So yesterday was my birthday!! I had a wonderful day (though the visit from the family was too short) and got some great gifts. Among which, I finally got a copy of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), one of my favorite Disney films from childhood! Although, I should say the Ichabod Crane segment was my favorite. I’d never actually seen the entire feature (with The Wind in the Willows segment) until last night. But the story of Ichabod and the Headless Horseman, that I’d seen, and when I saw it on sale yesterday, I snatched it up!
The Story of Ichabod Crane is narrated by Bing Crosby (crooner extraordinare) and tells the story of how a lanky, gluttonous (and very superstitious) schoolteacher named Ichabod Crane came to Sleepy Hollow and fell in love with the gorgeous Katrina von Tassel, daughter and heiress of the richest man in the county.
But Ichabod isn’t the only suitor, the burly and fun-loving Brom Bones is in love with Katrina too! Poor Brom does everything he can think of to impress Katrina, but somehow it always backfires with Ichabod around.
Actually, Katrina does prefer Brom (you can tell by the way she looks at him), but she continues to flirt with Ichabod to make Brom jealous (because she wants to make sure that Brom really wants her, enough to fight for her that is). Then, on Halloween night, during a party at the von Tassel farm, Brom remembers that Ichabod is deeply superstitious and he decides to regale the guests with the story of the Headless Horseman, a specter said to haunt Sleepy Hollow.
The song “The Tale of the Headless Horseman” is regarded as one of the darkest Disney songs ever created, and nearly didn’t make the final cut of the film. According to the song, if you should encounter the Horseman, ride for the covered bridge, because the Horseman has no power past that point. By the end of the song, poor Ichabod is scared out of his mind as he rides for home. The hollow is full of crickets, frogs and owls, all seemingly whispering the name of “Ichabod.” The poor man (and his horse) become even more terrified when they think a horse is galloping towards them, but it turns out to only be cattails banging against a log. But just as they begin to laugh in relief…the REAL Headless Horseman appears!!
This part scared me silly when I was little, and why not? This guy has a diabolical laugh, a big sword, and a black, red-eyed horse that’s every bit as scary as the rider! Ichabod makes a run for it, and after several scary-but-kinda-funny mishaps, he clears the bridge, so he should be safe! But the Horseman has one trick left to play: though he can’t cross the bridge, he sends a flaming Jack-o-lantern hurling at the schoolmaster! The next morning, all that remains of Ichabod is his hat (and the pumpkin). He’s never seen in Sleepy Hollow again. Shortly thereafterward, Katrina and Brom get married, and it’s common speculation that Brom was in disguise as the Headless Horseman. I’ve thought so for years, except there’s one detail that wrecks the theory: during the chase, Ichabod clearly peeks down where the Horseman’s head should be and finds nothing there. If it was Brom in disguise, shouldn’t he have seen Brom’s head?
Regardless of whether the Horseman was real or not, I enjoyed getting to see this story again after so long. It’s a little known Disney gem that I think you will enjoy.
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