What are some characteristics of famous people

Legend: definition, characteristics, analysis & 10 well-known examples

A legend is a story about the life or work of a certain person. It has different characteristics, but is always the same in essence. Find out from us what characteristics it has and how you can analyze them. You will also find various versions and examples of well-known legends.

The legend is an old and popular form of narration, which can be transmitted primarily in text form, but also orally. We'll tell you which facets the legend has, how you can recognize it and analyze it in a structured way. You will also find interesting legends from the pre-Middle Ages to modern sagas and urban legends in our examples.

Which is a legend

Which is a legend

The legend is a type of text related to the fairy tale, the fable and the saga, but it is one closer relationship to literary tradition Has. The term comes from the medieval Latin “legenda”, which can be translated as “that which is to be read” or “that which is to be read aloud”.

In contrast to the fairy tale or the legend, the legend has more Parallels to biographical facts on. Even if facts and truth can often not be spoken of, the legend at least tries to get to the core or that Meaning of an event or a life to convey.

Your goal is one Truth of faith to proclaim and not to reproduce historical facts. The stories of salvation and divine work in the form of miracles and other exemplary personalities are to be reported. The terms “saga” and “legend” are often used synonymously, despite slight differences.

The origin of the genus "legend"

Legends arose in the Antiquity about people who, because of their exemplary religious personality were regarded as "saints". There is even a separate area of ​​research, “hagiography”, which among other things deals with the examination of the legends of saints.

The most famous legend in Germany is that of Jesus Christ and his apostles. They are followed by other Christian martyr legends, Marian legends, apostolic legends, monk legends, virgin legends, penitential legends and bishop legends (for example of St. Nicholas). Also the stories of Buddha of the Buddhist Faith and the Prophet Mohammed of the Islamic faith can be called legends.

The legends that arose in ancient Christianity were later recorded as epics in Middle High German verses in the Middle Ages. In the Renaissance (15th - 16th century) the legend was first encountered critically and made a clear distinction between fiction and fact. Martin Luther, too, was skeptical of the stories about divine miracles, but ultimately recognized them as productive poems.

In the time of enlightenment (around 1700) the legend of the new critical way of thinking did not withstand, but received in the romance (Late 18th - 19th century) a new one Boom. In the 19th century, numerous writers dealt with the legend again. Today's legends are mostly Urban Legends; modern sagas, big city legends and myths, which are often spread on the Internet or orally, often according to the principle "A friend of my friend's friend ... happened once."

5 characteristics of a classic legend

The following characteristics are more likely to meet classic and above all Legends written down to. Mostly they are about saints or heroes who have lived exemplary. You are more likely to come across this type of legend in school. So-called ‘Urban Legends’, for example, are not included. In the next chapter you will find more about the different characteristics of a legend.

  1. The protagonists are usually called by name.
  2. The locations are usually named by name.
  3. The protagonists are exemplary actors (Christian, heroic or in some other way).
  4. Legends usually have a historical core and are based on facts.
  5. An overly clear and embellished presentation of the events tries to emphasize the core of the story.

Different versions of a legend

One expression: the legend of the saints

Considering the overall development of the legend, four different forms of the literary genre have emerged today. There are no official names for these types, because the stories are all grouped under the term “legend”. Roughly, however, they can be divided into saints legends and folk legends, with three forms falling under folk legends. We have carried out the four variants for you.

Saints legends

On the one hand there is the religious narrative about the life, death or martyrdom of saints, which has prevailed since antiquity; for example Apostles legends. They are mostly formulated in writing and belong to the classic type of (saint) legend. They are often taken up in literary terms.

Folk legends

Second, there is that Legend of a famous person, around which some myths have developed due to their notoriety; For example legends about knights, politicians, freedom fighters, other celebrities or ‘living legends’. They can, but do not always have to, appear in writing and are part of the folk legends.

Third, there is an ornate one, based on facts or fictional legend about a fictional or real person; like the movie “The Legend of Aang” by M. Night Shyamalan or the books “The Legend of the Guardians” by Kathryn Lasky. This type of legend is similar to the classical type because it is literary. In contrast to this, it can also be based on folk legends, purely fictional or interspersed with fantastic elements.

