Monday, October 20, 2014

MMRM: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Fall of the House of Usher

Mini Macabre Review Monday:
#1: "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson and "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell
#2: "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Black Cat" by Edgar Allan Poe

These stories don't have much in common this week, except that they're both set in supposedly haunted places.

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving

Available to read for free, online here. (PDF version)
Rating: 3 Stars (Good)
Content: Racism, child, and animal abuse. Ages 13+
Page Count: 41 pages in the online edition
Year Published: 1819

One thing to notice about this story is that it's nothing like the tv series Sleepy Hollow or the movie version with Johnny Depp, except that the leads in all the tales share the same name- Ichabod Crane. Ichabod in this book cuts a scarecrow-esque figure, long and gangly with a nose reminiscent of Pinocchio's, who is an imaginative, if a bit cowardly schoolteacher who doesn't "spare the rod and spoil the child" with his students.

The Plot: Ichabod Crane fancies the daughter of a wealthy landowner in Sleepy Hollow, but must face many rivals for her hand.

This story is nothing like I remember- I believe I was forced to read this for grade school, and compared to the many adaptations that can be found of it, nothing really compares to it because it's rather... tame. You always hope classics will be a bit more meaty in terms of content, but with this story it's all fleshed out with few good bones to be found.

A lot of this story is description and setting up, and for that reason the ending leaves something to be desired. I remember some of the Halloween cartoons as a kid, and in some ways they proved better in terms of storyline, because of so much description clogging this story (as people were wont to compose back in 1819), the ending becomes anti-climactic. So if you're looking for action adventure Sleepy Hollow, you're better off with the films or tv show, because this is good as a classic piece of literature, but not as good as I thought it would be.

"The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe

Available to read for free, online here.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Exceptional)
Content: Macabre creepiness. Ages 13+
Page Count: 24 pages in my edition
Year Published: 1839

The first thing to note about this short story is Poe's use of description to set the tone and mood for the story. This story, much like Rebecca, involves an old house, and in this case the house is ancient as well as dilapidated.

The Plot: A man visits the House of Usher to see his boyhood friend Roderick, who is suffering a "nervous affection".

What is neat about Poe's stories is he puts a great deal of effort towards them, and in this case he writes a story within a story, as well as a poem to ramp up the foreshadowing. Unlike The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat, the narrator in this story isn't afflicted with a nervous malady, instead it's his friend Roderick. Roderick appears very ill when the narrator meets him, downright cadaverous, but in better spirits because of his friend's arrival.

This story reminds me of the classic haunted mansion stories, although in this case it isn't just the house that is haunted. Although "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" does have atmospheric descriptions of landscapes, I'd rather hear a ghost story told by Poe over Washington Irving any day.

Until Wednesday,

P.S. Did you know Poe was a critic of Irving's writing? Wikipedia holds some of the most interesting information...


  1. I haven't read any of these stories although I did watch the movies. For The Legend of Sleepy Hollow I think a couple of them. Good to know I didn't missed much by not reading it. I haven't read anything by Poe. But this story sounds short and interesting. I might give it a try.

    1. Yeah, I thought The Legend of Sleepy Hollow would be a lot better, but there was so much set up that it fell flat- of course, other people seem to like it more than me, but I like more meaty storylines. Poe is one of my favorite authors- I highly recommend anything by him for a little Halloween reading.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Dragana!
      ~Litha Nelle


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