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Rip van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle is a short story by the American writer Washington Irving (1783-1859) published in 1819 as part of his "Sketchbook" appeared. In addition to the legend of Sleepy Hollow from the same volume, it is considered the first short story in American literature and is still one of the best-known today. Based on a German legend, it tells the story of the farmer Rip Van Winkle, who fell into a magical sleep in the mountains of New York during the English colonial period, only wakes up after twenty years and realizes that he is no longer a subject of the English king, but Is a citizen of the United States.

1 content

The beginning of the story takes place in the English colonial times of today's American state New York, around the year 1770. Farmer Rip Van Winkle lives a contemplative life in an idyllic village of Dutch settlers between the Hudson River and the “Kaatskill” mountains As a simple and good-natured man, he is equally popular with women, children and dogs. But since he has an "insurmountable aversion to any kind of profitable work", he often has to endure the anger of his disgruntled wife (only called "Dame Van Winkle") and uses every opportunity to escape the inconveniences of married life and domestic life and be accompanied roaming his dog through the woods to fish or hunt. On one of these forays through the Kaatskills, in the middle of the forest, he suddenly hears his name and sees a human figure, dressed in old-fashioned Dutch costume and carrying a barrel of schnapps on his shoulder. Without a word, he follows the apparition through a ravine to a depression, where, to his great astonishment, a whole company of similarly strange figures - the scene reminds Rip of an old Flemish painting - has come together to play skittles. Not a word is exchanged, only the rumble of the balls disturbs the silence. Without a word, Rip is told to pour the players out of the barrel, from which he finally tastes himself, before falling into a deep sleep.

When he wakes up, the ghostly company is gone, as is his dog; Instead of his rifle, Rip only finds a rotten shotgun, and to his surprise he finds that his beard has apparently grown a foot overnight. When he returns to his village, he hardly recognizes it - new houses have been built everywhere, his own house is dilapidated and abandoned, and all the residents - and dogs - seem unknown to him and meet him with suspicion. Rip's beloved tavern has given way to the Union Hotel, and it seems to him that the familiar portrait of the English king still hangs there, but it now bears the words General Washington. Before that there is a speaker about "elections", "citizens", the "Congress," the "Heroes of '76" and similar things that Rip completely incomprehensible to. When confronted by the curious crowd, the distressed Rip declares that he is a “poor, calm man, a resident of the village and a loyal subject of the king, God bless him!” And is then accused of being a traitor and be a spy. Only when an old woman recognizes him does the riddle solve itself: Rip slept not one night, but twenty years. In the meantime, his wife has passed away (the only comforting news for him), his children have grown up, and in particular he slept through the American Revolution and the War of Independence. The oldest villager explains that the wonderful characters Rip met in the forest must have been none other than Henry Hudson and his Dutch crew; every twenty years Hudson paused in the mountains to see the progress of the valley named after him. Rip Van Winkle, meanwhile, finds a place in his daughter's household and, freed from the “yoke of marriage,” spends a pleasant old age. He tells his story to all children and travelers so often that it is finally known across the country, and although, according to the narrator, some evil voices claim that he was out of his mind, at least the Dutch settlers never doubted it Truth.

2 Origin and work context

Rip Van Winkle is part of the "Sketchbook" (The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.), Which Irving wrote in England from 1818-19. In 1815 he had come to Liverpool to help his brother manage the English branch of the Irving family business, but he was unable to avert the decline and eventual bankruptcy of the company in 1818. After these sobering years, Irving found himself on his own in a foreign country, fell into depression and finally made the decision to make literature a livelihood. Rip Van Winkle According to a family anecdote, it was written in June 1818 when Irving was staying with his sister Sarah Van Wart in Birmingham. One evening he and his brother-in-law, Henry Van Wart, indulged in memories of happy youthful days in the rural idyll of the Hudson Valley, where his parents had sent him in 1798 when a yellow fever epidemic broke out in New York. Suddenly he jumped up, went to his room and wrote until dawn, and then, manuscript in hand, appeared cheerfully at the breakfast table and read the story to his hosts.

