Ichabod Crane is a fictional character in Washington Irving's short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, first published in 1820. According to a notation by Irving, the character of Ichabod Crane was based on a schoolteacher named Jesse Merwin, whom Irving befriended in Kinderhook, New York in 1809. Irving may have borrowed the name from that of a colonel in the US Army during the War of 1812 whom he had once met, also named Ichabod Crane. Colonel Crane is buried in New Springville Cemetery, in Bulls Head, Staten Island,New York
The most obvious feature of Ichabod Crane is his bizarre appearance. As taken from the book:
In this by-place of nature, there abode, in a remote period of American history, that is to say, some thirty years since, a worthy wight of the name of Ichabod Crane; who sojourned, or, as he expressed it, "tarried", in Sleepy Hollow, for the purpose of instructing the children of the vicinity. He was a native of Connecticut; a State which supplies the Union with pioneers for the mind as well as for the forest, and sends forth yearly its legions of frontier woodsmen and country schoolmasters. The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person. He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock, perched upon his spindle neck, to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield.
Later, Ichabod is compared to a grasshopper because of his posture on horseback.
Role in Story
As described in the story, Ichabod Crane is a school teacher who travels to Sleepy Hollow to teach the children of the area. This, in company with his ability to ingratiate himself, persuades many of the townspeople to make an overnight guest of him, which serves as his sole means of lodging. He follows strict morals in the schoolroom, including the proverbial "Spare the rod and spoil the child"; outside the schoolroom, he is shown to have few morals and no motive but his own gratification. Despite being thin, he is capable of eating astonishingly large amounts of food and is constantly seeking to do so. In addition to this, he is excessively superstitious, often to the extent of believing every myth, legend, tall tale, etc. to be literally true. As a result, he is perpetually frightened by anything that reminds him of ghosts or demons.
A turning point in the story occurs when Ichabod becomes enamored of one Katrina Van Tassel, the ravishing daughter and only child of a wealthy farmer named Baltus Van Tassel, who pays little attention to his daughter other than to be proud of her merits when they are praised. On accounts both of her beauty and her father's wealth, which he is eager to inherit, Ichabod begins to court Katrina, who responds in kind. This attracts the attention of the town rowdy, Abraham "Brom Bones" van Blunt, who also wants to marry Katrina and is challenged in this only by Ichabod. Despite his efforts to humiliate or punish the schoolmaster, Brom is made to look foolish at every opportunity throughout this rivalry.
Eventually, however, Ichabod's proposal of marriage to Katrina is refused, allegedly because her sole purpose in courting him was either to test or to increase Brom's desire for her. Therefore Ichabod leaves the harvest festival he has been attending at her house. During his journey, he encounters another traveler, who is eventually revealed to be the legendary Headless Horseman; the ghost of a Hessian soldier who was decapitated by a cannonball. Ichabod flees, eventually crossing a bridge near the Dutch burial ground. Because the ghost is incapable of crossing this bridge, Ichabod assumes that he is safe; however, the Hessian throws his own severed head at Ichabod, knocking him from the back of his own horse and he fell onto the road. The next morning, Ichabod's hat is found abandoned, and close beside it a shattered pumpkin. Ichabod is never seen in Sleepy Hollow again, and is therefore presumed to have been spirited away by the Headless Horseman. Later, a tertiary character suggests that he had been frightened, both of the Horseman and of his (Ichabod's) landlord, into leaving the town forever, later to become a lawyer in Philadelphia. Katrina marries Brom, who is said "to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related, and always laughed heartily at the mention of the pumpkin", which events "led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter than he chose to tell"; therefore, that he himself was the Horseman, of whose legend he took advantage so as to dispose of his rival.
Adaptations in other media
- In two CSI episodes, Grissom quotes the line "Ichabod was horrorstruck on perceiving that he was headless" from the story.
- The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), directed by James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, and Jack Kinney, produced by Walt Disney Productions, and packaged with a companion 30-minute short "Mr. Toad" based on Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. Probably the best known version, as it ran for years as part of the television Halloween special Disney's Halloween Treat. This animated interpretation features Bing Crosby as the narrator and sole voice actor of the entire 30-minute piece and extends both the visually impressive Horseman's role and that of Brom Bones to include the latter as narrator of the Horseman's legend.
- Constable Ichabod Crane is a fictional character from the movie Sleepy Hollow, played by Johnny Depp. He is a New York police officer with an interest in science, sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate a string of grisly murders. As in the original story, his horse is named Gunpowder. Ichabod's most notable traits in the movie include an ahead-of-his-time liking for post-mortem examinations and scientific methods, as well as his being very quirky. It is Ichabod who finally banishes the Hessian Headless Horseman (Christopher Walken) to Hell and sends Lady van Tassel (Miranda Richardson), the woman who has been controlling the undead rider, with him. Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci) is seen at the end of the movie going back to New York with Ichabod, along with a boy who helped Ichabod in the investigation.
- Ichabod Crane is a minor character in the Fables comic book. At one time, he was the assistant to the mayor of Fabletown before his dismissal on charges of sexual harassment of Snow White, his subordinate. He then moved away from Fabletown, becoming estranged and embittered.
- A 1980 made-for-TV adaption of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, starring Jeff Goldblum, was produced by Hallmark.
- Searching for Ichabod Crane (2005) is a short film by Sam Borowski about a young reporter who searches for Ichabod Crane, and eventually comes in contact with the apparition of the war hero.
- Ichabod Crane was mentioned in Lupe Fiasco's "Dumb it Down", on the album "Lupe Fiasco's The Cool": "And I'm brainless/Which means I'm headless/Like Ichabod Crane is/Or foreplay-less sex is".
- The Seinfeld character named George Costanza in one episode remarks in a jocular manner, "Why don't you put a pumpkin on his head and call him Ichabod Crane!?".
- Heather Alexander used the story in her song Ichabod Crane. The song is recorded on her band Uffington Horse (band)'s album Enchantment.
- Ichabod Crane was mentioned in The Sopranos during Episode 10, Season 5: Cold Cuts by Tony Soprano's cousin (played by Steve Buscemi) to his nephew, Christopher ("They used to call me Ichabod Crane") and this is referred to later in the episode by Christopher.
- The guitarist for Avenged Sevenfold, Zacky Vengeance, named his dog Ichabod C. Vengeance.
- In the sitcom Frasier, Niles Crane's yet-to-be-conceived son is named as Ichabod on a prospective prep school application form.
- The comic book character of the Scarecrow, a Batman villain, has a lanky appearance and real name (Jonathan Crane) deliberately modelled on Irving's character. In some versions of his origin, his obsession with causing fear begins with disgust at his namesake's cowardice and his own fright when a school bully duplicates Brom Bones' trick.
- In 1999, a telefilm entitled The Legend of Sleepy Hollow aired on Odyssey starring Brent Carver as Ichabod Crane. It was filmed in Montreal.
- Calafornian music duo Funeral Breakfast(composed of husband and wife Ian and Arianna Hayes) performs a song named Ichabod, which pays tribute to the romantic plight and grim fate of Ichabod Crane. The song has a strong Celtic feel, and is popular at live performances, specificly during the Halloween season.
- The character of Ichabod Crane appears in the radio program Sleepy Hollow, an adaptation of the Washington Irving story that premiered on National Public Radio in 1998 via the award-winning Radio Tales series, and is broadcast as a part of that series on the Sonic Theater channel of XM Satellite Radio.