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Encyclopedia > Legend
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A depiction of the legendary Rütlischwur.
A depiction of the legendary Rütlischwur.

A legend (Latin, legenda, "things to be read") is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude. Legend, for its active and passive participants, includes no happenings that are outside the realm of "possibility", defined by a highly flexible set of parameters, which may include miracles that are perceived as actually having happened, within the specific tradition of indoctrination where the legend arises, and within which it may be transformed over time, in order to keep it fresh and vital, and realistic. Look up legend in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Look up legendary in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Wiktionary (a portmanteau of wiki and dictionary) is a multilingual, Web-based project to create a free content dictionary, available in over 151 languages. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 433 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (885 × 1224 pixel, file size: 122 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Faithful reproductions of two-dimensional original works cannot attract copyright in the U.S. according to the rule in Bridgeman Art Library v. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 433 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (885 × 1224 pixel, file size: 122 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Faithful reproductions of two-dimensional original works cannot attract copyright in the U.S. according to the rule in Bridgeman Art Library v. ... Oath on the Rütli, Henry Fuseli, 1780 The Rütlischwur is a legendary oath of the Old Swiss Confederacy, best known by the Wilhelm Tell drama of 1804 by Friedrich Schiller. ... For other uses, see Latins and Latin (disambiguation). ... A narrative is a construct created in a suitable medium (speech, writing, images) that describes a sequence of fictional or non-fictional events. ... For other uses, see Miracle (disambiguation). ... Indoctrination is the process of inculcating ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or a professional methodology. ... For other uses, see Realism (disambiguation). ...

A legend is a story, that is probably about someone that did exist but has been twisted to seem more interesting and fascinating. This story is passed down generation to generation. Most legends are pourquoi stories. Look up Story in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

A modern folklorist's professional definition of legend was proposed by Timothy R. Tangherlini in 1990:[1] This article does not cite any references or sources. ...

Legend, typically, is a short (mono-) episodic, traditional, highly ecotypified[2] historicized narrative performed in a conversational mode, reflecting on a psychological level a symbolic representation of folk belief and collective experiences and serving as a reaffirmation of commonly held values of the group to whose tradition it belongs."


Etymology and origin

Holger Danske, a legendary character.
Holger Danske, a legendary character.

The word "legend" appeared in the English language circa 1340, transmitted from medieval Latin language through French. Its blurred extended (and essentially Protestant) sense of a non-historical narrative or myth was first recorded in 1613. By emphasizing the unrealistic character of "legends" of the saints, English-speaking Protestants were able to introduce a note of contrast to the "real" saints and martyrs of the Reformation, whose authentic narratives could be found in Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Thus "legend" gained its modern connotations of "undocumented" and "spurious". Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Ogier the Dane (known in Danish Holger Danske) as is a fictional hero who first appears in the Old French chanson de geste. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... Events Europe has about 74 million inhabitants. ... French (le français, la langue française) is one of the most important Romance languages, outnumbered in speakers only by Spanish and Portuguese. ... Protestantism is a general grouping of denominations within Christianity. ... Events January - Galileo observes Neptune, but mistakes it for a star and so is not credited with its discovery. ... The Protestant Reformation was a movement which began in the 16th century as a series of attempts to reform the Roman Catholic Church, but ended in division and the establishment of new institutions, most importantly Lutheranism, Reformed churches, and Anabaptists. ... John Foxe, line engraving by George Glover, first published in the 1641 edition of Actes and Monuments John Foxe (1516–April 8, 1587) is remembered as the author of the famous Foxes Book of Martyrs. ...

