Yes I am still wading through Paradise Lost. I will get through it by spring. I hope.
But in the mean time, or is that spelled meantime, this was a nice little distraction. Most kids these days would NOT wade through these stories willingly because of the meandering, poetic descriptions of the old New England countryside. I fond myself getting quite bored as well. I could appreciate the writing for what it was, but honestly, I'm a modern woman. If an author is going to spend two thirds of his words on describing the environment, I'd just as soon watch a movie rendition. DARN YOU PETER JACKSON!
For those of you who have never heard either story, or seen the Disney version, here's Rip Van Winkle and Sleepy Hollow in a nutshell: long ago before America was the United States of America, the land around the Hudson river was still inhabited by the descendants of Dutch farmers, and they were superstitious as anything. Rip goes hunting to avoid his shrew of a wife, (although in her defense, Rip is the laziest man on earth and would drive any woman crazy), and in his wonderings he gets a little lost and comes upon some little men who are bowling and drinking. He makes the mistake of drinking some of the stuff and he passes out. When Rip wakes up, it's twenty years later, his wife is dead, his children grown and most of the people he knew are gone. After a short adjustment period, he's living his lazy life again but now that he's old, people are okay with that. Hm.
In Sleepy Hollow, a skinny school teacher named Ichabod Crane runs the local one room school, offers singing lessons on the side, and does his best to woo Katrina Van Tassel. He isn't so much interested in her as he is interested in marrying her to inherit her father's farm. Ichabod carries around a book by Cotton Mather which lists all kinds of spooks, goblins, and witches known to haunt the byways of America and Ichabod pulls out all kinds of stories when gossiping with the locals. Brom Bones, the local gangleader, has a time of it trying to woo Katrina himself when Ichabad is around. At a fall party at the Van Tassels, all kinds of stories about local spooks get Ichabod in a dither. His superstitions added to his rejection by Katrina, which we don't get to know the details about by the way, (how rude of the author), makes the ride home in the dark a particularly gruesome enterprise. A headless horseman appears and the chase that ensues ends with broken pumpkin, Ichabod's hat in the mud, and Ichabod's borrowed horse loping around without his saddle. Ichabod disappears without a trace, Brom Bones weds Katrina, and the locals forget all about Ichabod in the end.
The best part about these stories: they were short.