The short novella known as “Rip Van Winkle” was written by the American author Washington Irving and published for the first time in the year 1819. Rip Van Winkle, a Dutch-American peasant living in colonial America, is the protagonist of this story. He travels to the Catskill Mountains, where he meets some mystery Dutchmen, drinks their wine, and then falls asleep. He slept throughout the American Revolution, so when he awoke 20 years later, he found himself in a drastically different world.
by Washington Irving
In the years leading up to the founding of the United States, a Dutch-American man named Rip Van Winkle lives in a little town at the base of the Catskill Mountains in the state of New York. Rip has a tendency to procrastinate and avoid doing any labor that would be considered productive. To get away from his wife’s nagging for a day during the fall, he takes his dog Wolf with him and goes squirrel hunting in the mountains. As the day draws to a close, he overhears a guy shouting his name and follows the sound to discover someone dressed in traditional Dutch costume who is carrying a cask. Rip lends a hand to the guy so that he may take his load to a crevice in the rocks where he hears rumbling sounds. They investigate and discover that the noises are coming from a group of men with elaborate clothing and beards who are playing nine-pins. Rip doesn’t bother to find out who these other people are or how they know his name; instead, he joins them in drinking from the keg that he helped deliver, and he quickly gets so drunk that he falls out and sleeps.
Rip awakens to a bright morning at the location where he first saw the keg-carrier and discovers that his beard is now one foot long and has turned gray, his musket is in a terrible state of disrepair, and Wolf is nowhere to be found. These are just some of the many significant changes that have taken place since he last saw the keg-carrier. When he gets back to his hometown, he finds that it is far bigger than he remembered it being, and it is full of people dressed in strange clothes, none of whom know him. When asked how he voted in the recent election, he professes himself to be a loyal subject of King George III. However, he is ignorant that the American Revolution has taken place while he has been absent. He finds out that many of his old acquaintances have either been killed in the war or have left the hamlet, and it disturbs him to encounter a younger guy who has his name, behaves identically to him, and appears to be the same age. A young lady claims that Rip Van Winkle, who has been presumed dead for the last two decades, is her father, and an elderly woman acknowledges that he is, in fact, Rip. Both the young lady and the young boy are his offspring, and the young woman has given her newborn boy the same name as her father.
Rip learns that his wife has been gone for some time, but he takes the news in stride and continues on with his life. He finds out that the guys he saw in the mountains are said to be the specters of the crew of the ship known as the Halve Maen (Half-Moon), which was commanded by the English explorer Henry Hudson. After being welcomed into her house by his daughter, he quickly returns to his customary state of inactivity and continues relating his tale to each newcomer that comes to the community. The story is taken very seriously by the Dutch settlers, and the children in particular believe that anytime there is thunder in the mountains, the men must be playing nine-pins. This belief is especially prevalent among youngsters.