Before the invention of the printing press, stories were passed on via oral tradition. Storytellers learned their stock in trade: their stories, typically received from an older storyteller, who might, though more likely not, have claimed to have actually known a witness, rendered the narrative as "history". Legend is distinguished from the genre of chronicle by the fact that legends apply structures that reveal a moral definition to events, providing meaning that lifts them above the repetitions and constraints of average human lives and giving them a universality that makes them worth repeating through many generations. In German-speaking and northern European countries, "legend", which involves Christian origins, is distinguished from "Saga", being from any other (usually, but not necessarily older) origin. The printing press is a mechanical device for printing many copies of a text on rectangular sheets of paper. ... This article is about the historical discipline; see Oral tradition for the oral transmission of historical information. ... For the 2001 film, see Storytelling (film) Storytelling is the ancient art of conveying events in words, images, and sounds. ... For the gay mens lifestyle magazine, see Genre (magazine). ... Generally a chronicle (Latin chronica, from Greek Χρόνος) is historical account of facts and events in chronological order. ... This article includes a list of works cited or a list of external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks in-text citations. ...

The modern characterisation of what may be termed a "legend" may be said to begin in 1865 with Jacob Grimm's observation, "The fairy tale is poetic, legend, historic."[3] Early scholars like Karl Wehrhahn[4] Friedrich Ranke[5] and Will-Erich Peukert[6] followed Grimm's example in focussing solely on the literary narrative, an approach that was enriched particularly after the 1960s[7] by addressing questions of performance and the anthropological and psychological insights provided in considering legends' social context. Questions of categorizing legends, in hopes of compiling a content-based series of categories on the line of the Aarne-Thompson folktale index provoked a search for a broader new synthesis. Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (Hanau, January 4, 1785 – September 20, 1863 in Berlin), German philologist, jurist and mythologist, was born at Hanau, in Hesse-Kassel. ... A fairy tale is a story, either told to children or as if told to children, concerning the adventures of mythical characters such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, giants, and others. ... Antti Amatus Aarne (1867 - 1925) was a Finnish folklorist, who developed the initial version of what became the Aarne-Thompson classification system of classifying folktales, first published in 1910. ...

Compared to the highly-structured folktale, legend is comparatively formless, Helmut de Boor noted in 1928.[8] The narrative content of legend is in realistic mode, rather than the wry irony of folktale;[9] Wilhelm Heiske[10] remarked on the similarity of motifs in legend and folktale and concluded that, in spite of its realistic mode, legend is not more historical than folktale.

Legend is often considered in connection with rumour, also believable and concentrating on a single episode. Ernst Bernheim suggested that legend is simply the survival of rumour.[11] Gordon Allport credited the staying-power of certain rumours to the persistent cultural state-of-mind that they embody and capsulise;[12] thus "Urban legends" are a feature of rumour.[13] When Willian Jansen suggested that legends that disappear quickly were "short-term legends" and the persistent ones be termed "long-term legends", the distinction between legend and rumour was effectively obliterated, Tangherlini concluded.[14] A rumor (British English: rumour) is a piece of purportedly true information that is circulated without substantiating evidence. ... Gordon Willard Allport (November 11, 1897 - October 9, 1967) was an American psychologist. ... For other uses, see Urban legend (disambiguation). ...

The elasticity of legend in its highly specific and localised social context has rendered it elusive to attempts to typify it simply through its content, as fairy tales have been successfully categorised. A fairy tale is a story, either told to children or as if told to children, concerning the adventures of mythical characters such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, giants, and others. ...

In the painting of Lady Godiva by Jules Joseph Lefebvre, the authentic historical person is fully submerged in the legend, presented in an anachronistic high medieval setting.
In the painting of Lady Godiva by Jules Joseph Lefebvre, the authentic historical person is fully submerged in the legend, presented in an anachronistic high medieval setting.

For other uses of Godiva, see Godiva (disambiguation). ... Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836 – 1911) was a French figure painter. ...


