BBC Radio 7, 5-19 December 2010
Memorably filmed by Tim Burton with Johnny Depp in the title role, The
Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a cautionary tale involving a schoolteacher and a headless horseman.
In Martin Jarvis' three-part reading, the story came across as a sensual tale with
humorous interludes. I wondered whether Irving wanted to satirize the tight-knit world of nineteenth century New England in
which superstition and jealousy ran rife. Ichabod Crane, the story's central character, comes across as an impossible romantic,
whose ignorance of worldly ways allows him to become involved in a love-triangle with bluff Dutchman Abraham 'Brom Bones'
van Brunt, the town rowdy, for the hand of eighteen-year-old Katrina van Tassel, the daughter and only child of a wealthy
farmer. The two rivals are polar opposites: Ichabod is tall, lean, open to new experiences; van Brunt is bluff, open and conservative.
Hence Ichabod's love of romanticism is bound to awaken van Brunt's ire.
Jarvis' reading made clear that the headless horseman was actually van Brunt, who
deliberately decides to scare Ichabod off, throwing a pumpkin from his horse disguised as a head. Needless to say
the townspeople had their own version of what happened to Ichabod, which only emphasized Irving's point about their superstititious
outlook on life.