The texts of the Sketch Book appeared in America initially over a period of around one and a half years in seven individual issues, in book form for the first time in 1820 in two volumes in England. Rip van Winkle was published as the fourth and final “sketch” of the first American issue (the fifth, if you add the author's introduction) from May 1819. It was the first whose location is not Europe, but Irving's home town of New York. Rip Van Winkle can thus be read as a tribute to its New York audience. The fact that the protagonists of the two previous sketches, The Wife and Roscoe, as well as Rip Van Winkle are threatened with financial ruin and impoverishment - in the case of Rip Van Winkle It is obvious that he ultimately not only escapes this emergency, but is also known and honored as a storyteller at the end of the story.

The story is embedded in a complex editor's fiction: until his biography of Columbus in 1828, Irving always published under different pseudonyms, even if his authorship was always known. The narrator and alleged author of the Sketch Book is a certain Geoffrey Crayon, an American gentleman traveling in Europe. The Rip Van Winkle On the other hand, it is presented as a work from the legacy of the historian Diedrich Knickerbocker that was incorporated into Crayon's sketches. Irving had this persona in 1807 as the narrator of his satirical published in 1807 History of New York from the beginning of the world to the end of the Dutch dynasty advanced: Knickerbocker had therefore disappeared without a trace one day; his landlord published the papers found in his estate in order to pay Knickerbocker's outstanding debts with the proceeds. in the Sketch Book appears Rip Van Winkle framed by a preface, an appendix and a postscript by the narrator Geoffrey Crayon - a parody of the kind of critical apparatus that the Brothers Grimm put in front of their fairy tales. In it Crayon vouches for the reliability of his informant Knickerbocker: “His main merit is his conscientious loyalty, which one actually wanted to doubt when it first appeared, but which has since been fully established; it has currently been included in all historical collections as a work of unsuspected credibility. ”The truth of the story is underlined again in the postscript, in which an accompanying remark by Knickerbocker is quoted. Knickerbocker claimed not only to have met Rip Van Winkle personally, but that he had “even seen an attestation on the subject, which was recorded by a village judge and signed with a cross in the judge's own handwriting. So the story is beyond any possible doubt. "

Has special meaning Rip Van Winkle For genre theory: Regardless of the fact that there were fictional short prose even before Irving and a definition of the essence of the short story - different from anecdote, fairy tale or novella - is still openly discussed in literary studies to this day, Irving applies with Rip Van Winkle as "Urtext", commonly known as the "inventor" of the short story, a genre that, unlike in German or English, has achieved great popularity, especially in American literature. While the other sketches in the Sketch Book are hardly narrative and mostly not fictional either, and are more closely related to the essay or travel literature, Rip Van Winkle depicts a self-contained plot. This also applies to the "sketches" The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the piece hardly read today The Specter Bridegroom, which appeared in later issues of the series published in the USA. The designation as a short story came afterwards; Irving himself referred to his short prose pieces as sketches & short tales. [6]

3 sources

In an afterword to the story, Irving suggests through his narrator that he had heard the Kyffhauser saga of the sleeping Friedrich Barbarossa while writing the Rip Van Winkle Modeled. Soon after the Sketch Book however, there were allegations against Irving of failure to present his true sources and plagiarism, so that he was in Bracebridge Hall (1824) saw arrested for a defense. In fact, it is now considered certain that the immediate role model for the Rip Van Winkle The legend of the goatherd Peter Klaus, also from Kyffhäuser, is the first in his collection of Johan Carl Christoph Nachtigal under the pseudonym Otmar in 1800 Volcks sagas published from the Harz. Irving probably learned this legend through Büschings Folk sagas, fairy tales and legends (1812) know. The fact that Irving mixed up the two legends may be due to the fact that they are in Büsching's collection in a chapter ("Legends and fairy tales from the Harz") are united and are also thematically related. Some passages of Irving's story are actually little more than translations of Otmar's original, so that at least Stanley T. Williams in his Irving biography (1935) renewed the complaint that Irving had "stolen." In fact, Rip Van Winkle did not only have four times as much Scope of its role model, but also contains significant changes and additions, in particular the relocation of the setting to New York and the embedding of the plot in a specific historical context.

