Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The second version of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" which I had never seen is the MacMillan Company's edition from 1951. This version is illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham.

One of the joys of finding various illustrated versions of the same original text to the story is in seeing what has been chosen to illustrate. There are always the obvious moments, such as the Headless Horseman chasing Ichabod Crane; but the Petershams have picked many places from Washington Irving's story to illuminate moments that I have not seen others chose.

Ichabod Crane's character is of someone who does not see what other think of him. He has a notion of himself as being superior to the locals and, therefore, quite a catch for Katrina Van Tassel. In the top illustration, Ichabod has just been rejected, the text is not specific about this, by Katrina. Maybe for the first time he realizes that he may not be as superb a specimen of manhood as he thinks. He was being used by Katrine to get what she wanted, a commitment from Brom Bones, like he had been using Katrine to get what he wanted, her father's wealth.

Even the illustration to the right, showing Ichabod and the Headless Horseman is from a slightly different point of their famous encounter than is usually illustrated. It is not the height of the action; but, again, the moment is of a scene when Ichabod realizes the truth - the Headless Horseman is not another imagined specter from the shadows, but is real. That is a theme in Irving's tale I had not considered before, things imagined and things real, but from the opening quote in the story from "The Castle of Indolence," about lazily looking for shapes in clouds, the theme shows up throughout the story.


Philip Davis said...

It was a copy of this same edition at my school's library in which I first read the story at the age of 11. I'd like to get a copy of it myself if I can find one.

Uncle Ernie said...

Thanks for stopping by. I don't remember if I found this edition on EBay or AbeBooks. I think AbeBooks would be a great place for you to check.