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What's the Difference Between Myth and Legend?

The main difference between Myth and Legend is the nature of the story. Myths are symbolic and fictitious stories that are inherently religious or mystical. Legends, on the other hand, are inaccurate or unauthenticated historical narratives that incorporate supernatural abilities or phenomena.

What is a Myth?

Zeus, the god of Olympus belonging to the Greek Mythology

Myth is derived from the Greek word “Mythos” which means “thought, story, or speech” in English. The first recorded use of this English term was in the 1830s in an attempt to tell a story concerning divine beings. Myth is considered “symbolical storytelling”. Mythical stories often talk about the origin story of the world, the reign of supreme beings or deities and their relationship with mortals, or other supernatural occurrences. 

Mythical stories are purely fictional. The settings, characters, and conflicts in Myths are all invented to teach values and virtues through the life, action, rewards, and punishments of the deities to the mortals in the stories.

What is a Legend?

The Loch Ness Monster, one of the most popular Legends coming from Scotland

Legend is derived from the Latin word “Legenda” which means “story” or “things to be read”. The first recorded use of this English term can be traced back to the 15th century. Legends are undocumented and romanticized historical accounts of people, places, or events that incorporates supernatural phenomena. Legend stories usually talk about the lives of notable people such as heroes, saints, and historical villains or origin stories of culture-specific events or places.

Legends are stories that have some historical basis. The settings or characters are based on or can be found in the recent past. Although legends can have connections to real events, they are still considered fictitious because they incorporate beyond-the-mundane qualities such as supernatural abilities or divine intervention.

Differences Between Myths and Legends

Myth and Legend are stories that are passed down through writing or orally to inform, inspire, or educate listeners about life’s mysteries and complexities. Sometimes, the one is being confused with the other. Even though they both let readers experience and learn what their protagonists lived through, there are key qualities that separate one from the other.

Characters

Mythical stories often talk about deities, gods, and other unworldly and supernatural beings. Mythical characters are created out of the pure imagination of the author or a certain race or culture.

Legend stories, on the other hand, can talk about notable people such as heroes, villains, or saints. They can also talk about creatures that are believed to be true but were never seen nor documented.

Settings

Myths often happen in imaginary or symbolic settings. Stories in Myths can take place in a timeless setting before the universe was created, or at a time that is different from the ordinary perception of it. Mythical stories could also happen in places that exist beyond the earth, beyond the universe, in an ethereal plane, or anywhere that doesn’t exist in the physical world.

Legends happen in a natural setting. They could happen at a certain point in recent and recorded history, in real cities or countries, or even in remote areas that are physically possible to point or reach out to.

Conflicts

Mythical stories often have a wider scope of conflict. The problems that could be found in myths are discord between humanity and gods, the uprising of mortals against deities, a nation facing an impending supernatural disaster, or a person that faces the wrath of its creators which often leads to an adventure.

The conflicts that can be found in legend stories are time, culture, and race-specific. Legends can revolve around the conflict of man vs society, heroic sacrifice, or struggle and victory. However, in order to achieve triumph, legendary characters possess extraordinary skills. For example, superhuman strength, a genius brain, or the ability to talk in all languages.

Inspiration

Mythical stories are attempts to explain or give answers to cultural tradition, unexplainable mysteries, or supernatural occurrences. Myths are stories that are deeply rooted in religion or belief among common folks living in a certain time and place or sharing the same culture.

Legends are unverified accounts of people, creatures, or places that are widely accepted and popular among generations. Legends attempt to teach morals and values that can be obtained from the struggles, failures, or victories of the protagonist with the incorporation of supernatural abilities or phenomena.

Comparison Chart: Myth Vs Legend

SpecificationsMythLegend
Characters InvolvedGods, Deities, and other unworldly beingsNotable people such as heroes, villains, saints, and creatures that are believed to be true
Setting (Time and Place)Timeless (before the universe, after the universe, time different from the universe)

Beyond the physical world(spiritual, ethereal, symbolical, or imagined)
Natural setting (time and place recorded in history)
ConflictsMortals vs Gods,
Man vs Nature
Man vs Society,
Man vs Environment
InspirationCultural Traditions, Mysteries, Religions, BeliefsUnverified accounts of people, creatures, or places
ExamplesGreek, Roman, Norse, and Egyptian MythologiesWilliam Tell, Sherlock Holmes, Excalibur, Loch Ness Monster, Shangri-La

Frequently Asked Questions

What can be Considered as Myths?

Myths are stories based on traditions and culture. Myths are more than just stories that teach a valuable lesson. Myths are complex narratives that have a profound purpose. Myths attempt to answer deep questions such as what is after-life, how and why the universe was created, and why there are seasons. Myths are considered sacred for some because it is deeply rooted in religion.

What is the Significance of Legends?

Legend stories often embody high moral values that are very useful and significant in order to shape people morality of all ages. In addition to that, children can also increase their creativity and comprehension by taking interest in reading or studying such stories.

How many Mythologies are out there?

There are a lot of Mythologies across time, culture and nations. There are about 100 known Mythologies as of today. Popular examples of Mythology are Greek, Roman, Norse, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Babylonian, Indian, and Chinese.

Conclusion

Throughout the course of history, humanity has been making an effort to tell stories and pass down knowledge and culture to the next generation. From the early markings on a cave wall, to digitally published articles, humanity is striving to understand itself by studying and storytelling every experience that it faces. Myths and Legends are examples of how humanity creatively passed down their perception of the world and how to live it. These are treasures and also a form of introspection to become better human beings.

Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.

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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
All Posts Written By Nicolas Seignette

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