A legend or legend fragment is a meme that propagates through a culture. It may be crystallized in a literary work that fixes it and which affects the future direction it will take. Such an example of this is the contrast of Hamlet the legend, and Shakespeare's Hamlet. When a legend that is rooted in a kernel of truth is so strongly affected by an ideal that it conforms to expected literary conventions of behavior, in certain cases it turns into a Romance. Such may well be the case with a historical Arthur (see Historical basis for King Arthur), around whom legends accumulated and were expressed in the purely literary magical atmosphere of surviving Arthurian romances, collectively known as the "Matter of Britain".-1... For other uses, see Culture (disambiguation). ... Hamlet is a striking figure in Scandinavian romance and the hero of Shakespeares tragedy, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. ... For other uses, see Hamlet (disambiguation). ... As a literary genre, romance or chivalric romance refers to a style of heroic prose and verse narrative current in Europe from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. ... The historical basis of King Arthur is a source of considerable debate among historians. ... ‹ The template below is being considered for deletion. ...

Modern retellings of the legend of Saint George omit many of the miraculous happenings that were central to earlier versions, but which have lost credibility. Thus modern "urban legends" are quite correctly termed legends: "it happened to the brother-in-law of someone my friend's mother knew". In short, legends are believable, although not necessarily believed. For the purpose of the study of legends, in the academic discipline of folkloristics, the truth value of legends is irrelevant because, whether the story told is true or not, the fact that the story is being told at all allows scholars to use it as commentary upon the cultures that produce or circulate the legends. Saint-George is a municipality with 695 inhabitants (as of 2003) in the district of Aubonne in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland. ... For other uses, see Urban legend (disambiguation). ... Folkloristics is the formal academic study of folklore such as fairy tales and folk mythology in oral or non-literary traditions. ...

The medieval legend of Genevieve of Brabant connected her to Treves.
The medieval legend of Genevieve of Brabant connected her to Treves.

Hippolyte Delehaye, (in his Preface to The Legends of the Saints: An Introduction to Hagiography, 1907) distinguished legend from myth: "The legend, on the other hand, has, of necessity, some historical or topographical connection. It refers imaginary events to some real personage, or it localizes romantic stories in some definite spot." Image File history File links Size of this preview: 718 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (800 × 668 pixel, file size: 174 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Genoveva (Genevieve of Brabant) Etching (1854) by Hugo Bürkner after a drawing by Julius Hübner (1837) Image: 12. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 718 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (800 × 668 pixel, file size: 174 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Genoveva (Genevieve of Brabant) Etching (1854) by Hugo Bürkner after a drawing by Julius Hübner (1837) Image: 12. ... Genevieve (also Genoveva or Genovefa) of Brabant is a heroine of medieval legend. ... Trier: The Porta Nigra, viewed from outside Trier (French: Trèves), is Germanys oldest city. ... Hippolyte Delehaye (Antwerp July 19, 1859 – Brussels April 1, 1941) was a Belgian Jesuit who was ahagiographic scholar and an outstanding member of the Bollandists, who established critical editions of texts relating to the Christian saints and martyrs that were based on applying the critical method of sound archaological and... For other uses, see Mythology (disambiguation). ...

A clear example, which distinguishes what is myth from what is legend, is the story of the Gordian Knot. The legend concerns Alexander the Great, who, when confronted with the ancient knot of cornel bark that secured the pole of the sacral ox-cart at Gordium in the winter of 333 BC, severed it with a slash of his sword. The myth of the Gordian Knot is the founding myth of Gordium itself, justifying the authenticity of its line of kings. Alexander cuts the Gordian Knot, by Jean-Simon Berthélemy (1743–1811) The Gordian Knot is a legend associated with Alexander the Great. ... For the film of the same name, see Alexander the Great (1956 film). ... Gordium was the capital of ancient Phrygia, modern Yassihüyük. ...

From the moment a legend is retailed as a legend, its authentic legendary qualities begin to fade and recede: in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving transformed a local Hudson River Valley legend into a literary anecdote with "Gothic" overtones, which actually tended to diminish its character as genuine legend. Like metaphors, legends may be living or dead: the vital signs of a legend depend upon its being fiercely defended as true, which eliminates the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow. But compare the Voyage of Saint Brendan, and the Black Legend of the supposedly fanatical and cruel national character of Spain. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a short story by Washington Irving contained in his collection The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. ... Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American author of the early 19th century. ... Strawberry Hill, an English villa in the Gothic revival style, built by seminal Gothic writer Horace Walpole The gothic novel was a literary genre that belonged to Romanticism and began in the United Kingdom with The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole. ... This article is about metaphor in literature and rhetoric. ... This article is about Saint Brendan of Clonfert. ... For other uses, see Black Legend (disambiguation). ...

