Guide to Literary Terms

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Legend

Legend - a tradition or story handed down from earlier times and popularly accepted as true but actually a mix of fact and fiction. The term is also applied to any fictitious tale concerning a real person, event, or place and is likely to be less concerned with the supernatural than a myth. Another definition of legend is brief, explanatory comments accompanying a photograph, map, or painting; in such a case, a synonym is caption.

The term comes from the Medieval Latin legenda, meaning “to be read,” which was derived from legere, meaning “to read.”

Originally, the term denoted a story about a saint which was read aloud during the services of the early Christian church.

Among the many Greek legends are the epics of Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey. Some legendary characters are King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood, and Beowulf.

see: folklore, hagiography, myth