For the fourth there is Claims, prejudices or myths that form into legends. Belong to them too Urban Legends and Wandering legends. For example, a former claim that has become a prejudice is that women drive worse than men. A modern folk legend is that “Nessi”, the Loch Ness Monster, is real. A typical hiking legend is that when a student is asked "What is courage?" handed in a blank sheet of paper and got an A because with this action he showed what courage means. This story circulates in schools in various forms.

Analysis of a legend

Analysis of a legend

The analysis of a legend is similar to other analyzes. See novel analysis, novel analysis, poem analysis or factual text analysis. In school or university, either excerpts, entire legends or the origin of legends can be analyzed. In the following, we will show you how your analysis should be structured and how you can prepare yourself.

If you are dealing with a legend analysis as part of a scientific work, you will find tips for your term paper here, here for your bachelor thesis and here for your master thesis.


Since a legend is mainly about the life and work of a special person, rhetorical means are often used to enhance it. You could familiarize yourself with them in preparation. Here is a list of the most important rhetorical tools.

If you have the legend or an excerpt in writing, you can read important ones the first time Markings in different colors Make short comments in the margin summarizing the paragraphs. That is also helpful Researching secondary literature or biographies of the person who will help you interpret it.


As in other analyzes, the introductory sentence must not be missing in the legend analysis. He should always receive all important information (if available): So Author, title, year of publication, place of publication and type of text. Furthermore, you can briefly outline the content and name the epoch, if it is relevant. Your introduction shouldn't be longer than two sentences.


The main part should deal with one or more theses deal on your part. You can use them as open questions formulate or simply in the form of assumptions put up. Examples are: "What role do the bow and arrow play in the legend of Robin Hood?" or “How is the heroism of Beowulf linguistically supported?

During your analysis, always keep the overall context in view and draw Examples from the text as evidence for your theses. Quotedirectly or make comparisons in which you paraphrase what is in the text. Corresponding references are always important, in which you state the page and line of the text at hand. Use specialist vocabulary and interpret rhetorical meansto convey credibility. But also write in a reader-friendly way and explain clearly what you mean. Work on the Confirmation of your thesis or answer your question and then move on to the end.


In the final part of your analysis, you should briefly summarize your results. Reflect on them in relation to the entire legend and, if possible, relate them to the present day. Is there a moral or a certain doctrine that is still relevant today? Find a successful one Final sentencethat makes the reader think about what has been written.

10 examples of well-known legends

The legend of Robin Hood

In the following you will find different versions of legends. For example, the legends of Saint Martin and Saint Nicholas are classic Saints legends of Christianity. The legend of Jeanne d'Arc was initially one Folk legendbased on historical facts. Due to the retrospective canonization, however, it can also be viewed as a legend of saints.

The Legend of Beowulf is a good example of a folk legend who doesn't necessarily stick to facts, but one biographical hero story tells. Robin Hood found his Origin in folk myths and ballads. Goethe's “Legend of the Horseshoe” is a literary legend of saints. The legend of the Bloody Mary is one of the so-called Urban Legends. The legends of Aang and Korra, both of which are based on the books on “Avatar - The Last Airbender” are fictional legendsplaying in a fantastic parallel world.

The legend of Saint Martin

In the year 334 should Martin of Tours met a naked man. It was winter and so Martin drew his sword and split his own cloak in two. He gave half to the naked man. Martin von Tours is also credited with miracles and healings, which is why we know him as Saint Martin and remember him on Martin's Day.

The legend of St. Nicholas

There was one in the 4th century Bishop named Nicholas of Myrawho allegedly helped the people to an unexpected delivery of grain and was able to satisfy their hunger. At the 6th of December, the anniversary of his death, we celebrate St. Nicholas' Day in his memory, on which we have our shoes and stockings filled with goodies.

