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When we look back in history, many of the accounts, particularly in the Middle Ages, are considered legends. The early usage of the word legend simply meant a narrative of an event. Over time, it took on the idea of being a spurious narrative.
Legend is a loanword from Old French that entered English usage circa 1340. The Old French noun legende derives from the Medieval Latin legenda. In its early English-language usage, the word indicated a narrative of an event. The word legendary was originally a noun (introduced in the 1510s) meaning a collection or corpus of legends. This word changed to legendry, and legendary became the adjectival form.
By 1613, English-speaking Protestants began to use the word when they wished to imply that an event (especially the story of any saint not acknowledged in John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments) was fictitious. Thus, legend gained its modern connotations of “undocumented” and “spurious”, which distinguish it from the meaning of chronicle.
Legends differ from myths and fables in that legends contain some historical basis.
A legend is a genre of folklore that consists of a narrative featuring human actions, believed or perceived to have taken place in human history. Narratives in this genre may demonstrate human values, and possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude. Legend, for its active and passive participants, may include miracles. Legends may be transformed over time to keep them fresh and vital.
Many legends operate within the realm of uncertainty, never being entirely believed by the participants, but also never being resolutely doubted. Legends are sometimes distinguished from myths in that they concern human beings as the main characters rather than gods, and sometimes in that they have some sort of historical basis whereas myths generally do not.
“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.”
Legends originally referred to a story about a saint.
Legend, traditional story or group of stories told about a particular person or place. Formerly the term legend meant a tale about a saint. Legends resemble folktales in content; they may include supernatural beings, elements of mythology, or explanations of natural phenomena, but they are associated with a particular locality or person and are told as a matter of history.
Over time, a legend evolves and adds more things to make it more interesting.
Legends, as opposed to fictional myths, contain a seed of truth. They are born from historical events, people or real-life moments that become part of our collective cultural context. But as these stories evolve and pass from generation to generation, they pick up details that can twist and color the truth, making legends even more memorable, relatable and entertaining.