The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Le sigh. It’s all about the evil stepmother, huh? Katrina’s purity isn’t even marred her having defended her evil father ‘cause it turns out it’s not the powerful man but the upwardly-mobile formerly-oppressed woman. And this movie was made in 1999? *shakes head* (I loved the way we were brought back to the two little blond girls in the snow with the Hessian a second time around, though.)
Though there is an understated love story between Katrina and Ichabod, Katrina is super-chaste. She only ever kisses Crane on the cheek, and the presence of young Masbath with them in NYC places them as children, destined to hook up, under the care of this older man. (Though according to the family tree, Katrina’s 18, and in 1799 she would have been considered quite marriageable.) Okay, so then i watched the last 3 scenes with Director’s Commentary, and Burton comments that Crane is still treating Masbath like a slave, so maybe it isn’t a happy ending for everyone. Watching the scene with that comment, i read it as a man bringing home the new lady of the house as well as the new servant.
At the end of the movie, the evil witch whore gets raped (first there’s Christopher Walken’s understated creepy leer and then he leans over and kisses her so she bleeds, almost like he was eating her lips off) ‘cause ya know those witches/whores always get what’s coming to them. (She says she “offered [her] soul to Satan,” so of course we knew she was gonna end up in hell at the end because of course the villains have to be defeated, but emphasis is placed on her using her sexuality as witchery [“Lust delivered the Reverend Steenwyck into my power.”] -- echoed by Crane telling Katrina she must have something of her mother’s witchery in her because she has bewitched him, to which my response was: “It’s called falling in love/lust, yo” -- and then the pseudo-rape as the Hessian takes her to hell was totally unnecessary.) Katrina was, as Masbath said, “A strange sort of witch, with a kind and loving heart,” so she’s okay.
After seeing the movie, i was curious to read the original story. (I had vague memories -- Crane meeting Katrina at a party, the throwing of a flaming pumpkin -- as though i had read a picture book version long ago.) I found it on Project Gutenberg which was yay.
"Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols. [...] It is remarkable that the visionary propensity I have mentioned is not confined to the native inhabitants of the valley, but is unconsciously imbibed by every one who resides there for a time. However wide awake they may have been before they entered that sleepy region, they are sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching influence of the air, and begin to grow imaginative, to dream dreams, and see apparitions."
In the movie, all is grey and foggy always, and Crane begins having dreams of repressed childhood memories.
In Irving’s tale, Crane is a teacher from Connecticut rather than a constable from NYC [sidenote: my brother and i were so reminded of Depp’s character in From Hell]. And he looks nothing like Johnny Depp. Sleepy Hollow features stocky Depp (a rarity), but Irving writes "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." Yes, i’m totally nitpicking, and as it turns out, Crane’s relative unattractiveness isn’t really an issue in the original story, so changing it is fine. (Later, i watched the cast&crew interviews, and it turns out that Depp was originally thinking of using prosthetics and such to better approximate the classic Crane, but Burton chose to make the character traits organic to the character and not supplement them with physical attributes.)
When i first read that Crane was a teacher from Connecticut, i figured that meant he would have the same rational mind of Depp’s character, but then Irving writes: "He was, in fact, an odd mixture of small shrewdness and simple credulity. His appetite for the marvellous, and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary; and both had been increased by his residence in this spell-bound region."
In the original, Katrina is still 18, though "plump as a partridge." There follows a long discussion of Crane’s lust after food, which is interesting given how Katrina, the obvious lover interest, has just been identified. We then learn that "his heart yearned after the damsel who was to inherit these domains, and his imagination expanded with the idea, how they might be readily turned into cash, and the money invested in immense tracts of wild land, and shingle palaces in the wilderness." Gee, sounds like the evil stepmother in the movie.
And then there’s the whole feud between Brom and Ichabod, of which almost nothing is made in the film. At first i thought this was odd, given that modern films seem to feel the need to include a romantic plotline in every film, but then it occurred to me that modern film romances are all about the tension between the two getting together, not so much about the machinations of a third interfering. We’re supposed to care about the two and watch them struggle through their own obstacles and through external obstacles as well but not a third vying for the affections of one.
Anyway, in the original, a good two thirds of the narrative is describing Sleepy Hollow and Ichabod Crane (including how he treats his students, his love for food, his courting of Katrina and rivalry with Brom) and then Katrina rejects him and he goes home at "the very witching time of night" and encounters the HH.
The pumpkin thrown at Crane knocking him off his horse is in the original!
The original is quite different from the film. I rather prefer the film, though. (Reminds me of how i prefer the Scarlet Letter film to the book, though the changes in this are of quite a different sort.)