The legend of Joan of Arc

Jeanne d’Arc lived in the 15th century and is one French national heroine. She is also called the Virgin of Orléans or Joan of Arc and venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic faith. She made a good contribution to France in the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). Since she was charged after the defeat of France and burned at the stake, although her sentence was overturned 24 years later, she became martyr explained. She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920. Her feast day is May 30th.

The legend of Beowulf

The legend of Beowulf

Like the film of the same name (2007), The Legend of Beowulf is based on one early medieval heroic epic in verse form. The hero Beowulf kills a human-devouring monster named “Grendel” with his bare hands in the first fight. In the second fight, he kills the monster's mother with a giant's sword and is richly rewarded for it by the Danish king. In the third fight he slays a dragon, but is mortally wounded. He is buried in a burial mound near the sea.

The legend of Robin Hood

Robin Hood is that Hero of several late medieval and early modern ballads. He is portrayed as a robber of simple origin who unties the nobles and greedy clergy from excess property. Initially shaped by medieval cruelty, the stories have evolved and portrayed Robin Hood increasingly positively. He becomes the patriot of Great Britain and the Symbol for social justiceby giving his booty to the poor. In 13th century England, law breakers were referred to as “Robin Hood”. The existence of the one hero named Robin Hood could never be proven.

Goethe's "Legend of the Horseshoe"

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote one in 1797 Legend of Jesus Christ in verse. Jesus asks his disciple Peter to pick up an old horseshoe, but then has to pick it up himself. He sells the horseshoe and gets cherries for the money. Jesus throws the cherries on the floor, so that every time Peter has to bend down to get a cherry. This symbolizes the doctrine of the ballad, namely: If you take care of yourself early enough, you have less trouble later. The legend is taken up here in literary terms: verse form, a saint as protagonist and a doctrine unite the legend in the original sense.

The legend of the Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary is the ghost figure one modern folk legend (Urban Legend), which as Wandering legend especially popular and popular in the US and UK. Not only was a cocktail named after her, she also appears again and again in various horror films (e.g. “Paranormal Activity 3”). Bloody Mary is a vengeful ghost dwelling in mirrors. She is usually pale, has long hair, and in many forms, blood runs down from a cut on her forehead. She mainly appears in bathroom mirrors when you call her.

The legend of Bloody Mary

The spirit of the Bloody Mary is based on one Massachusetts woman, who was called Mary Worth, Mary Whales or Mary Jane and is said to have lived in the 17th century. Mary's face is said to have been disfigured, which is why children with the The nickname "Bloody Mary" was called. She is also said to have been accused of witchcraft in Salem and either hanged or burned. Other sources state that she was killed by a lover and still others that she could predict the future.

A popular test of courage arose in the 19th century among children and adolescents who wanted to conjure up the Bloody Mary. To do this, you should stand in front of a mirror, turn off the light and just hold a burning candle in your hands. “Bloody Mary” is called three times and those who believe in her enough should see her instead of their own reflection.

The Legend of Aang

The Legend of Aang ("The Last Airbender", 2010) is an American film directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The script is based on the first book of the TV series “Avatar - The Last Airbender”. In a parallel world, the four elements (fire, water, air and earth) can be dominated by humans. Aang is the last living airbender and tries to stop the war of the elements.

The legend of Korra

The Legend of Korra (in the English original “The Legend of Korra”, 2012-2014) is an American animated series, which like “The Legend of Aang” is also based on “Avatar - The Last Airbender”. However, it deals with a continuation of the story in two seasons. The Earth Kingdom has become a kingdom in its own right with the help of Aang. Much of the action takes place in its capital. The four elements must always be kept in balance.

Karl Lagerfeld as a modern legend

Before Karl Lagerfeld died in February 2019, he was already considered living legend in the fashion world. The press refers to him as “Modegott”, “Modezar” or “Kaiser Karl”. He was employed at Chloé, Fendi and most recently at Chanel. His level of awareness is undisputed, his statements are often quoted. He is a good example of a modern legend based on the biography and work of an individual. It is established in society as long as people are still talking about him, the press is writing about him, or stories and biographies are being written about him.

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