An Analysis of the Story of Rip Van Winkle, a German Folktale

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The story of Rip Van Winkle is classified as a German folktale. It contains numerous elements such as a journey of going 20 years into the future. The use of supernatural, the truth to the unknown, and various encounters made with the townspeople. This story also portrays Rip as a hero at the end. Nevertheless, since the tale displays all these characteristics of what a folk tale is, it is therefore a prominent example of one. A folktale is a term for all types of narrative literature found in oral traditions of the world. They are heard and remembered, and are subjected to various alterations in the course of retelling. Nevertheless, an essential trait of folktales is their diffusion, and their passage from one generation to another, by word of mouth.

Rip Van Winkle is described as a good-natured, lazy man. Years passed and his wife, Dame Van Winkle always got angry and frustrated because Rip never took care of their farm. She became bad- tempered and quarrelsome toward him at times. Poor Rip was at last reduced to despair, and his only alternative was to escape from the labor of the farm and his wife. This was the start of his long. endless journey to a mysterious future…

Two of the elements in folklore is the use of supernatural and journey. Rip went on a adventure up the Kaatskill Mountains. The adventure consisted of some unusual happenings especially meeting up with the supernatural. The first element of a folktale, journey, ties in the second element, the supernatural. Irving displayed this when Rip met up with a ghost. The images of Henry Hudsons crew displayed this. Rip and a stranger met up with the crew while they were playing nine-pin. He began to drink with all of them and by the time he realized what was going on he quickly passed out.

He woke up twenty years later. Another object of the supernatural that Irving showed in his writing is how he slept for exactly twenty years. This is a feat that could never really be done. A second journey Rip embarks on is one that keeps him away from home and loved ones. It involves some mystical but realistic adventures. Once he awakes, no one knows who he is which some-what surprised him. Another principle in a folktale is the various encounters made. Rip met up with the fellow townspeople, who tried to convict him as a spy. Their dress was a different fashion then what he was accustomed to. His house had gone to decay-the roof fallen, windows shattered, and the doors off the hinges. Then all again there was a deep silence when he called out to his wife and children. The disoriented old man is confused and doesn’t understand how and why everything is changed. His life may be forever altered.

Rip encounters some man named Rip Van Winkle. This man is a mirror image of Rip, who happens to be his son. Now his confusion extends beyond the bizarre sequence of events that have confronted him. He begins to question his own personal identity. He doesnt know if he is himself or another man. Rip exclaims, I was myself last night, but I fell asleep on the mountain, and everything is changed, and Im changed, and I cant tell whats my name, or who I am! The truth is an important quality in a folktale.

The truth tells all, and Rip needs to find his true self. His confusion is increasing and he is losing control of the situation. He desperately wants to believe that he is himself, but he cant find anything or anyone to support his claims. Rip is having trouble finding the truth within himself. He realizes that his life has been permanently altered. The changes in Rips life are both physical as well as psychological. These repeated ideas lead to a better understanding of his emotions as he attempts to find his true identity. Truth is what will eventually set Rip free. He is finally introduced to his daughter and her son, Rip. Van Winkle soon learns about the fate of his wife and everything that has occurred in the last twenty years he has missed. His story was soon told to everyone in the town.

Irving’s narrations of folk legends and his use of supernatural in this story are characteristics that makes his work unique to others. In Rip Van Winkle the story exemplifies the elements that make up a folktale. When Rip returns from his twenty year journey few people recognize him. The conclusion illustrates a heros strength into society and elaborate recognition scene which is another attribute of a folktale. It is a great relief when his wife and his duty to the farm is no longer around. When Rip returns in twenty years he wants the people of the town to believe him. There is a symbolic level that is unmistakable which establishes subjects specific to the changing American society. Rip Van Winkle is awaken to a new life after the American Revolution, and the happy ending hints toward what the future holds for him.

Rip Van Winkle establishes all the elements that can claim it to be a folk tale of the 18th Century. The journey of the Kaatskill Mountains and his awakening from the endless sleep. How he met up with the ghostly crew and his own son and daughter. Rip learned that the Kaatskill Mountains had always been haunted by strange beings. Rip still has trouble believing any of these strange occurrences, and how he encountered several unfamiliar people including the Henry Hudson crew.

The last aspect of a folktale is a hero. Rip is a hero in everyones heart. He lived through his twenty- year journey, and when he returned and no one recognized him he still remained strong and determined to find his true identity. The issue of identity was pertinent. Winkle searched for his own fate and what had become of him. He also pusues his name and wonders who he actually is. This provides the most stimulating aspect of the story. As the reader I saw his life unfold as he searches for the inner truth that he had been denying. The story of Rip van Winkle contains all the essential principles of a folktale.

Cite this paper

An Analysis of the Story of Rip Van Winkle, a German Folktale. (2023, May 19). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/an-analysis-of-the-story-of-rip-van-winkle-a-german-folktale/

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