The central motif of the magic sleep can be found in numerous legends and fairy tales from various cultures. In the Aarne-Thompson-Index, the classification of fairy tale materials that is decisive for narrative research, the motif of magic sleep is listed under the code AaTh 766 (“dormouse”). The widespread use of the motif has meant that other information about Irving's alleged sources can often be found in the literature. When the Dutch historian Tiemen De Vries got excited in a series of lectures in 1912 about Irving's portrayal of the Dutch as lazy and simple, he also falsely claimed that Irving was in favor of the Rip Van Winkle at Erasmus of Rotterdam, who in one of his writings had carried out the old Greek legend of Epimenides, who is said to have slept in the Dictean Cave for 57 years. Another more likely direct source is the Scottish saga of the Thomas the Rhymer, in which the mortal Thomas is invited by the Queen of the Elves to a festival and after the festival finds out that seven years have passed in the meantime. This legend - still well known today in the form of a ballad - Irving mentioned in a letter to his brother Peter, which he wrote in 1817 after his visit to Walter Scott.

The related motif of the Rapture of the Mountains, as found in the Kyffhauser legend of the enchanted Friedrich Barbarossa, also sounds quite in Rip Van Winkle An: Just as Barbarossa's sleep is linked to the hope of the renewal of imperial glory, Henry Hudson, who has grown to a mythical stature, watches over the development of New York. As in the German legend over the Kyffhäuser, ravens also fly over Irving's Kaatskill Mountains, and Rip Van Winkle's beard grows to an astonishing length during his magical sleep. Irving knew the motif of the mountain rapture not only in connection with the Kyffhauser saga. In his 1818 notebook he kept his impressions of reading the Letters from a French traveler about Germany by Johann Kaspar Riesbeck and noted in particular passages from the 14th letter about Salzburg and the surrounding area, including the reference to the legend that Charlemagne is waiting for his resurrection with his army in the Watzmann, as well as a note about "Magician, whose white beards have grown ten or twenty times around the table on which they sleep, and thousand-year-old hermits who led the chamois hunters through underground passages and showed them fairy-tale palaces full of gold and precious stones. ”Rip Van Winkle also features other classic mythical motifs. Rip's return brings to mind the return of Odysseus in Ithaca: While the hero of the Odyssey is only recognized by his dog Argos, when he returns, Rip himself is growled at by his once loyal dog Wolf.

4 mood, themes and motifs

4.1 Romantic indulgence

As explained above, the motif of the magical sleep is borrowed from a German fairy tale through Nachtigal's mediation and reflects Irving's preoccupation with the literature of German Romanticism, which was received intensively in England and the USA during these years. Were Irving's early works like the satires in Salmagundi and the History of New York trained by the English neoclassicalists (Joseph Addison, Laurence Sterne, Jonathan Swift), so marks it Sketch Book his turning to a romantic way of thinking. After his arrival in Europe in 1815, his friendship with Sir Walter Scott made a great impression on him, and around 1818 - as Scott had done a few years before him - he began to learn German and dealt with legends and fairy tales. The "popular" subject of the Rip van Winkle shows the effect of this reading: unlike his previous works, the story is not set in the city, but in a rural idyll decorated with numerous picturesque details.

The nature of the Kaatskill Mountains is not only transfigured into a romantic place of longing, but also provided with legends pointing to the past. Like numerous American writers before and after him, Irving complained that the New World did not offer a time-honored story that could be edited through literary means. In order not to have to do without the romantic-nostalgic enthusiasm for bygone worlds in his homeland, Irving now wrote - to his History of New York linked - to the settlers of the Dutch colonial period a corresponding folklore; to a lesser extent, he also weaves alleged Indian myths about the Kaatskills into the story. In 1843 he wrote: "When I first wrote about the legend of Rip Van Winkle, I had been thinking for some time about adding a little color and tradition to some interesting places in our nation's landscape."

