What are Legends?


Legends are stories about people or events which have been written in history. So the stories may be made up but the events may be based on facts though not in its entirety. The historical facts are taken to give the story an element of truth and make it more interesting. A legend may be a story about supernatural or mythical characters or events. Legends often convey a lesson or moral and are narrated to retain the values that are part of the community. Legends may be different from Myths but both are passed down from one generation to another orally or through the written medium.

How is a Legend different from a Myth?

A legend is a narrative told as a true story with people and locations clearly identified. In other words the story of a legend is narrated like a historical event rather than functioning as a symbolic narrative. The legend may contain descriptions of historical events. Some examples of legends could be stories about Robin Hood which are set in the background of the England during the reign of Richard I (1189-99). Myth, on the other hand deals with a religious explanation for a particular custom or event. Myths do not follow any particular chronology to relate it to the present times. This is because myths tell a timeless story having symbolic events, set in a time before any history was recorded. The stories are about Gods and Super human beings who make use of their special powers to make things happen.

What are some examples of Legends?

Famous English Legends could include Robin Hood, King Arthur and Queen BoadiceaKing Arthur may be similar to a man who lived in 6th century England. The stories about the King and their Knights testified that they helped their people and defended them in times of need. The character of Robin Hood has similarity to a living person called Robin of Loxley, living in Nottinghamshire who helped the poor. But the other elements of the story such as the band of robbers, Nottingham forests etc may be entirely made up.

Examples of other famous legends could include Atlantis, Beowulf, Big Foot, Celtic Legeds, El Dorado, Helen of Troy and the Trojan War, Odysseus, Legends of Africa, Philosopher’s Stone, the Indian Epics- Ramayana and Mahabharata, Shangri-La and William Tell among others.

How is the word legend used today?

Today the word legend is still used to talk about people and their singular deeds or actions but maybe in a more modern context. Thus it may be common to talk of a good football player as a “football legend” or a “sporting legend” to describe the stalwarts of any sports. Similarly a famous actor or film personality can well be remembered as a “film legend”. By referring to the person as a legend, importance is given to the skills or feats they have achieved in their respective fields.

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