This week, I learned of two stories written by Washington Irving. They were The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Rip Van Winkle. I will give a small summary of both books so you know what I am talking about.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is about a school teacher who was new to the small town of Sleepy Hollow. He was a young man, and very superstitious. His name was Ichabod Crane. Ichabod is fascinated with the ghost stories shared with the people of Sleepy Hollow, especially the one about the headless horseman. It is said that a man lost his head during the Revolutionary war, and searches Sleepy Hollow every night in search of his head at the church. No sooner than Ichabod began to play the role of school master in this small town, did he crossed paths with a young woman named Katrina Van Tassel, the only daughter of wealthy farmer Baltus Van Tassel. Since then, he tried to win her heart. However, Katrina had many suitors, including prankster Brom van Brunt, who is also an expert horseback rider. Brom tries to get rid of Ichabod with pranks and tries to humiliate Ichabod, but fails. Ichabod is then asked to a party by Katrina, and accepts. He dances with her the whole time the night of the party, while Brom looks on with jealousy. Ichabod then returns home disappointed and downhearted. It is not said in the text, but it is assumed that Katrina says to Ichabod that she is interested in Brom. On the way home, Ichabod passes the supposedly haunted church. He sees a rider on a horse and calls out for them to identify themselves. Instead the rider chases Ichabod. In the light Ichabod sees that the rider chasing him is headless, with a sack on the horse which Ichabod supposed had his head. Ichabod aims the horse for the bridge leading outside the town. It is said that the headless horseman cannot cross the bridge. Ichabod makes it across and the headless horseman stops before the bridge, supposing Ichabod made it across and is now safe from the headless horseman. However, the headless horseman precedes to throw his head at Ichabod knocking him off the horse. Ichabod’s horse turns up the next morning at the Van Ripper house, and Ichabod was nowhere to be found.

Rip Van Winkle is a story about a Dutch-American named Rip Van Winkle who went for a walk in the Catskill mountains. He meets a man carrying a large barrel of liquor and decides to follow him. The man leads Winkle to a group of people playing ninepins. The men say nothing. Winkle drinks some of there liquor, and falls asleep. He wakes up and the men are gone. He realizes he is an old man. He travels back to his village and it is entirely different. He does not recognize anyone. He talks with some of the people and nothing explains what happened. He then meets his daughter, who is much older than when he last saw her. Things start to make sense then. He was asleep for twenty years, and he tells the villagers what had happened, and an old villager confirms Winkle’s story.

Were the detailed descriptions of the people around the two main characters equally important in the two stories Washington Irving wrote? I think they were. If you did not have the detailed descriptions of the people surrounding the two main characters, you probably would not understand the story as well as if you did have the descriptions. That goes for all stories as well.