Lil’ W. and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Lil W

Back in the day when I was a diminutive child with a pageboy haircut, oversized glasses, and a superstitious nature, I had a strange fascination with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I can’t recall how I heard the story. It must have been told to me at some point (I was still in the picture book stage of my reading comprehension). I just remember being absolutely fascinated by the story and accepting it as fact. I still readily believed everything that was told to me, whether or not it seemed like obvious fiction.

My entire life I have been both terrified and fascinated by dark and macabre subjects, and that story was just what I needed to become completely obsessed. My parents bought me the animated Disney movie version which I watched again and again with delight and terror. They also took me to a theater production of the story. I closed my eyes during the Headless Horseman scene, yet was still full of glee over the experience.

I think my mom in particular found my gullibility adorable, because she decided to feed into my magical beliefs. I truly took The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to be fact, and my favorite part of American history. So, it seemed very natural when, during a short road trip in Wisconsin, my mom parked the car next to a covered bridge in a wooded area, turned around to me and my sisters in the backseat, and announced, “This is the bridge.”

Little me (in a very squeaky voice): “What bridge?”

“The bridge that Ichabod Crane had to cross to get away from the Headless Horseman.”

The Bridge
Bridge

My little brain flooded with wonderment and dread. This was the very place that Ichabod Crane dashed across on his horse to escape the Headless Horseman. This was the last place he was known to be before disappearing forever. I clearly had no concept of geography, because we were in Wisconsin, not New England. But, none of it mattered, I felt like I was connecting with something magical and terrifying. My most vivid memory of this event is peering down below at the river running under the bridge and thinking over and over in my head. “This is it. This is the place.”

With age came the realization that The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was just a tale written by Washington Irving, and that we weren’t even close to New England. Speaking with my mother now, apparently that evening when we returned home, I cried before bed, fearing the Headless Horseman would come get me. This, I admit, I do not recall. The really vivid moment I can remember is looking over that bridge railing at the creek below in absolute belief and awe. I’m glad that I got to believe the world was filled with ghosts and magic a little while longer. I never believed in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, but I sure as hell believed in the Headless Horseman.

Here is my one of my newer illustrations inspired by The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Headless Horseman

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The Culmination of Vampire Month

Vampire month has come to an end, and I can now add variety to my movie-watching and reading. I am reasonably happy with the project, and I fully intend to have another themed month in the future (I’m thinking Dystopian month for the next theme.) However, in retrospect, I feel I should have been a little more prepared, and I definitely failed when it comes to the reading material. Next time, I’d like to make a list of books I intend to read, and really work a bit harder to cover more material. But I had fun, and that’s what counts, right?

So what did I learn about vampires? Well, I learned that the genre is varied. The many different takes on the vampire mythos breaks up the monotony of reading about the same thing over and over again, and I was pleasantly surprised and entertained by the media I consumed.

I would like to clarify that the vampires that I analyzed and currently discuss here have evolved from legends originating in Eastern Europe. I would like to acknowledge that vampire-like creatures can be found in many other cultures and are just as fascinating.

So here’s what I watched and read.

Movies:
Let the Right One In
Nosferatu
Blade
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Fright Night
Shadow of the Vampire
Van Helsing
Dracula: Dead and Loving It
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Movie
Underworld
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Reading:
Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
The Vampyre by John William Polidori
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead by J. Gordon Melton

One of my projects was inspired by “Carmilla,” and there was one particular passage that stood out to me and I had to create an illustration of that passage:

One night, instead of the voice I was accustomed to hear in the dark, I heard one, sweet and tender, and at the same time terrible, which said, “Your mother warns you to beware of the assassin.” At the same time a light unexpectedly sprang up, and I saw Carmilla, standing, near the foot of my bed, in her white nightdress, bathed, from her chin to her feet, in one great stain of blood.

Click for larger view.
carmilla_full

Detail, click for larger view.
carmilla_detail_large

 

The second project I made is based on the types of vampires that I noticed while watching and reading. I made a sketch and a quick description for each one. Vampires in film and literature can exhibit one or many of the traits described below.

Vampire Types as Drawn by W. Woods

The Classic Vampire

Classic

Dracula is the best example of this kind of vampire. It’s what the majority of people think of when one says “vampire.” They have all the classic traits and abide by the classic rules of vampirism. They can be killed with a stake or sunlight, they enjoy lurking in castles, and they have no reflection.

The Sexy Vampire

The Sexy Vampire

They suck blood, they’re allergic to sunlight, they exhibit all the traits of a classic vampire. But, ya know, everything they do, they do it sexily. These vampires don’t even have to hunt. Human victims willing fall into their sexy grasp.

The Kid-Friendly Vampire

The Kid-Friendly Vampire

This vampire is not-so-scary and quite lovable. Seen often on Halloween decorations, on Sesame Street, and endorsing products such as Count Chocula, they have a cartoonish face and are not threatening to the average consumer.

The Heartthrob

The Heartthrob

He’s a vampire, but he’s also so cute and dreamy. He’s the vampire you can bring home to mom and dad.

The Historical Vampire

The Historical Vampire

These are the real-life inspirations to the vampire tales such as Elizabeth Bathory or Vlad Tepes III. They are real humans that did terrible, horrible, no-good things. Now, they are notorious villains.

The Viral Vampire

Viral

Vampirism is caused not by anything supernatural, but an explainable virus or illness. Similar to zombie plots in which a virus causes a mass epidemic, these vampires are kinda icky and not very attractive.

The Emotional Vampire

The Emotional Vampire

Not really a supernatural creature, but we all know someone like this. They are an emotional vampire that sucks positivity and energy from the people around them. They are everywhere. They could be a nasty relative, a vicious frenemy, or a mean ol’ ex. Beware!

The Action-Packed Vampire

Action Packed

This kind of vampire is fighting something, anything, and it’s going to do it in the most actiony and violent way possible. Not only does this vampire have sidekicks and weapons, it has extra hardcore fighting skills and can punch as well as it can bite.

The Outlier

The Outlier

Just like in any other genre, there are vampires that just don’t quite fit into any of the other boxes. These are usually the most interesting and proficient stories, because they challenge the genre and viewer/reader.

Thanks for reading! Vampire month is fun!