What is the difference between myth and legend?

Myths are fantastic stories, usually with supernatural figures like gods or monsters, which serve to explain certain facts through metaphors and symbolisms.

Legends, on the other hand, are accounts of historical events and people of antiquity. Therefore, they are based on a certain historical moment. However, these stories are distorted or exaggerated, receiving a fantastic air.

Although these words are commonly used interchangeably to refer to the fictional nature of something, they have many differences.

Legend Myth
Is there evidence? Yes, but the evidence can be insubstantial. Do not.
Historical context It is based on some historical context. It may originate from historical events, but it is not possible to identify them in the narrative.
Fact or fiction It is usually based on historical facts, which are distorted or exaggerated. It may be inspired by a historical moment, but its content is purely fictional.
Characters Notable people or events in history. Supernatural gods, beings and kingdoms and heroes.
What is it about? Mainly about heroic acts, but it can also be about evil. It usually seeks to explain natural phenomena through symbolism and metaphor.
Meaning The word “legend” is derived from the Latin legend , which means “history” or “things to be read”. The word “myth” comes from the Greek word mythos , which means “thought, history or speech”.
Example The legend of Robin Hood or the legend of King Arthur. The Pandora’s Box myth or the creation of the world myth.

What are myths?

Greek myth about the creation of the Milky Way

The myth is a type of symbolic narrative, which is intended to explain certain phenomena through metaphors and symbolisms.

The myths use invented characters, usually supernatural entities such as deities and demigods, and other fantastic elements. They usually occur outside of conventional timelines.

Throughout history, myths have been used to explain seemingly inexplicable phenomena or certain customs of some population. They are considered sacred and true, often reaffirmed by religious leaders and rulers.

Therefore, it was common for ancient myths to have been accepted as facts, as in the case of Greek and Roman gods. But over time, reason and science resulted in the fall of many of these stories, which came to be seen as false, that is, mythical stories.

It is the myths that shape the mythologies that exist in each culture, as in the case of Greco-Roman, Norse, Chinese mythology, among others.

Examples of myths

Myths are the stories that make up mythologies and serve to explain certain events. For example, in Greek mythology, the story of Pandora’s Box is used to explain how ills and diseases came to Earth.

Another well-known Greek myth is the story of Prometheus, who stole Zeus’s fire to give to humans. A common contemporary myth is that black cats bring bad luck, which has no real evidence.

We can also bring examples of Brazilian folklore. Brazilian myths have fantastic figures such as Saci Pererê, Curupira, Boitatá, among many others.

What are legends?

Robin Hood’s story turned into a legend

Legends are stories that can include fantastic or superhuman elements, but are presumed to be based on historical facts and to mention real people or events.

A historical fact becomes a legend when the truth is exaggerated, giving special characteristics to people or fantasizing events. For example, in them, historical figures may have superhuman or extraordinary qualities.

In addition, real events can incorporate false elements, such as a wise man or fortune teller warning a hero about future events.

Although the characteristics of the people, particularly of the heroes, cannot be proved or even false, the legends still have some basis in the truth. Therefore, they can be placed in a historical context.

Examples of legends

A classic example of legend is the stories of Robin Hood. In the story, Robin is an outlaw known to steal from the rich to give to the poor who would have lived in England during the 12th century.

Another example is the stories of King Arthur, which would have been based on a true British leader. Its existence, however, is still a subject of debate among historians.

Evidence on myths and legends

Since myths tend to include supernatural elements in a very old past, there is no objective evidence or evidence that the story happened.

Legends are stories based on real people or historical events. Therefore, they can be placed on a real time line. They can be verified to some extent, but they often have elements that cannot be verified.



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