"Rip Van Winkle"
The story of
Rip Van Winkle
was found among the papers of the late Diedrich Knickerbocker, an old
gentleman from New York who was especially interested in the histories, customs, and culture of the
Dutch settlers in that state. It is set in a small, very old village at the foot of the Catskill Mountains, which
was founded by some of the earliest Dutch settlers. Rip lived there while America was still a colony of
Rip Van Winkle is descended from gallant soldiers but is a peaceful man himself, known for being a kind
and gentle neighbor. His single flaw is an utter inability to do any work that could turn a profit. It is not
because he is lazy—in fact, he is perfectly willing to spend all day helping someone else with their labor.
He is just incapable of doing anything to help his own household. He also is well-known for being an
obedient, henpecked husband, for
Dame Van Winkle
has no problem shouting insults into the
neighborhood and tracking him down in the village to berate him. All the women and children in the village
love him and side with him against his wife, and even the dogs do not bark at him.
Indeed, when he tries to console himself and escape from Dame Van Winkle, he often goes to a sort of
philosophical or political club that meets on a bench outside of a small inn. Here the more idle men
actually gossip and tell sleepy stories about nothing, every once in a while discussing “current” events
when they find an old newspaper.
is the landlord of the inn and the leader of the group.
He never speaks but makes his opinions clear based on how he smokes his pipe. Even here, Van Winkle
cannot escape from his wife, who berates everyone for encouraging his idleness.
His indolence is probably to be blamed for his farm’s bad luck, so Dame Van Winkle has more than a little
cause to berate him—which she does, morning, noon, and night. As the years pass, things continue to
get worse, and his only recourse is to escape to the outdoors. His one companion in the household is his
dog Wolf, who for no good reason is just as badly treated by the petticoat tyrant Dame Van Winkle.
On one trip to the woods, Van Winkle wanders to one of the highest points in the Catskills. Fatigued from
the climb, he rests, and soon the sun has started to set. He knows he will not be able to get home before
dark. As he gets up, he hears a voice call his name. A shadowy figure seems to be in need of assistance,