Legend: Definition, Types, Structure, How to write a legend, and more. 


What is a legend?

Throughout history, literature has gathered all kinds of texts that have been transmitted both orally and in writing, so that it groups together all these artistic manifestations that have been so relevant for mankind. One of the oldest and most important is the legend, a type of text that is transmitted by oral tradition and that brings together elements of great importance in a specific context.

It is a subgenre of the narrative genre that recounts events of human or supernatural beings and is transmitted from generation to generation through oral narration.

Meaning of legend 

The term -legenda-, comes from Latin legenda, which is derived from legĕre and refers to -read. Here is gathered all the information that has been taken as “worthy of being known or read”.

The origin of the term, has allowed it to be used in different contexts, since it is often used to refer to someone who has obtained victories or even, someone who becomes an important referent, since his feats are worthy of recognition and admiration, hence expressions such as: “he has become a legend” are formed, alluding to his success.


Thus, the legend is defined as a type of narrative text that is transmitted orally from generation to generation and is perceived as true due to faculties that promote its credibility but that, with the passage of time, is modified and combines fictional elements. The legend narrates an event that happened in remote times that links historical and religious themes, mainly.

It is important to take into account that the legend documents the cultural identity of an ancient people, since they allow to approach aboriginal cultures from symbols and relationships found in the text. It can be partially historical or fantastic and gives an account of popular cultures guided by a specific social and cultural context.

What is a legend

What is the function of the legend?

According to the definition of the term, the purpose of the legend is to give meaning to a particular culture or society, so that through the text it explains and details central aspects focused on its origin, customs, rituals, among other elements of distinction. Its content passes as true even though it arises from the imagination.

Origin of the legend 

The birth of the legend dates back to the prehistoric period, a time when the civilizations that were beginning to emerge also began to try to explain aspects related to morality, ethics, traditions, celebrations and a whole set of elements that would shape their culture. Hence its link with the popular traditions of the place where it is created.

The term is first used around the 17th century, when Christian Protestants used the term to describe the history and situations of the saints within the Catholic Church. They referred to the stories of these figures as legends, since they considered them to be fictitious facts, although it is known that the birth of the legend took place many years before these manifestations. Some say that they are more than 100,000 years old and that they narrate the origin of natural phenomena that were unknown to humans.

Characteristics of the legend 

The essential characteristic of the legend as a subgenre is the link with the oral tradition, since the legend is transmitted in this way and manages to pass from generation to generation to stay alive. Other important aspects of the legend are:

Religious origin

It is considered that the legend arises with religious sense because they are writings that begin to be read inside spaces considered sacred as temples. This is how they began to be compiled and known as the legend of the saints, texts that sought to explain phenomena that were not understood by reason.

Relationship with popular culture

The location from which the legend arises, describes elements of the place in which are immersed aspects of traditional character that link popular events, which is why they are related, sometimes, directly with the popular culture of the people. This has allowed the legends to be sources of knowledge to enter the community in which it arises and learn more about them, making analysis to these people and their most frequent searches and concerns from their time.

Defined time and space

In legends, the place and the time in which they take place must be specific and are described by spatial elements. However, the oldest tales have a specific region of location.

Fictional agents

The legend can present in its story beings coming from fantasy among which appear beasts, angels, fairies, witches or other characters that star in the story. It mixes fictional elements with reality.

Capacity for transformation

The legend is a type of narration that although it is based on historical facts or events that come from oral traditions of antiquity, they are transformed with the passage of time. This is because they are adapted to the time and place in which they are told, such as changing terms, substituting words or transformed in such a way that they can be used for a specific audience according to their context.

Short storytelling

Legends are known, among other things, for being a short type of text, which is why they are easily recognized and are constructed by elementary literary resources that allow them to unfold quickly, thus their short duration.


In many cases the legend is separated from the real history focusing its purpose either didactic or nationalistic. This allows the people to have greater self-confidence in complex moments or that have put them in danger in order to strengthen themselves.

What are its components?

The structure in which the legend is found may vary depending on the context or the way in which it is narrated, however, it is possible to identify key elements that allow it to be distinguished from other types of narrative text, going through its central axis:


Also known as introduction, it is the part of the text in which the place and time, as well as the main characters or protagonists are exposed and presented. It centers the area in which the actions will take place and establishes the tone of the narrative. Conflict resolution is the intimate quest of the characters, especially the protagonist.


At this stage, through the initial part of the legend, the text reaches determining events and goes through events of conflict and obstacles in which the protagonist faces and makes decisions to overcome them. It is the most complex part of the story where the climax is reached and the most emotional events take place.


