The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

152 - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Partial Vocabulary Cheat Sheet

eerie = unsettling; haunting
vengeful = eager to take revenge
peculiar = strange
stout = plump; robust
jovial = happy
lanky = skinny
smitten = infatuated
brawny = muscular
spine-chilling = frightening

For the full vocab list, annotated text, quiz and more, sign up to Season 4

Sleepy Hollow is a quaint village nestled in the Hudson Valley in New York. There, many, many years ago, a peculiar schoolteacher named Ichabod Crane got wrapped up in a spooky legend of the Headless Horseman.

Today, you’ll hear "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and learn about the heart-pounding events that took place on one fateful Halloween night. It’s a story of love, rivalry and the supernatural, and I’ve simplified it for you. This episode was made for intermediate and advanced English learners. Get ready for some excitement and some suspense. This is "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."


Hi, everybody. My name is Shana and this is the American English Podcast. My goal here is to teach you the English spoken in the United States. Through common expressions, pronunciation tips, and interesting cultural snippets or stories, I hope to keep this fun, useful and interesting! Let’s do it.


Hi, everyone. Welcome back. If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you’re probably aware that every year I get pretty excited about Halloween. Most times there’s also a Halloween special, an episode where I talk about the activities and festivities of this time of year. It is October.

In episode 31, I talked about the history of Halloween and I was there with my friend Liz, and we both shared our personal stories about Halloween experiences growing up in California.

There’s also Episode 82. In that episode, I told a scary story called "The Red Spot," which is simple and very freaky. It’s one that I’ve heard many, many times since I was a child. And if you have a basic level in English, if this episode is a little bit challenging for you, then do go check out Episode 82, "The Red Spot."

In episode 83, we talked about October Days, which was all about this time of year in the United States. In that episode I focused heavily on grammar and tried to stick the present perfect continuous within the story as much as possible so that you could hear it in context.

In episode 131, we went over 13 common superstitions in the US and their origins. For example, why is it spooky if a black cat crosses your path? Why shouldn’t we open up an umbrella inside? Where do these superstitions come from? Once again, that’s episode 131.

This year, we are doing "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and a simplified version of it. The original story was written by a brilliant author many, many years ago named Washington Irving.

Who was Washington Irving?

So Washington Irving, and I’ll make this fairly brief. He was born on April 3rd, 1783, in New York City, and he began his writing career with satirical essays, but it was really the short stories like "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" that helped him grow to fame. They made him famous.

And his personal life actually greatly influenced his work. He spent a lot of time in the countryside in New York, in a place called Tarrytown, which is very close to Sleepy Hollow. It’s a real place. And he often traveled to Europe.

While traveling in Germany, he was exposed to their rich tradition of supernatural tales. And he drew from those stories that he heard and combined them with the sort of experience of rural life in the US. The result was incredibly creepy. Creepy ghost stories in rural American settings, and people in the US ate it up! In [00:05:00] other words, they loved it. They consumed it with a lot of satisfaction. His stories were a hit.

So Irving’s success as a writer allowed him to travel more, he became a diplomat in Spain. But he’s most remembered in the US for contributing to the literary culture here. In fact, he was the first American author to earn a living from writing. So hats off to our late Washington Irving.

Washington Irving
Washington Irving

What’s great about The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is that it’s so present in current pop culture and just culture in general. It’s been referenced in a number of different movies and TV shows over the years.

You can watch the Disney classic, "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad." You can also see, of course, "Sleepy Hollow," the film directed by Tim Burton, which is an adaptation of Irving’s story, where Johnny Depp plays the schoolteacher, Ichabod Crane. And you can also check out a number of other series, "Sleepy Hollow," the TV series, for example. 

If you are in the United States, you’re here at Halloween time, you might see a headless horseman, and this is the origin of that character.


How has this story been adapted for you guys? Well, the original story is around 54 pages, which I reduced, and I also changed the words to make it easier, partially because words are archaic, they’re not used very often anymore. If you want to read the original story, though, it is in the public domain.

You will still hear some advanced terms. If you sign up to premium content for Season 4, you’ll get the annotated text with ten new vocab words and their definitions, a quiz and of course, all of the downloadable files. So do check that out, you can access Season 4 from the episode notes.


Without further ado, let’s begin.

Once upon a time in a small, peaceful village called Sleepy Hollow, nestled in the Hudson Valley of New York, there lived a rather peculiar school teacher named Ichabod Crane.


This is the end of the free transcript. Be sure to sign up to Season 4 to get the full transcript, quiz, transcript reader to work on pronunciation and definitions of the 10 key vocabulary words.