Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle

"Rip Van Winkle" is a short story by the American author Washington Irving published in 1819, as well as the name of the story's fictional protagonist. Written while Irving was living in Birmingham, England, it was part of a collection entitled "The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon". Although the story is set in New York's Catskill Mountains, Irving later admitted, "When I wrote the story, I had never been on the Catskills." [Pierre M. Irving, "The Life and Letters of Washington Irving", G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1883, [ vol. 2, p. 176] .]

Plot summary

The story of Rip Van Winkle is set in the years before and after the American Revolutionary War. Rip Van Winkle, a villager of Dutch descent, lives in a nice village at the foot of New York's Catskill Mountains. An amiable man whose home and farm suffer from his lazy neglect, he is loved by all but his wife. One autumn day he escapes his nagging wife by wandering up the mountains. After encountering strangely dressed men, rumored to be the ghosts of Henry Hudson's crew, who are playing nine-pins, and after drinking some of their liquor, he settles down under a shady tree and falls asleep. He wakes up twenty years later and returns to his village. He finds out that his wife is dead and his close friends have died in a war or gone somewhere else. He immediately gets into trouble when he hails himself a loyal subject of King George III, not knowing that in the meantime the American Revolution has taken place. An old local recognizes him, however, and Rip's now grown daughter eventually puts him up. As Rip resumes his habit of idleness in the village, and his tale is solemnly believed by the old Dutch settlers, certain hen-pecked husbands especially wish they shared Rip's luck.


*Rip Van Winkle - a henpecked husband who loathes 'profitable labor'.
*Dame Van Winkle - Rip Van Winkle's cantankerous wife.
*Rip - Rip Van Winkle's son.
*Judith Gardenier - Rip Van Winkle's daughter.
*Derrick Van Bummel - the local schoolmaster and later a member of Congress.
*Nicholas Vedder - landlord of the local inn.
*Mr. Doolittle - a hotel owner.
*Wolf -Rip's faithful and equally lazy dog

Literary origins

The story is a close adaptation of "Peter Klaus the Goatherd" by J.C.C. Nachtigal, which is a shorter story set in a German village.

The story is also similar to the ancient Jewish story about Honi M'agel who falls asleep after asking a man why he is planting a carob tree which traditionally takes 70 years to mature, making it virtually impossible to ever benefit from the tree's fruit. After this exchange, he falls asleep on the ground and is miraculously covered by a rock and remains out of sight for 70 years. When he awakens, he finds a fully mature tree and that he has a grandson. When nobody believes that he is Honi, he prays to God and God takes him from this world. Note also that the family name of Honi is also a term of geometry ('M'agel' is Hebrew for 'circle maker'), as well as the family name of Rip ('Winkel' is German for 'angle').

The story is also similar to a 3rd century AD Chinese tale of Ranka, as retold in Lionel Giles in "A Gallery of Chinese Immortals."

In Orkney there is a similar and ancient folklore tale linked to the Burial mound of Salt Knowe adjacent to the Ring of Brodgar. A drunken fiddler on his way home hears music from the mound. He finds a way in and finds the trowes (Trolls) having a party. He stays and plays for two hours, then makes his way home to Stenness, where he discovers fifty years have passed. The Orkney Rangers believe this may be one source for Washington Irving's tale, because his father was an Orcadian from the island of Shapinsay, and would almost certainly have often told his son the tale.

The original story was by Diogenes Laertius, an Epicurean philosopher circa early half third century, in his book "On the Lives, Opinions, and Sayings of Famous Philosophers". The story is in Chapter ten in his section on the Seven Sages, who were the precursors to the first philosophers. The sage was Epimenides. Apparently Epimenides went to sleep in a cave for fifty-seven years. But unfortunately, "he became old in as many days as he had slept years." Although according to the different sources that Diogenes relates, Epimenides lived to be one hundred and fifty-seven years, two hundred and ninety-nine years, or one hundred and fifty-four years. [wikicite | id= Laertius(1972)| reference=Laertius, Diogenes: "Lives of Eminent Philosophers: Books I-V", RD Hicks, trans., Cambridge: Harvard, 1972. p. 115 ]

A similar story is told of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, Christian saints who fall asleep in a cave while avoiding Roman persecution, and awake more than a century later to find that Christianity has become the religion of the Empire.


The story has been adapted for other media for the last two centuries, from stage plays to an operetta to cartoons to films. Actor Joseph Jefferson was most associated with the character on the 19th century stage and made a series of short films in 1896 recreating scenes from his stage adaptation, and which are collectively in the US National Film Registry. Jefferson's son Thomas followed in his father's footsteps and also played the character in a number of early 20th century films. The story was also loosely adapted for the show "Twilight Zone" in the 1961 episode "The Rip Van Winkle Caper" starring Oscar Beregi.

The story also is related to the theme of the Abraham Lincoln quote "I can never tell a lie."

The book series "Mickey's Young Readers Library" featured a version titled "Donald's Dream". In this adaptation, Donald constantly procrastinates on completing the chores he has promised to do for his friends (i.e. fixing Scrooge's alarm and Daisy's roof), then has a bad dream where he is shown the consequences of not doing said chores, which prompts into doing the work as promised.

A "Garfield" Sunday strip had Garfield dreaming of himself as Rip Van Garfield, waking up from a 50-year catnap and seeing how much has (and hasn't) changed. This strip was later adaptated into an episode of "Garfield and Friends".


In 1963 Rip Van Winkle played Wide Receiver for the Nittany Lions under head coach Rip Engle.

