Oban's Myths & Legends
What are legends?
explained by Oban
Legends are also stories that have been made up, but they are different from myths. Myths answer questions about how the natural world works, and are set in a time long-ago, before history was written.
Legends are about people and their actions or deeds. The people lived in more recent times and are mentioned in history. The stories are told for a purpose and are based on facts, but they are not completely true.
Either the person never really did what the story says, or the historical events were changed. The purpose was to make the story more interesting or convincing, or to teach a lesson, like knowing right from wrong.
Examples of people in English legends are King Arthur, Robin Hood and Queen Boadicea. A man who may have been King Arthur is known to have lived in the 5th or 6th century. But the stories about the Knights of the Round Table and Merlin the Magician may not be true. The point of the story was that the knights and their king defended their people and helped them.
The character and deeds of Robin Hood may have been based on someone else. Robin of Loxley lived in Nottinghamshire around the time of the story, and he did help the poor. But did he live in Nottingham forest with a band of robbers? Probably not, but helping other people is important and the legend hasn’t been forgotten.
Boadicea was first female queen in Britain. History tells us she lived in the 1st century and led her people in their fight against the Romans when they invaded. The Romans won and conquered Britain. Boadicea was captured and died in prison, but legends say that she escaped and fought on. This story was intended to encourage people in countries invaded by the Romans, to resist and fight.
Like myths, legends are passed down from generation to generation.
How we use the word 'legend' today
Today people use the word ‘legend’ in a different way when they talk about people and their deeds. They may describe a basketball player, football player or runner as a “sporting legend”, or an actor as a “film legend”. What they mean is the person is famous because of their skills or things they have done. This is similar to the earlier use of the word, and the legend stories.