Related concepts

Legends that exceed these boundaries of "realism" are called "fables". The talking animal formula of Aesop identifies his brief stories as fables, not legends. The parable of the Prodigal Son would be a legend if it were told as having actually happened to a specific son of a historical father. If it included an ass that gave sage advice to the Prodigal Son it would be a fable. For other uses, see Fable (disambiguation). ... WPA poster by Kenneth Whitley, 1939 The talking animal or speaking animal term, in general, refers to any form of animal which can speak human languages. ... Nofootnotes|date=February 2008}} Aesop, as conceived by Diego Velázquez Aesop, as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle by Hartmann Schedel in 1493. ... The Return of the Prodigal Son (1773) by Pompeo Batoni The Prodigal Son, also known as The Lost Son is one of the best known parables of Jesus. ... Binomial name Linnaeus, 1758 For other uses, see Donkey (disambiguation). ...

Legend may be transmitted orally, passed on person-to-person, or, in the original sense, through written text. Jacob de Voragine's Legenda Aurea or "The Golden Legend" comprises a series of vitae or instructive biographical narratives, tied to the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. They are presented as lives of the saints, but the profusion of miraculous happenings and above all their uncritical context are characteristics of hagiography. The Legenda was intended to inspire extemporized homilies and sermons appropriate to the saint of the day. Jacobus de Voragine (c. ... The liturgical year, also known as the Christian year, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in some Christian churches which determines when Feasts, Memorials, Commemorations, and Solemnities are to be observed and which portions of Scripture are to be read. ... Catholic Church redirects here. ... Hagiography is the study of saints. ... Saints redirects here. ...

Legend may be interpreted for its ontological consequences and be treated as myth.[citation needed] To take an example, myths surrounding Cadmus, a Phoenician immigrant credited with bringing the alphabet and other Near Eastern culture to Bronze Age Greece, may have begun as a series of legends gathering around the memory of the historical founder of certain coastal cities in Greece.[citation needed] Explaining the origins of myth as former historical legends in this fashion is termed "euhemerism". See the entry Euhemerus for more detail. In philosophy, ontology (from the Greek , genitive : of being (part. ... For other uses, see Mythology (disambiguation). ... Cadmus Sowing the Dragons teeth, by Maxfield Parrish, 1908 Caddmus, or Kadmos (Greek: Κάδμος), in Greek mythology, was the son of the king of Phoenicia (Modern day Lebanon) and brother of Europa. ... ABCs redirects here. ... Euhemerus (Ευήμερος) (working late 4th century BCE) was a Greek mythographer at the court of Cassander, the king of Macedonia. ...

Conspiracy theories are similar to legends in that the linchpin of the conspiracy is usually a plausible, but unprovable secret agenda which exclusively drives the story and links otherwise unconnected happenings into a satisfying pattern: thus meaning is supplied for events. For other uses, see Conspiracy theory (disambiguation). ...