4.2 Political

Irving achieves the “Americanization” of the mythical material on the one hand by localizing it in New York, but on the other hand by embedding it in a specific historical context. Rip oversleeps the American Revolution and is suddenly thrown from the time of the monarchy into the turmoil of the young republic. This break is indicated symbolically at Rips Awakening: Instead of the ravens that previously flew over the mountains - a clear borrowing from the Kyffhauser legend - an eagle, the heraldic animal of the United States, is now circling over the Kaatskills. Irving does not make an explicit system comparison in the following events, but his description of Rip's return reveals a very ambivalent attitude towards the legacy of the revolution: “Even the character of the people seemed changed.There was a busy, restless, quarrelsome creature around, instead of the usual phlegm and sleepy peacefulness. "The cozy gatherings under the shady tree of the village tavern have given way to excited political debates, a" skinny, gall-addicted-looking fellow "gives a political speech, and the angry crowd asked Rip "whether he was a federalist or a democrat" and later suspected of being a Tory, a loyalist loyal to the king and thus a traitor and spy. Irving shows the deep rifts that the republican party system, specifically the particularly bitter conflict between the federal and anti-federalist parties in the 1790s, tore between the inhabitants of the once harmonious village community. Irving himself initially supported a third party, the followers of Aaron Burr, in his early satires. After its dissolution, he hardly took a political stance, but his description of election day is in Rip Van Winkle the distrust with which he faced radical democratic aspirations, and which gained the upper hand over the federalists after 1800 with the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, is clear.

In Irving's story, the political as well as the regional conflict between New Yorkers and New Englanders is reflected, who now had to come to terms with one another in a state with the constitution of the United States of 1787. The "Union Hotel", which is now on the site of the former village tavern, is run by a Jonathan Doolittle, for example - a stereotypical name for a Yankee, a New Englander with all the attributes attributed to him, in the eyes of Irving and many other New Yorkers Before and after him, writers were particularly addicted to profit and hard-heartedness. It is conspicuously described as a “tall, crooked, wooden building,” “with large, wide windows, some of which were broken and clogged with old hats and petticoats.” Even the guilty of Dame Van Winkle's death is blamed on a Yankee: “It blew up a blood vessel in a fit of anger at a New England peddler. "

5 personal

Since Irving's short stories, alongside James Fenimore Cooper's novels, mark the beginning of an independent American literature, they have also received some attention in the classic texts of American studies, which tried to draw conclusions about the “national character” especially from specifics of American literature. Lewis Mumford saw the story's immense popularity as being due to the fact that Rip offered a down-to-earth, if not disillusioned, alternative to the equally popular stories of Frontier heroes like Paul Bunyan: Precisely because Rip is lazy, useless and unable to develop, he reflected reflect the experience of a generation for whom the hopes of adventure and fortune had proven illusory. Rips Los is only happy at first glance: Although he spends a contemplative retirement age, it is at the same time a living anachronism. He did not experience the “best man's age”, and so even as an old man he basically remains a child, so pays (according to the literary scholar Donald A. Rings) a “terrible price.” That Rip's story is above all terrible also shows a reading suggests that his name alludes to the epitaph rest in peace ("Rest in peace") sees.

Leslie Fiedler looked in Rip Van Winkle the basic motif created that his influential work Love and Death in the American Novel (1957) has shaped the entire American literary history: the flight of the male protagonist from responsibility, growing up, marriage, and hence civilization as a whole. The escapist fantasy of escaping into the wilderness, as portrayed in Cooper's leatherstocking novels, is not yet fully developed since Irving finally allows Rip to return to his village, but the misogynistic component of this presumed American myth is already there: by depicting Rip as a refugee from the tyranny of women, he creates a "comical reversal of the [European] legend of the afflicted maiden - a corresponding male fantasy of persecution." Fiedler's interpretation has since been taken up especially in feminist literary theory. This is how Judith Fetterley began her book The Resisting Reader (1978), an early work of feminist canon criticism, with a review of Rip Van Winkle. Fetterley sees Dame van Winkle as a scapegoat, an enemy, drawn as “the other”, also as the embodiment of the restrictions that “civilization” brings with it - she even sees in her the sadistic Big Nurse from Ken Keseys One flew over the cuckoo's nest educated. Fetterley concludes that even from this first American short story the female reader is excluded, Dame Van Winkle remains nameless, little more than a caricature that certainly does not encourage identification. It is precisely her actually praiseworthy qualities - that she, abandoned by her worthless husband, who alone keeps the court in order and raises the children - is blamed on her as an effeminate lust for power; all sympathies are directed towards the incompetent and lazy male protagonist without any other qualified justification.

6 Reception and adaptations

The Sketch Book found great sales in England and America, but - in addition to the Christmas sketches - was straight Rip van Winkle often published as a single print, often anthologized, also distributed as children's books and soon canonized as school reading. Like few other literary figures, Rip Van Winkle finally entered American folklore and has been referenced and parodied many times in high and popular culture because of his wide awareness and recognition value.