David Bromberg's song "Kaatskill Serenade" tells the story of Rip Van Winkle from the first-person perspective. [ [ Kaatskill Serenade] ] The chorus is:

:Where are the men that I used to sport with?:What has become of my beautiful town?:Wolf, my old friend, you don't even know me.:This must be the end; my house has tumbled down.

Lionel Richie's "Hello" makes reference to Rip Van Winkle in the opening scene of the video when Laura, a blind subject of Ritchie's affection and student of his, acts out a scene in which she describes the character Tony Billy Boy as "a regular Rip Van Winkle". Billy Boy, just out of prison, had suggested taking Laura on a date to the Brooklyn Paramount, not knowing that in the meantime it had closed, just as Eisenhower was no longer President. He was also mentioned in the Alabama song "Mountain Music" in 1982.

The Belle & Sebastian song "I Could Be Dreaming" features band member Isobel Campbell reading a passage from "Rip Van Winkle" towards the end of the song.

The Pod, the second album by the band Ween features a song dubbed 'Sketches of Winkle'.

American composer Ferde Grofé tells the story of Rip Van Winkle through orchestral music in his "Hudson River Suite" (1955) — the third movement is entitled "Rip Van Winkle."

Richard Dawkins' book "Unweaving the Rainbow" has a short reference to Rip Van Winkle:

Camp Chi, a Jewish summer camp in Lake Delton, Wisconsin, has an ongoing tradition of a version of Rip Van Winkle called Chi Winkle coming out from the woods each year at the session's end to wish the campers goodbye.

In the SNES game Super Mario World there is an enemy named Rip Van Fish. As the name implies, it's a fish and it sleeps until Mario or Luigi draws close, at which point it starts chasing him.

In the Phish song The Sloth, from The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday, lyricist Trey Anastasio makes a verb of "Rip Van Winkle", meaning "to sleep all day": "They call me the sloth (way down in the ghetto) / Italian spaghetti (singing falsetto) / Sleeping all day (Rip Van Winkl'ing) / Spend my nights in bars (glasses tinkling)."

Dictionary Allusions

To be a Rip van Winkle, is to awake suddenly to profound changes in one's surroundings. This may be due to physical absence or to absence of mind.

This term was quoted on January 3, 1992, in the Christian Science Monitor by Laura VanTuyl like below.

Someone who has remained oblivious to social and political changes over an extended period can be said to be 'Rip-Van-Winkleish'. Andrew Higgins wrote in The Observer, 1997

quotation| A political Rip van Winkle who had never watched television and read neithernewspapers nor books until the last years of his term, Kim cannot believe, even lesscomprehend, this changed world. His only reading material until 1990 had been theBible.

ee also

*Rip Van Winkle (operetta)
*Rip Van Wink from "The Beano"
*Rip van Winkle (Hellsing) from "Hellsing"


External links


* [ "Rip Van Winkle"] , illustrated by N. C. Wyeth (1921).
* [ "Rip Van Winkle"] , illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1905).
* [ "Rip Van Winkle"] , e-text from Bartleby.
* [ "Rip Van Winkle"] , audio version from 1946.
* [ "Rip Van Winkle"] , 1896 film.
* [ "Karl Katz"] , a comparison.


* [ Rip Van Winkle Study Guide]
* [ Irving in Birmingham]
* [ "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" - Irving's Fictions of Revolution]

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  • Rip Van Winkle — est une nouvelle de l écrivain américain Washington Irving, publiée dans The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon (1819). C est le titre et le nom du personnage principal. L action se situe dans les montagnes Catskill, ou Kaatskill, dans l État de New… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Rip van Winkle — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda El retorno de Rip Van Winkle. John Quidor, 1849. Rip van Winkle es un cuento corto de Washington Irving, y también el nombre del protagonista. Fue parte de una colección de cuentos titulado The Sketch Book …   Wikipedia Español

  • rip van winkle — is a character in a story who slept for twenty years, so if someone is a Rip van Winkle, they are behind the times and out of touch with what s happening now …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • rip van Winkle —    Rip van Winkle is a character in a story who slept for twenty years, so if someone is a Rip van Winkle, they are behind the times and out of touch with what s happening now.   (Dorking School Dictionary) …   English Idioms & idiomatic expressions

  • Rip van Winkle — [rip΄ van wiŋ′kəl] n. the title character of a story (1819) by Washington Irving: Rip awakens after a twenty year sleep to find everything changed …   English World dictionary

  • Rip van Winkle — es un cuento corto de Washington Irving, y también el nombre del protagonista. Fue parte de una colección de cuentos titulado The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon. El cuento, escrito mientras Irving vivía con su hermana Sarah y su cuñado Henry van… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Rip Van Winkle — person out of touch with current conditions, 1829, from name of character in Washington Irving s Sketch Book (1819 20) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Rip Van Winkle — Der Schauspieler Joseph Jefferson als Rip Van Winkle in einer Bühnenadaption (1869), Fotografie von Napoleon Sarony Rip Van Winkle ist eine Erzählung des amerikanischen Schriftstellers Washington Irving (1783–1859), die 1819 im Rahmen seines… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Rip van Winkle — Der Schauspieler Joseph Jefferson als Rip Van Winkle in einer Bühnenadaption der Geschichte (1869) Rip Van Winkle ist eine Erzählung des amerikanischen Schriftstellers Washington Irving (1783–1859), die 1819 im Rahmen seines Skizzenbuchs erschien …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Rip Van Winkle — /rip van wing keuhl/ 1. (in a story by Washington Irving) a ne er do well who sleeps 20 years and upon waking is startled to find how much the world has changed. 2. (italics) the story itself, published in The Sketch Book (1819). * * * …   Universalium

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