Brom is the real victim in Sleepy Hollow!
Updated: Oct 27
The 1949 Disney Classic "The Legend of Ichabod and Mr Toad" has been a yearly staple in my house since I was too short to reach the faux-wood paneled VCR. Considering the double feature nature of the movie, I have only seen Mr. Toad a few times - generally fast forwarded to get to the good part - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
The innocence of childhood always had me beleiving that Ichabod Crane, the fearful school master, was the "good guy" of the film. However now that I view it as an adult, I feel that the real victim in this story is none other than Brom Bones!
When we are introduced to Ichabod, he is wandering into town, nose in book, while a joyous Bing Crosby song details his various deformities. Immediately, the town women seem to be attracted to this newcomer, despite the fact that he seems more interested in stealing pies than exchanging pleasantries.
Ichabod steals this pie under the guise of chivalry!
He is in town just for a few minutes, and is already stealing food ie: this woman's livelihood. In fact, so much of Ichabod's actions are dictated by free meals that he shows blatant favoritism towards disruptive students when their mother's "happen to be good cooks."
Next we are introduced to the supposed antagonist, Brom Bones. To be honest, he seems like a pretty cool, fun guy. The worst thing he does in this intro is gently scare a napping friend, whom he immediately buys a round of beers for. He even goes so far as to buy a round for the neighborhood stray dogs and his horse.
The third member of this triangle is Katrina Van Tassel, daughter of the richest man in Sleepy Hollow.
Clearly the hot girl in town, she uses her superior genetics to get the entirety of the Sleepy Hollow male population to do whatever she wants at the wave of a finger - Including having a small army of men move her picnic location around for really no reason other than to savor her power over them. It is also made clear that she and Brom have had a long standing relationship, or courtship, but she also wishes some other man would at least try hitting on her because, as demonstrated by the picnic fiasco, is an attention whore.
It should be pointed out that when Ichabod first sees Katarina, he is on a perfectly lovely date with an entirely different Sleepy Hollow woman, whom he quickly ignores while fantasizing about a woman he knows nothing about other than she is pretty and rich.
Speaking of fantasies - did nobody notice that right after meeting Katrina, Ichabod's first fantasy was of her father dying so he could take his place?
This is where I start feeling sorry for Brom. Clearly he and Katrina have "something" that they have been working on for a while. This new guy comes into town who is essentially an inferior to Brom (and no - I won't give weight to the theory that Katrina wanted someone with more intelligence. Brom does not come across as stupid. He used the word "elucidate" for heaven's sake!) Yet being obsessed by just her looks and inheritance, Ichabod decided to not only move in on Katrina (who is playing them like a chess master), but also to try and humiliate Brom at every step of the way.
This demonstrates Brom's general even temper. For a guy strong enough to bend a horse shoe.....
.. he rolls with it all for a good amount of time. Granted, he does grab Ichabod and try to physically harm him - yet much of the blame should be on Katrina at this point. She is CLEARLY leading Ichabod on to taunt Brom, who obviously looks on her with such unconditional love that he doesn't see her scheming. Katrina is playing both men at this point because, again, attention.
It is never clear to me if Katrina actually likes Ichabod or not. She clearly goes out of her way to only show him attention when she knows Brom is within eyeshot - This suggests to me that Ichabod is more of a "tool in her toolbelt" to get the already adoring Brom to pay her more mind.
The culmination comes at the Van Tassel Halloween party. Here, Ichabod shows off his impressive dance skills, and equally impressive ability to eat while never breaking stride. Mind you, for some reason Ichabod seems to have caught the eye of EVERY woman in Sleepy Hollow - yet he wont stop dancing with Katrina long enough to have one spin on the floor with the lonely lady who made him that beautiful picnic (Fun fact: Her name is "Tilda").
Ok - Ichabod wins on the dance floor
Brom realizes that he can't outdance his rival, and since Ichabod is determined to not let Brom have even one single dance with Katrina, Brom has to resort to one of his various other strengths - storytelling.
Gather round and I'll ELUCIDATE...
Brom is a master storyteller - another hint that his character is far from the meathead stereotype he seems to fall into. Keep in mind, the story - while meant to SCARE Ichabod, is also a WARNING to Ichabod. A helpful, potentially life saving warning that he IGNORES.
We all know what happens next.
In the end, Brom marries Katrina, despite her string-pulling jealousy game that in all probability got a naive, overconfident school teacher killed by a ghost.
The Ichabod / Katrina / Brom triangle is an odd one that changes every time I watch the film. The dynamics of good guy / bad guy are so blurred here. "Naive," "Optimistic," "lovestruck," "Arrogant" are all words that could describe any of the characters in the story - leaving us with a lack of protagonist and antagonist. Granted this leaves out the theory that Brom WAS the horseman and used the legend to literally kill off his rival... however I never bought into that. Brom was a prankster, not a murderer, and is too smart to murder someone by cutting off his head after singing an elaborate song about cutting off said person's head in front of the entire town.
Thank you for letting me elucidate my thoughts on this Disney treasure.