A Literary Journey - Part I

Saturday, September 2, 2006

When fog settles over the Catskill Mtns. and you’re nestled in the dark forest of a campground named Rip Van Winkle, there’s no better time to curl up with timeless classics penned by Washington Irving.

Who can resist a character named Rip Van Winkle who wanders into the hills, meets up with odd-looking characters, partakes of their drink and ends up taking a 20 year nap! Of course, Vance being a dog lover, became alarmed as to the fate of Rip’s dog who had wandered into the woods with his master. We had to reassure Vance that the dog wandered home and probably died of old age. What had happened to Rip Van Winkle? Perhaps, by now you’ve decided to share this legendary tale with your children….may we suggest the beautifully illustrated edition by Arthur Rackham and published by SeaStar books.

Travel farther south along the foggy eastern shore of the Hudson River and arrive in the village of Sleepy Hollow, home of the haunted tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman…illustrations not required. We selected the complete and unabridged version in which old Ichabod, virile Brom Bones, young Katrina Van Tassel and the Headless Horseman come to life in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

The beauty of Washington Irving’s tales is you get so absorbed in the story and the characters that you don’t even realize that you’ve learned something about history and how people lived until it’s all over. The mark of a good storyteller is the ability to pull off entertainment and education at the same time. Traveling in the region where Irving wrote these classic American tales gives an added dimension to the stories. One can still enjoy the beauty and the enchantment of the Hudson Valley that Irving portrayed in his stories. Irving’s carefully preserved 19th-century home, Sunnyside, is open for tours in Tarrytown, NY. He is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery on the grounds of the Old Dutch Church erected in 1685 and still used today. The cemetery is reputed to be the spot where a headless Hessian ghost resided, giving rise to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow!

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