The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


Washington Irving

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Themes and Colors
History and Storytelling Theme Icon
Reality, Imagination, and the Supernatural Theme Icon
War and Battle Theme Icon
Consumption, Appetite, and Greed Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

History and Storytelling

At the beginning of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” we learn from Diedrich Knickerbocker, the fictional historian narrating the tale, that it took place “in a remote period of American history, that is to say, some thirty years since”—meaning in 1790, thirty years before the story was published in 1820. A classic example of Irving’s irony and humor with its description of 30 years ago as a “remote period,” this quotation nonetheless underlines a…

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Reality, Imagination, and the Supernatural

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” if we listen to its narrator, is only one of many tales crowding Tarry Town and especially the neighborhood of Sleepy Hollow, “one of those highly favored places which abound with chronicle and great men.” Ichabod Crane in particular falls under the influence of these chronicles until he is unable to separate reality from his imagination. However, he is not the only one to have trouble telling fact from fiction…

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War and Battle

The plot of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is largely concerned with a battle—one for the heart of Katrina Van Tassel. Or rather, perhaps, a war, made up of various battles and conflicts between Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones. This imagery is not an accident: Irving’s story takes place in the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, around 1790. This language of war and battle would have made sense to a reader in a newly born…

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Consumption, Appetite, and Greed

One of the first things we learn about Ichabod Crane is that he is a “huge feeder,” with “the dilating powers of an anaconda.” His massive appetite leads him from neighbor to neighbor, supplementing the food he can afford on a teacher’s income—but it also leads him into courtship and, ultimately, into danger. Ichabod is initially attracted to Katrina because of the abundance of her father’s farm, which is described down to the last mouth-watering…

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