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Washington Irving has often been revered as the father of American literature, and, more specifically, the father of the American myth. He was one of the first American writers to make a real living off his writing, and as such was considered to be America’s personal declarer of independence within the literary world. Having been viewed as so undoubtedly American in his writings, one might find interest in the fact that Irving drew very heavily on European sources in his inexplicable creation of this nation’s fiction, as it appears “he was not all that at ‘home’ with American life” (“Background: Irving the ‘Historian’”). Some of Irving’s most famous works, in fact, are near retellings of popular European fairy tales, predominantly of German origin, that are interlaced with several other European influences. “Rip Van Winkle,” for instance, finds strong inspirational roots in a German folktale entitled “Peter Klaus the Goatherd,” as well as in the German retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Both tales find their origins in even older lore, adding up to create longstanding legends that focus on a central motif. Irving furthered the fantastic legacy of such folklore with his own writing, thereby creating the American myth in the process.


Class paper for Professor Jennifer Burkett Pittmman's American Literature I course (ENGL 3103).