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About the Author
Washington Irving was born in New York City on April 3, 1789, toward the end of the Revolutionary War. His parents named him after George Washington. In 1809, Irving wrote his first book, A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty. This book poked fun at the local history and politics. Iving wrote many other satires, humorous stories that commented on people's beliefs and politics. Two of his most famous short stories are "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip van Winkle." Irving became one of America's first authors to make a career as a writer, and he is considered the father of the American short story.
Blake A. Hoena grew up in central Wisconsin, where, in his youth, he wrote stories about robots conquering the Moon and trolls lumbering around in the woods behind his parent’s house and the fact that the trolls were hunting for little boys had nothing to do with Blake’s pesky younger brothers. Later, he moved to Minnesota to pursue a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Since graduating, Blake has written more than forty books for children, including retellings of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and the Perseus and Medusa myth. Most recently, he’s working on graphic novels for Sports Illustrated Kids and writing stories about superheroes.
Tod Smith grew up in Rhode Island, where he attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. He started working in comics in the 1980s, and has been an illustrator for comics and books ever since. He loves to play music in his free time, and when he was in middle school, the Beatles inspired him to start to play the guitar. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Candace.
Read an Excerpt
The Author's Account of Himself
I am of this mind with Homer, that as the snaile that crept out of her shel was turned eftsoones into a Toad, and thereby was forced to make a stoole to sit on; so the traveller that stragleth from his owne country is in a short time transformed into so monstrous a shape that he is faine to alter his mansion with his manners and to live where he can, not where he would.
I was always fond of visiting new scenes and observing strange characters and manners. Even when a mere child I began my travels and made many tours of discovery into foreign parts and unknown regions of my native city; to the frequent alarm of my parents and the emolument of the town cryer. As I grew into boyhood I extended the range of my observations. My holy day afternoons were spent in rambles about the surrounding country. I made myself familiar with all its places famous in history or fable. I knew every spot where a murder or robbery had been committed or a ghost seen. I visited the neighbouring villages and added greatly to my stock of knowledge, by noting their habits and customs, and conversing with their sages and great men. I even journeyed one long summer's day to the summit of the most distant hill, from whence I stretched my eye over many a mile of terra incognita, and was astonished to find how vast a globe I inhabited.
This rambling propensity strengthened with my years. Books of voyages and travels became my passion, and in devouring their contents I neglected the regular exercises of the school. How wistfully would I wander about the pier heads in fine weather, and watch the parting ships, bound to distant climes. With what longing eyes would Igaze after their lessening sails, and waft myself in imagination to the ends of the earth.
Further reading and thinking, though they brought this vague inclination into more reasonable bounds, only served to make it more decided. I visited various parts of my own country, and had I been merely a lover of fine scenery, I should have felt little desire to seek elsewhere its gratification, for on no country have the charms of nature been more prodigally lavished. Her mighty lakes, like oceans of liquid silver; her mountains with their bright aerial tints; her valleys teeming with wild fertility; her tremendous cataracts thundering in their solitudes; her boundless plains waving with spontaneous verdure; her broad deep rivers, rolling in solemn silence to the ocean; her trackless forests, where vegetation puts forth all its magnificence; her skies kindling with the magic of summer clouds and glorious sunshine-no, never need an American look beyond his own country for the sublime and beautiful of natural scenery.
But Europe held forth the charms of storied and poetical association. There were to be seen the masterpieces of art, the refinements of highly cultivated society, the quaint peculiarities of ancient and local custom. My native country was full of youthful promise; Europe was rich in the accumulated treasures of age. Her very ruins told the history of times gone by, and every mouldering stone was a chronicle. I longed to wander over the scenes of renowned achievement-to tread as it were in the footsteps of antiquity-to loiter about the ruined castle-to meditate on the falling tower-to escape in short, from the commonplace realities of the present, and lose myself among the shadowy grandeurs of the past.
Reading Group Guide
1. Why does Iriving call this collection The Sketch Book? What effect is he trying to achieve with the preponderance of visual imagery?
2. How do the stories in The Sketch Book inform one another and function one another and function as a collection? How do the stories set in America--"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle"--distinguish themselves from Geoffrey Crayon's vignettes about his travels in England?
3. Alice Hoffman says in her Introduction that Irving is thought to have created the short-story genre in America. What constitutes a short story, and what are the hallmarks of the American short story? How does it break with its European predecessors yet still work within tradition?
4. Why do you think Washington Irving uses the writing and narration of the fictional Diedrich Knickerbocker (the pen name he used in writing his famous spoof A History of New York) to bookmark "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"? What effect does this have on the story itself? does it lend credulity or only make it more fantastic?
5. The poem that Irving quotes at the outset of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"--"The Castle of Indolence" by James Thomson--recounts the story of an enchanter who deprives all who enter his castle of their free will and their resolve. Why do you think Irving chose this particular poem? How does it inform your reading of the story?
6. How is this story influenced by the gothic literary tradition that preceded it, and how--in its setting, mood, plot, and message--does it embrace the gothic itself?
7. How has the village of Sleepy Hollow been affected or,conversely, unaffected by the American Revolution? In what context does the narrator refer to it?