It is the final part of the legend in which, after the strong events of the knot, the conflicts raised begin to be resolved. It is here where the intensity of the plot that took place in the most complete part of the legend falls, where the protagonists resolve the situations they went through. It can have an immersed teaching or just close the course of events and the achievement of their goals and objectives.

Characteristics of the legend 

Types of legends

Legends, texts that are born and are part of the folklore of a region, a community or a people and defined in that same context, can vary depending on the subject matter, which is why it is possible to distinguish different types of legends. These are:

Religious legend

Throughout history, religious legends have had a great relevance in believing peoples, since this type of texts focuses on the life of important justiciary characters such as saints, and many of them involve negative events with which repentance and warning are sought.

Children’s legend

This type of legend is focused on children, since it often uses elements such as fantastic characters or unreal scenarios that are part of the popular tradition and are oriented to explain the origin of spaces and even have the function of leaving a teaching against an inadequate conduct or behavior. Thus, children’s legends can also warn children of dangers and the consequences that negative behaviors can produce.

There are legends that are adapted and focused on children and which manage to spread to many areas far from where they originate, because they are oriented to the same objective.

Moral legends

These are legends that have been massively spread, so that they are known almost everywhere in the world. In this type of legends there is a discussion between good and evil, which is why figures such as angels and demons are linked. This is a crucial element for the appreciation and reaffirmation of both extremes, which is why they are known in almost every community on earth.

Eschatological legends

These are legends that focus mainly on stories that touch primarily on content based on the afterlife.

Ethological legends

In this type of legends, the content of their story is elaborated in such a way that it explains the origin of different elements that are part of the surrounding nature. It is one of the main legends of indigenous peoples.

Legend of terror

It includes common stories that seek to generate fear in those who listen or read them, which is why it contains themes such as pain, cruelty and death. In many cases they are told as if they were true and refer to people close to them, even associated with events that occurred in nearby places. Their adaptation has allowed the creation of urban legends of terror.

Urban legend

From the horror legend, the urban legend becomes a type of story that is part of contemporary folklore and is massively disseminated through the media. Many urban legends contain implausible aspects and are related to conspiracy theories.

How to write a legend?

Although legends largely come from antiquity, the key to these is that they arise in a community and include elements of the context, so it is possible to write a legend. Let’s see what the steps are.

Locate the time and place 

The first thing to do is to locate the area and the time in which the story is going to take place. To do this you can resort to an everyday event and observation is very important. According to the place where you are, it is possible to find different resources and starting points for the legend, known nearby streets, private houses, etc. This in a rural environment as well as in an urban one.

Character construction 

In the legend it is key to use type characters. They consist of characters that have common traits and take on similar characteristics to the people of the place in which it arises, based mainly on those figures with great experience and adventurers, such as young people, elders and children who are in contact with the outside. This is important because it increases the identification required to feel part of this area, since the character must be related to the idiosyncrasy of the area.

Choice of real and fantastic elements 

Having defined the above, it is time to make other clarifications. Among them, choose whether the narrator will present the time and place where the story takes place, establish the elements that will be real and those that will be fantastic within the story, which will enrich the story and give it the fictional sense it requires.

Structuring the story 

Once the previous information has been gathered, it is time to organize the story with the narrative structure, taking into account the introduction, the knot and the denouement. To do this, it is best to organize and divide it by paragraphs, so that it is clearer visually and in them, print the key speeds and actions for each one to develop correctly. Describe the spaces so that the reader feels part of the story and can situate himself closely.

Final proofreading 

Once you have the text ready, it must go through several revisions, so that you can identify if the story is understood correctly, if each of the actions and situations of the characters run coherently, other aspects such as the description of spaces and locations, in addition to the spelling in general of the text. On the other hand, the visual aspect is important and even more so if you want to direct it to the children’s audience, therefore, if it is within your possibilities, consider an illustration or several within the course of the legend to capture the attention of children, even it will also be key for the adult audience.

Remember to look for references of legends so that ideas begin to emerge, either from legends in your area or from other nearby regions. A good approach could also be to listen to stories from grandparents and older people, whose stories are considered legends.

Most important and representative

Since these are texts that contain ancient themes and have been passed down from generation to generation, their author is usually anonymous, since the person who created them is unknown. Their reproduction has allowed us to have some legends known worldwide, such as the Loch Ness Monster, Robin Hood, La Llorona,

Legends are a fundamental part of the culture of a region, they become contextual references that continue to tell partial experiences of those who live in a particular area and therefore remain alive in the repetition and oral and written transmission in each of the countries.