"Rip Van Winkle" is a short story by Washington Irving. It was first published in 1820 in the collection The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., which also contained "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow". "Rip Van Winkle" is based on the German folk tale of Peter Krauss, a goatherd who comes across some little men playing a game, drinks some of their wine and falls asleep for twenty years. There are many similar folk tales found all over the world.
"Rip Van Winkle" has been adapted as an operetta, several stage plays, cartoons and a series of silent films from 1896. In common with "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", it is one of the few works of early American literature that is still widely read for pleasure today.
The story begins before the American Revolutionary War and takes place in a village, where most of the inhabitants are of Dutch descent, near the Catskill Mountains. Rip Van Winkle, a loyal subject of Britain's King George III, is a popular young man. He is especially well liked by the children, who he tells stories to and makes toys for. However, Rip is lazy and does not like doing anything that might be considered real work. His house and farm are falling into a state of disrepair and for that reason his wife is often angry with him.
One autumn day, Rip goes into the mountains with his dog Wolf. He hears someone shout his name and turns round to see a little man wearing old-fashioned Dutch clothes and carrying a barrel of liquor. He motions to Rip to help him carry the barrel. They arrive at a hollow where Rip sees other small men with beards wearing old-fashioned Dutch clothes. The men are playing nine pins, which creates a noise like thunder in the surrounding mountains. The men do not talk to Rip or to each other. Rip does not ask who they are or how they know his name but he drinks some of their liquor.
Rip wakes up in the morning and finds that his beard has grown, his gun has become rusted metal and rotten wood and his dog is nowhere to be seen. Rip goes to the village but finds that he does not recognize anyone. He sees a strange red, white and blue flag of stars and stripes that he has never seen before. He notices that the King George Inn has changed its name and the picture of the king on the inn sign has been changed, the king's coat has been changed from red to blue, his royal sceptre has been replaced by a sword and he is identified as General Washington.
When Rip tells the villagers that his name is Rip Van Winkle he is shown another man who the villagers say is Rip Van Winkle. Rip is very surprised when he seems to see himself in a typical lazy pose. He later learns that the man he sees is his son.
Eventually, an elderly resident recognizes Rip, explains that Rip has been asleep for twenty years and that the strange little men who Rip saw were the spirits of the explorer Henry Hudson and his crew.
Rip moves in with his daughter, his wife having long since died, and soon takes up his former lazy ways again. Some of the villagers do not believe Rip's story but most of them do and many unhappy husbands wish that they could also drink some of Henry Hudson's magical brew.
- Sound files of public domain audiobooks of Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle":
- Video of the 1903 silent movie Rip Van Winkle
- "Sleeping Beauty"