Some famous legends

For other uses, see Atlantis (disambiguation). ... Cenodoxus is one of several mediaeval miracle plays by Jacob Bidermann, an early 17th century German seminarian and prolific playwright. ... Look up Bruno in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... For other uses, see King Arthur (disambiguation). ... For the film, see Knights of the Round Table (film). ... There are a number of Celtic legends, of which the King Arthur series can be included. ... A Gipsy Family - Facsimile of a woodcut in the Cosmographie Universelle of Munster: in folio, Basle, 1552. ... This page describes the ancient heroes who founded the city of Rome. ... El Dorado or Eldorado (Spanish for the gilded one) is a legend that began with the story of a South American tribal chief who covered himself with gold dust and would dive into a lake of pure mountain water. ... For other uses, see Fountain of Youth (disambiguation). ... Portrait of Vlad III in the Innsbruck Ambras Castle Vlad III Basarab (other names: Vlad Ţepeş IPA: in Romanian, meaning Vlad the Impaler; Vlad Draculea in Romanian, transliterated as Vlad Dracula in some documents; Kazıklı Bey in Turkish, meaning Impaler Prince), (November or December, 1431 – December 1476). ... For other uses, see Robin Hood (disambiguation). ... This article is about the legendary figure. ... For other uses, see William Tell (disambiguation). ... Africa has a wealth of history which is largely unrecorded. ... For other uses, see Philosophers stone (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Odysseus (disambiguation). ... This article is about the epic poem. ... Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the novel, Lost Horizon, written by British writer James Hilton in 1933. ...

Legendary animals

Legendary animals are those a traveler in an exotic place might hope or fear to meet: their descriptions are always presented within the conventions of realism that are accepted by their hearers, though the details might stretch credulity: the basilisk. They do not include mythical animals, like the sphinx or the Nemean lion. Some real animals have developed legends: the man-eating tigers of the Sundarbans, for instance, or blond spirit bears. For other uses, see Basilisk (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Sphinx (disambiguation). ... The Nemean Lion (Latin: Leo Nemaeus) was a vicious monster in Greek mythology that lived in Nemea. ... For other uses, see Tiger (disambiguation). ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Kermode bear. ...

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

For other uses, see Yeti (disambiguation). ... It has been suggested that Evidence regarding Bigfoot be merged into this article or section. ... Sasquatch can refer to different topics: A Sasquatch is another name for Bigfoot. ... For other uses, see Loch Ness Monster (disambiguation). ... This article is about the folkloric animal. ... For other uses, see Chupacabra (disambiguation). ...


  1. ^ Tangherlini, "'It Happened Not Too Far from Here...': A Survey of Legend Theory and Characterization" Western Folklore 49.4 (October 1990:371-390) p. 85.
  2. ^ That is to say, specifically located in place and time.
  3. ^ "Das Märchen ist poetischer, die Sage, historischer"; quoted at the commencement of Tangherlini's survey of legend scholarship (Tangherlini 1990:371), which is in large part the basis of this section.
  4. ^ Wehrhahn Die Sage (Leipzig) 1908.
  5. ^ Ranke, "Grundfragen der Volkssagen Forshung, in Leander Petzoldt (ed.), Vergleichende Sagenforschung 1971:1-20, noted by Tangherlini 1990.)
  6. ^ Peukert , Sagen (Munich: E Schmidt) 1965.
  7. ^ Stimulated in part, Tangherlini suggests, by the 1962 congress of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research.
  8. ^ de Boor, "Märchenforschung", Zeitschrift für Deutschkunde 42 1928:563-81.
  9. ^ Lutz Röhrich, Märchen und Wirklichkeit: Eine volkskundliche Untersuchung (Weisbaden: Steiner Verlag) 1956:9-26.
  10. ^ Heiske, "Das Märchen ist poetischer, die Sage, historischer.Versuch einer Kritik", Deutschunterricht14 1962:69-75..
  11. ^ Bernheim, Einleitung in der Geschichtswissenschaft(Berlin: de Gruyter) 1928.
  12. ^ Allport, The Psychology of Rumor (New York: Holt, Rinehart) 1947:164.
  13. ^ Bengt af Klintberg, "Folksägner i dag" Fataburen 1976:269-96.
  14. ^ Jansen, "Legend: oral tradition in the modern experience", Folklore Today, A Festschrift for William Dorson (Bloomington: Indiana University Press) 1972:265-72, noted in Tangherlini 1990:375.
One of the founders of modern studies in Greek mythology, Karl (Carl, Károly) Kerényi (January 19, 1897 - April 14, 1973) was born in Hungary but became a citizen of Switzerland in 1943. ...

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