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In my office there is a guy named "Ed". When he is not around, some of the other guys say to those who ask for him that "We are Ed-less". It sounds like an Irish accent saying "headless".

I wondered if there was part of the Ichabod Crane story, "the Headless Horseman", that drew from a historical "Edward". Does it?

I found this on wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_VI_of_England#Fall_of_Somerset

My thoughts were:

  • Ichabod means "glory is lost" and Edward summarized the charges against Somerset as "ambition, vainglory, ...", and noted at his uncle's death that "[he] had his head cut off".
  • Ichabod's rival is the younger, Abraham 'Brom Bones' Van Brunt. Edward's father was Henry VIII, quite the father with his many wives, (arguably a veritable Abraham), and the legitimate antecedent to the throne. Just as the line of Henry won, the line of Brom bones won.
  • The primary competition in the time of Edward was the war on Scotland called "the rough wooing", and the primary competition in the legend is the wooing of Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter of a wealthy farmer.

These have the "weak smell" of a connection, but I am no literary scholar, nor am I deeply familiar with the history of Edward Tudor.

If I did not know the history of the cold war between the US and Russia, and the lyrics to "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer", then I would not know the strong connection of one to the other, likely driving unconscious connection and extraordinary popularity of Gene Autry's version the song, released in 1949, about 2 years after the start of the cold war. I'm wondering if Sleepy Hollow worked in a similar way, but about a 150 years earlier.

Is there a similar theme of slight transformation of a previously known story, and story elements to improve relevance and impact of the story that connects Sleepy Hollow and Edward Tudor?

  • I downvotes this because I thought it showed a lack of adequate research. However I’ve now removed my downvote and given an answer to show where I think the proposition fails. It probably isn’t possible to ‘prove’ Irving had no connection in mind, but I don’t see any parallels that would suggest he did. – Spagirl Oct 11 '17 at 13:14
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I was going to post this as a comment, but when I realised it would run to a thread rather than a single note I thought better to try and form it as an answer.

The OP puts forward a proposition and asks if there is a link between the Ichabod Crane portion of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Edward VI.

The proposition springs from a potential play on words extracting ‘Ed(ward)-less’ from ‘headless’.

In support of the proposition the OP puts forward three potential parallels:

  • Ichabod means "glory is lost" and Edward summarized the charges against Somerset as "ambition, vainglory, ...", and noted at his uncle's death that "[he] had his head cut off".
  • Ichabod's rival is the younger, Abraham 'Brom Bones' Van Brunt. Edward's father was Henry the 8th, quite the father with his many wives, (arguably a veritable Abraham), and the legitimate antecedent to the throne. Just as the line of Henry won, the line of Brom bones won.
  • The primary competition in the time of Edward was the war on Scottland called "the rough wooing", and the primary competition in the legend is the wooing of Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter of a wealthy farmer.

Before looking elsewhere for evidence to support or disprove the proposition, it may be fruitful to examine the integrity of the OP's supporting claims.

Ichabod means “glory is lost”

The name certainly appears to be related to glory though opinions differ as to exactly what, it may be ‘no glory’, ‘Alas! The glory’ or ‘glory has left’. The OP juxtaposes this with Somerset’s ‘vainglory’. Which suggests that he is identifying Ichabod Crane with Somerset, but draws no explicit conclusion.

(I considered whether the OP intended this as support for identifying Crane as Edward, but could see no mechanism for how that might work. If Crane is Edward, who did he behead?)

'Vainglory' means (per OED)

Glory that is vain, empty, or worthless

Rather than 'lost glory' or 'no glory' so as a link it lacks substance. Also we should ask, is 'glory' a sufficiently rare concept that allusions to it are sufficient to link historical and fictional characters, lacking any other commonality?

The OP then notes that Edward had Somerset beheaded. The character who is beheaded in TLoSH is the Hessian Soldier, who does not appear in the theory. It is not clear how this fact supports the proposition.

Comparison of Abraham Bones with Henry 8th, via the quality of ‘being an Abraham’ and an allusion to Henry’s many wives and his being ‘quite the father’.

The link rests on the definition of ‘being an Abraham’ commonly taken to mean ‘father of many’ or ‘father of a nation’. Henry had three legitimate heirs survive to adulthood, none of whom had heirs of their own. Therefore Henry’s line did not continue the monarchy beyond his immediate heirs, limiting his claim to either definition of a ‘veritable Abraham’.

