Legend

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A legend (Latin, legenda, "things to be read") is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude. Legend, for its active and passive participants includes no happenings that are outside the realm of "possibility", defined by a highly flexible set of parameters, which may include miracles that are perceived as actually having happened, within the specific tradition of indoctrination where the legend arises, and within which it may be transformed over time, in order to keep it fresh and vital, and realistic.

The Brothers Grimm defined legend as folktale historically grounded.[1] A modern folklorist's professional definition of legend was proposed by Timothy R. Tangherlini in 1990:[2]

Legend, typically, is a short (mono-) episodic, traditional, highly ecotypified[3] historicized narrative performed in a conversational mode, reflecting on a psychological level a symbolic representation of folk belief and collective experiences and serving as a reaffirmation of commonly held values of the group to whose tradition it belongs."

Contents

Etymology and origin

The word "legend" appeared in the English language circa 1340, transmitted from mediaeval Latin language through French.[4] Its blurred extended (and essentially Protestant) sense of a non-historical narrative or myth was first recorded in 1613. By emphasizing the unrealistic character of "legends" of the saints, English-speaking Protestants were able to introduce a note of contrast to the "real" saints and martyrs of the Reformation, whose authentic narratives, they were sure, could be found in Foxe's Book of Martyrs.[5] Thus "legend" gained its modern connotations of "undocumented" and "spurious". Before the invention of the printing press, stories were passed on via oral tradition. Storytellers learned their stock in trade: their stories, typically received from an older storyteller, who might, though more likely not, have claimed to have actually known a witness, rendered the narrative as "history". Legend is distinguished from the genre of chronicle by the fact that legends apply structures that reveal a moral definition to events, providing meaning that lifts them above the repetitions and constraints of average human lives and giving them a universality that makes them worth repeating through many generations. In German-speaking and northern European countries, "legend", which involves Christian origins, is distinguished from "Saga", being from any other (usually, but not necessarily older) origin.

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