6.1 Theater, cinema, television

The theater played a special role in popularizing the subject in the USA. The performance of a first stage adaptation in Albany attests to this. Until 1866 was Rip Van Winkle has already been staged in at least four adaptations, even as an opera in New York in 1855. In 1866, a version adapted by Dion Boucicault was premiered in London, which was to become one of the most successful theater plays of the 19th century with actor Joseph Jefferson in the lead role. Boucicault added another plot to the story in which Rip has to fight off an opponent - his malicious son-in-law. The piece lived on 170 evenings in London before Jefferson brought it to New York in 1866. For the next 15 years Jefferson and his company went on extensive tours through the cities of the American hinterland, becoming known to a mass audience and ultimately becoming the most famous American actor of his time. Jefferson tried his hand at other roles again from 1880 onwards, but the audience identified him so much with his role that he would do it hundreds of times before the end of his life Rip Van Winkle gave. Constance Rourke attributed the play's success to the fact that, with its dramatization of sudden change and a lost world, it reflected the experience of many Americans in the eventful period after the American Civil War (the Gilded Age). The fact that the play's popularity was mainly due to Jefferson's performance also shows that it quickly disappeared from the repertoire after his death in 1905.

Jefferson's performance recorded William K. L. Dickson in several short silent films from 1896 by his American Mutoscope and Biograph Company; In 1903 the eight scenes were combined into a whole. Dickons Rip Van Winkle was classified as particularly worth preserving by the Library of Congress in 1995 and entered into the National Film Registry. In the silent film era, a number of other film adaptations were made. Since then, the character of Rip Van Winkle has also appeared in various cartoon series, for example he met Popeye in 1941, and Mr. Magoo slipped into his role in 1965.

7 literature

Edmund C. Stedmans are among the lyrical adaptations and adaptations of the story Rip Van Winkle and His Wonderful Nap'Oliver Wendell Holmes' Rip Van Winkle (1870) and Herman Melvilles Rip Van Winkle's Lilac (undated, first published posthumously in Weeds and Wildings, 1924). A book by Hart Cranes The Bridge (1930), one of the great poems of American modernism, is also Rip Van Winkle titled. Allusions to motifs from the narrative can be found in works as diverse as James Joyce's Ulysses, Willa Cathers My Antonia and Dylan Thomas' Alterwise By Owl-Light. Authors of postmodern literature have Rip Van Winkle used as a cipher for the rapid change in the living environment in the past decades, for example Robert Coover in his one-act play Rip Awake (1972); Thomas Pynchon's novel Vineland (1989) also begins with a paraphrase by Rip Van Winkle: the awakening of an old hippie in California in 1984, who then finds out that his local pub has been converted into a yuppie designer bar.

Though stories of magical sleep are common in numerous versions worldwide, this is the Rip Van Winkle At least in the USA it has become by far the most famous occurrence of the motif and part of American folklore, so that numerous later works may be directly influenced by Irving. This applies, for example, to the science fiction comic published in 1928 Buck Rogers, whose protagonist wakes up in the 25th century after a 500-year sleep, or for the classic film planet of monkeys.

That was still in the 1820s Sketch Book Translated into several European languages ​​and the story of Rip Van Winkle is also known internationally. The first German translation appeared in Leipzig as early as 1819 and is marked by the censorship passed that year with the Carlsbad resolutions. The anonymous translator changed the story, however, in some cases considerably, and in particular underlined the depiction of the unpleasant aspects of a republican social order that already existed in Irving's tendency compared to the intimate harmony in the monarchy. Among American writers, Irving exerted considerable influence on German writers in the 19th century; explicit bonds Rip Van Winkle can be found in Wilhelm Hauffs, for example Fantasies in the Bremen Ratskeller (1827), Wilhelm Raabes Abu Telfan (1868) and in Ferdinand Freiligraths In the Teutoburg Forest (1869).

In the 20th century, the treatment of the material by the Swiss writer Max Frisch is in the radio play Rip Van Winkle (1953) and the resulting novel Quieter (1954) to emphasize: The protagonist of the novel tells his defense counsel the "fairy tale of Rip van Winkle", which he believes he read "decades ago [...] in a book by Sven Hedin". For Frisch's novel, the theme of separation and return and the way the returnees deal with the identity ascribed to them is of central importance.