My initial intention was to do a deep literary dive into Washington Irving‘s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” but I have elected a more writer- and brain-friendly angle–Halloween and its traditions. Don’t worry, though; Irving and Ichabod get their moments!
Something you may or may not know about me is that I love traditions and holidays. I love going and selecting a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and eating leftover turkey sandwiches on Betty Crocker butter horn rolls. I love sending Christmas cards–handmade or artisan-bought–with wax seals and watching favorite seasonal movies, like The Shop Around the Corner and Jingle All The Way. Dining on Irish stew and Guinness on March 17 is a must. But Halloween–the spookiest season of all–is my number one.
I love this season so much that I even curated a spooky section on my bookshelf’s “Shay Shelf” for my niece. And the children’s department at the Petoskey District Library even sets aside specific holiday books for ease of locating, and the Halloween section has been quite popular.
October is a time for leaf-crunching, apple orchard-walking, cider-drinking, donut-eating, pumpkin patch-tromping, cozy book-reading, and watching classic black and white horror, Vincent Price anything, and Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod Crane, narrated by the incomparable Bing Crosby. (Technically, it’s called The Adventures of Ichabod Crane and Mr. Toad, but the Mr. Toad sequence isn’t to my liking, which has nothing to do with narrator Basil Rathbone, a swash-buckling gentleman if ever there was one.)
Now, before diving into Disney again on this platform, I have to say that for as much as I hold my traditions dear, they don’t always get fulfilled. For example, I love sending handwritten cards, and for the past few years, I’ve sent Halloween cards to friends. But this year, I didn’t get around to mailing out my usual missives of spooky blessings. I also didn’t get around to selecting a gourd to carve, which was a bummer. Over the years, I’ve been pleased with the outcome of my vegetal art, but picking a pumpkin by my onesies and then carving it on my kitchen floor didn’t sound half as fun as the years’ past setups, so I forewent this activity.
Plus, all my extra time is going to freelance assignments, so I had to satisfy my pumpkin needs with tasty pumpkin rolls and a glass-blown pumpkin from the Flint Institute of Arts. And I didn’t get around to watching my beloved films featuring Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr., and Christopher Lee. By the time I was on the couch each night, I was on the verge of my own undying state of sleep.
I did, however, watch the above-mentioned Disney special based on Washington Irving’s well-known short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” but not before finally reading the piece for the first time. Perhaps it’s hard to believe, but I’d never picked up Irving’s tale of Ichabod and the Headless Horseman. I’ve watched the roughly 30-minute cartoon countless times and being a Tim Burton fan, I’m well-acquainted with his Sleepy Hollow. And yet, the source material escaped my attention. But not this year! Sleep-deprived or not, I was going to read the tale.
Surprisingly, Disney remained reasonably true to Irving’s work. Shocking, I know. Faithful adaptations are few and far between. Granted, amendments had to be made to fit Disney’s audience, but on the whole, I was impressed by the closeness of the two.
Ichabod is described as being “exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders,” and having “feet that might have served for shovels,” as well as “huge ears” and “a long snipe nose.” The animators did not disappoint in their rendition.
But my favorite excerpt from the entire story doesn’t have anything to do with Ichabod or the Headless Horseman:
“…and [Ichabod] would have passed a pleasant life of it, in despite of the Devil and all his works, if his path had not been crossed by a being that caused more perplexity to mortal man than ghosts, goblins, and the whole race of witches put together, and that was–a woman.”
Clearly, Irving had a sense of humor and his finger on the pulse-point of reality–us women, more than hobgoblins and the Devil himself, confound men. I will not deny my laugh-out-loud moment whilst reading those lines that may still ring true for many.
Irving went on to describe Ichabod as being greedy, gluttonous, easily frightened but well-read on the topic of witchcraft, and somewhat oblivious, all of which are accurately depicted on screen.
My favorite hand-drawn Halloween animation aside, October and its big day are just two of my favorite things. Instead of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, I dream of heels crunching red leaves and soft, furry bat wings.
Another of my favorite things is coming up with costumes. This year, for Downtown Petoskey’s Trick-or-Treating event, I dressed up as a contemporary Princess Peach (I love using items I already own!). I felt like I nailed it, but a nine-year-old scathingly said, “Well, at least you tried,” when I told her who I was. Ouch.
Regardless of my 32-year-old-self getting burned by an elementary student, I loved my Nintendo getup, and even though I didn’t get around to fulfilling all of my October traditions, I did succeed in finally reading Irving’s tale. Overall, it’s been a solid spooky season. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, too, and in honor of the name of the day–Happy Halloween, bats and gargoyles!
Coming up next:
Monday, November 21
Then & Now: The Polar Bear King, a comparison post