One could argue that, through the Reformation, Henry shaped his realm more than many monarchs and thus was the ‘father of a nation’, but that is not a claim the OP advances.

If the Abraham link fails, any feature of Brom and Henry both ‘winning’ is irrelevant.

The ‘Rough Wooing’ is then likened to the wooing of Katrina Van Tassel. Setting aside all other considerations of the nature of that war or its protagonists, the name ‘The Rough Wooing’ only dates from the 1850s, though Scott alluded to

so rough a mode of wooing

in his 1828 Tales of a Grandfather but at the time of Scott's publication TLoSH had already been in print for 8 years. Therefore, unless an earlier popularisation of that name is determined this thread falls away.

Bringing these together, what does the proposition leave us with?:

  • Crane as Somerset,
  • Bones as Henry.
  • We are ‘Ed-less’ as no character is proposed for the role of the King, unless it was intended that Crane fill the edward Role, then what of Somerset?.

Therefore we are left with a contest between Somerset and Henry VIII.

On this assessment, the proposition fails in its own terms:

  • There is no path which takes us to Edward IV, only a leap of conjecture.
  • There is no path which takes us to Somerset . The proposed link of equating ‘glory is gone’ with ‘vainglorious’ might be seen as generally supportive of a theory if there were other grounds, but there are not.
  • The ‘headlessness’ of Somerset does not provide support since it cannot be made to correlate to TLoSH. Crane is not beheaded.

    If one were to argue that he metaphorically ‘lost his head’, we would then have to ask at whose instruction/hand? Crane was frightened by the Hessian Horseman, being either a true ghost or in fact Brom Bones. But Brom Bones has been equated with Henry, not Edward. The proposition and support put forward do not support either the Ghost, or Brom being Edward. If neither of them is Edward, then the beheading of Somerset at Edwards instruction cannot be cited as evidence of a link between TLoSH and Edward IV.

  • There is no path which takes us to Henry VIII. The suggested support for Brom’s identification with him rests on the leap of conjecture which introduced Edward IV in the first place and a tenuous reading of what it is to ‘be an Abraham’.

  • If the Rough Wooing allusion were not dismissed on grounds of chronology, it would still fail as an analogy. The war on Scotland was initially prosecuted by Henry in part with the intention of achieving a forced marriage for his son, not himself.

The OP references three historical characters, Edward, henry and Somerset. But we have only two fictional characters to map them to, unless we include the Hessian Soldier or Katrina Van Tassel. This in itself, even overlooking the complete absence of other supporting evidence, seems to be an insurmountable problem for the proposition.

The OP also makes reference to the supposed connection between the lyrics of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and the Cold War, asking if there is ‘a similar theme of slight transformation of a previously known story, and story elements to improve relevance and impact of the story’. No evidence is cited for this link and the closest I can find online is a supposed link between a claymation film from the 60s, not the song, and the Nazis, not the Cold War.

My conclusion is that the general proposition ‘part of the Ichabod Crane story, "the Headless Horseman", ... drew from a historical "Edward"’ may or may not be true and that the more specific proposition that there is something that ‘connects Sleepy Hollow and Edward Tudor’ fails on its own terms.

There may be evidence out there which leads to such a conclusion, but internet searches reveal nothing which link the two and there is nothing cited in the question which supports the view, or any path or thread which leads us towards it. for example Irving does not have a famously documented interest in the Tudors and if the characters in the tale could be matched to historical characters, there is no interpretation or enlightenment brought to the subject by the tale.

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    I am deeply delighted with the extensive and thorough answer. Thank you. – EngrStudent - Reinstate Monica Oct 11 '17 at 19:30
  • Do the lyrics of a song qualify as literature? – EngrStudent - Reinstate Monica Oct 12 '17 at 12:32
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    There is a lot of discussion on the Literature Literature Meta site about that, which you might want to check out. Meta, BTW is the place to find answers on such questions rather than unrelated comment threads, Do search for existing Questions and Answers before launching into an old topic! The song-lyrics has 40+ questions. – Spagirl Oct 12 '17 at 12:43
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    @EngrStudent do song lyrics count as literature? We can't really answer that because it depends on how you define literature, and there are a lot of different definitions out there. Are questions about song lyrics on-topic on this particular site about Literature? Given that we have fourty song lyric questions and none of them are closed, it seems like they are. – user111 Oct 12 '17 at 13:06

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