Ichabod Crane. Who does that name make you think of? Recent audiences associate the name with Johnny Depp’s portrayal in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. Rightfully so. Depp added elements to the character that no one else had even considered prior. The truth is there are vast differences between the Ichabod Crane of 1999’s Sleepy Hollow and the original character introduced in Washington Irving’s 1820 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Because of nearly two centuries of interpretation, and the blatant creepiness of the story associated with Crane, he has made #7 on the Grizzly Bomb Countdown to Halloween.
Some believe that Irving got the name for the character from a Captain of the United States Army named Ichabod B. Crane. Irving had met him six years prior to the first publication of the story in Sackets Harbor, New York. Irving however, has noted that Crane is based on a school teacher named Jesse Merwin that Irving met in 1809. Others speculate the biblical meaning behind the name. Ichabod is the grandson of Eli in the Bible. To actually break down the name, its Hebrew meaning is, “the glory is gone.” This could also be contrived as the absence of God. It becomes quite erie to think about when the main antagonist is a headless horseman spat from the fires of hell.
If you are familiar with the original short story, then you might already be familiar with the transitions this character has gone through. Though considered the protagonist of the original story, I could never support the character. Though skinny in stature, Crane was a glutton who would consume everything in sight. He only showed consideration for himself alone, and served as a leach of the local community. He was a school teacher, and as it was custom, he would stay for weeks at a time among the homes of the community. Some would feel compassion for him when we came to find that Katrina Van Tassel was only using him to make Brom Van Brunt jealous. I however could not forget that his true motivation for wooing said Katrina was that she came from a wealthy family to begin with. You just got served, sir!
In comparison to Sleepy Hollow, there were several character changes that make Crane more appealing. He was no longer a school teacher like in previous stories. In Sleepy Hollow, he is a New York policeman sent to investigate several murders that took place in the quiet town. He is advanced in his techniques, and though he has a distaste for blood, he examines post mordum bodies to further decipher the crime. We can truly understand his affection for Katrina, and when he arrives in New York at the end, we as the audience also experience catharsis. Depp developed the character and colored him with a classic horror genre flavor. There is a good reason that most may think of Depp when you hear the name Ichabod Crane. In my opinion, he has done one of the greatest jobs portraying the character.
Are there honorable mentions for actors and featured stories that include Crane? Absolutely, but that still doesn’t change the fact that the greatest influence on current pop culture would be Depp. I remember seeing a school play of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow when I was in grade school. I remember thinking it was a cool story, but couldn’t help but hate Crane. The only likable character was the Horseman. I was rooting for the bad guy! I don’t give all the credit to Depp. Burton created a fantastic atmosphere for the 1999 film. Everything together between Christopher Walken, Johnny Depp, Tim Burton, and those flying jack o laterns was pure movie magic. Sleepy Hollow is an excellent choice for any October movie night. Happy Halloween. Beware of the Headless Horseman!
Keep an eye out as another character on the Countdown will be revealed every night at 12:01 am for the rest of the month. You’ll also be able to find them HERE.