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Legend and Belief: Dialectics of a Folklore Genre by Linda Dégh (Indiana University Press, 2001)


(1) A narrative handed down from the past to explain an event, transmit a lesson, or simply entertain an audience. Though customarily told as "true" stories, legends often contain supernatural, bizarre, or highly improbable elements. See also:

(2) An explanatory list of the symbols on a chart, table, or map.


From the Latin, "(selected) to be read"

Examples and Observations (#1):

  • "The legend is a narrative produced and transmitted orally or in writing, about a single, extraordinary, supernatural, or marvelous, true or fictitious, believed or slighted, often dated/localized event (experience), brought up with didactic or entertaining intent; it serves to confirm, or expand the experiential horizon of the recipient and confirm or question a momentarily valid conception of the world."
    (Rudolf Schenda, quoted by Linda Dégh in Legend and Belief: Dialectics of a Folklore Genre. Indiana Univ. Press, 2001)

  • "It is our nature to protect our children--for each generation to pass on their cautionary tales to the next. So it is with the myth of Icarus: the legend of a boy who fashioned wings from feathers and wax, daring to fly into the heavens. His father was fearful, and warned Icarus to be careful, begging him not to tempt fate by flying too close to the sun. But in the end, the boy couldn't resist. His wax and wings melted from the sun's rays, and he plunged to his death."
    (Sendhil Ramamurthy as Mohinder Suresh in Heroes, 2006)

  • Ransom Stoddard: You're not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?
    Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
    (James Stewart and Carleton Young in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962)
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