Legend Examples In Literature

Definition of Legend

Legend is a traditional story that is treated as historical despite its unverified nature. Legend, in a lot of cases, includes the protagonists who possess heroic qualities or encounter the wondrous land which is cherished by many common people of the culture or nation. 

In literature, legend acts for the creation of tales that some, with their content both realistic and extraordinary, give a better understanding of the human nature and cultural norms of the society.

Common Examples of Legend


Legends originate not only in one country but also in many countries around the world. For instance, the King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table story, The Loch Ness Monster, the Fountain of Youth, and the Robin Hood legend. 

These tales frequently bring out the goodness in the actions of the characters, displays courage, honor and morality as they respond to life challenges. Such stories can be told differently for different situations and for different purposes.

Examples of Legend in Literature

Example#1

“Beowulf” – The Epic Legend

“Then was Beowulf of the brave deeds, the pride of the Geats, spoken of widely; many said that south or north, over the seas’ expanse, there was none under heaven to be chosen as king, none more worthy of lordship.”

The passage indicates the mythical status of the hero ie. Beowulf among his people, the Geats. It demonstrates that how the courageous deeds of Beowulf spread his fame everywhere.

This makes him a figure of enormous respect and admiration among the people. The excerpt reflects that there is no other leader across the seas who is deserving for rulership other than Beowulf.

The portrayal increases the legendary status of Beowulf. It presents him as the ideal of heroism and leadership. Here, the use of legend aids to elevate Beowulf to an mythical status.

This makes his tale one that incorporates the cultural ideals of bravery and nobility.

Example#2

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving

“Some mention him as a dreamy, foolish fellow, rather tall and lank, who was often known to start at chance noises as if they were premonitions.”

The paragraph depicts the personality of the individual whom is mainly thought by people as absent-minded and a little idiotic, referring to his obviously tall and lanky size and his nervousness to sudden noises. 

Starting with the “chance noises as if they were premonitions”, the picture becomes more vivid telling about the sensitivity or probably the nervousness of the protagonist. 

This loving description lays him as either an odd or unconventional person. This creates the stage for how these attributes impact his behaviors as the story progress or how the others look at him. 

It really makes him stand out from any common character that you soon come to identify with as he grows to be the center of the story.

See also: Thank You Ma’am Literary Devices

Example#3

“The Odyssey” by Homer

“Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.”

Here the speaker appeals to the Muse to assist in this account with respect to “the man of twists and turns”.

This epithet alludes to this figure’s treason, his difficult journey after the Trojan War, and then his return home. 

By summoning the Muse, the narrator does not only indicate how this story is a huge deal full of divine intervention, heroic life battles and insights into human nature but he also supports his story with the highest means of expression i.e., poetry. 

This introductory part effectively allows him as a legendary character whose exploits transcend the bounds of normal human experience, which is in essence the epic form, and the continued relevance of heroic personages in literature.

Example#4

“King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table” by Roger Lancelyn Green

“And so King Arthur and the Queen made great provision to go to Rome, and as they made their journey thither, Arthur had word that Sir Mordred had crowned himself King at Canterbury, and that the Queen had fled to the Tower of London from his violence. Then was Arthur wroth out of measure.”

The passage presents the legend of Arthur’s conflict with his nephew, Sir Mordred, a pivotal and tragic part of the Arthurian legends.

This conflict ultimately leads to the downfall of King Arthur and his kingdom. According to the legend, while King Arthur was abroad, Mordred usurped the throne, an act of treachery that led to the infamous Battle of Camlann.

The legend of Mordred’s betrayal and the subsequent battle where Arthur is mortally wounded encapsulates themes of betrayal, fallibility, and the tragic consequences of familial disloyalty.

This narrative serves as a critical moment in Arthurian literature, highlighting the fragility of peace and the tragic destiny that seems to shadow great heroes and their realms.

It reflects on the cyclic nature of history, where great achievements are often shadowed by great failures or misfortunes.

Mordred’s usurpation and the battle that followed are not just dramatic climaxes; they also serve to underscore the narrative’s exploration of themes like loyalty, honor, and the inevitability of fate.

Example#5

“Paradise Lost” by John Milton

“Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In adamantine chains and penal fire,
Who durst defy the Omnipotent to arms.”

In the poem, Satan’s rebellion and his eventual punishment for his insurrection in Heaven is the central subject.

It is used to draw out the characters’ development, create the space for the viewers to reflect and unconsciously share in a universal experience.

This piece represents the very moment, as Satan openly rebels against God and consequently is thrown out of Heaven.

The author depicts this event with strong, images that are not only powerful and evocative but also paint Satan as he treks “headlong flaming from the ethereal sky” into “bottomless perdition” there he is confined by “adamantine chains and penal fire.”

The heroic fall of the angel of God draws attention to, amongst others, such topics of interplay of obedience, freedom, and the place of evil in this world.

Milton’s Satan has a complex, noble, and drama-filled character of which is the reason for the legend to reach heights of steadiness as a reflection on the consequences of rebellion.

Eventually, Adam and Eve succumbed to his temptations but the rebellion is spiritual and cosmic in nature.

Milton’s inclusion of that myth enhances those philosophical as well as theological depths of epic that treats with the subjects about the interpretation of free will, justice and predestination.

Function of Legend

The legends sustain their key roles in the literature. They perform several crucial tasks.

In fact, legend frequently serves as a tool to preserve the cultural heritage and folklore of a community, as it helps in transferring significant stories and values from one generation to another.

Myths, in their turn, frequently present archetypal heroes, magical realms, or ethical messages of the similar topics which are close to a certain people’s mentality and society.

These tales serve as both a form of amusement and as historical commentary. It allows readers to get some idea about the societies of the past from the viewpoints of the characters.

Also the legends are interesting inasmuch as they can give identity and an element of community through their people linking with the shared past and the collective memory.

Literary Terms Related to Legend

1- Allusion

Allusion is a kind of literary device wherein the author makes an indirect representation of somebody else’s work in the literature, myth, or historical document sections.

It is a method that the writers employ to talk about myths in writing. Through the allusion the myths artists can do more than just enrich the theme.

They use clever references to highlight certain traits of the character and situation. They bring out the deep meaning of the whole plot.

2- Symbolism

Symbolism is the use of symbols which represents words, people, phase, locations and abstract ideas to represent something more than just the outside existence.

Symbolism is often used to introduce an intuitive meaning to the story, thus, giving it a more comprehensive, and profound meaning.

The legendary symbols, such as the Holy Grail or Excalibur, have multi-layered significances reflecting meanings of ideals like the ultimate sacrifice, purity, or the sign of the freedom.

These symbols enable a more profound subject of thematic aspects to the tales that witness them.

legend examples in literature
legend examples in literature

To conclude, legends are the main part of the literary tradition. They not only provide entertainment but also give moral and cultural lessons. By using the literary device like litotes, the writers enhances the stories, which offer new depths and perspectives. Such tales go on arousing curiosity, memories and those values which get casted because of time, but yet nationally inherited.

More to read: Literary Devices That Start with L

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