the episode "Halloween Hound: The Legend of Creepy Collars" in 1996.
  • In 1999 another made-for-TV film, also entitled The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (AKA La légende de Sleepy Hollow), starring Brent Carver appeared; this was a Canadian effort filmed in Montreal.
  • The Hollow (2004) was a TV movie, starring Kaley Cuoco as a teenage descendant of Ichabod Crane, that premiered on the ABC Family channel.
  • In 2004 Charmed aired an episode entitled "The Legend of Sleepy Halliwell", in which a Headless Horseman is beheading the teachers at the Magic School.


  • Sleepy Hollow, a Broadway Musical with music by George Lessner and book and lyrics by Russell Maloney and Miriam Battista was staged in 1948.
  • In 2009 appeared The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, an opera, with music by William Withem and libretto by Melanie Helton.

Video Games

  • There's a Hidden Object game based on the story, released under the Mystery Legends name.

Western Animation

  • In 1949 the story was paired with a pared-down version of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows in Disney's The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad; the story is narrated (with interspersed songs) by Bing Crosby. It's actually surprisingly faithful to the original story — Brom Bones gets his Pet the Dog moments, and Ichabod's fate is left still ambiguous. The animation of the chase scene is particularly impressive, and influenced several later Disney films, notably Beauty and The Beast.
  • In 1972 a short animated version appeared, narrated by John Carradine.
  • In a 1976 episode of The Scooby Doo / Dynomutt Hour called "The Headless Horseman of Halloween," Beth Crane, a descendant of the original Ichabod, is haunted by the Headless Horseman, who wants to gain the Crane Diamond.
  • Similarly, in 1986 The Real Ghostbusters featured an episode, "The Headless Motorcyclist," with a descendant of Ichabod Crane cursed by a headless apparition (on a motorcycle, naturally) who chases her.
  • In 1988, the ALF Tales cartoon featured an episode in which Ichabod "Gordon Shumway" Crane is a reporter assigned by his editor, Baltus Van Tassel, to cover the Headless Horseman story; he discovers a whole herd of Headless Horsemen.
  • The Night of the Headless Horseman (1999) was an hour-long computer motion capture animated Fox TV special.
  • Filmations Ghostbusters included an episode where the Headless Horseman appeared. However, he wasn't really malicious and his heart only went into scaring people in the name of fun. He also wasn't headless.
    • Not unlike a similar Casper comic, where the Horseman finally does meet up with his long-lost noggin, who's been going around as the "Horseless Headman".