What is the Structure of a Legend?

Abraham McLaughlin

The structure of a legend It is divided into introduction, development and denouement. Legends are short stories that are usually based on real events and characters, which are embellished and exaggerated in the narrative.

Legends generally include mythological creatures and supernatural events. However, the way the events are presented makes them feel closer to the lives of human beings than in the narratives called myths (where the center are the Greek and Roman gods).

In this sense, the legends give the impression of being more probable and less fictitious than the myths. In addition, the fact that the events narrated and the characters are real lends greater veracity to the legends, even when the story has been completely changed from generation to generation..

Usually the story revolves around a person of historical or cultural importance (such as Robin Hood or King Arthur).

There are also legends about places (like Atlantis and the Bermuda Triangle), about objects (the philosopher's stone and the holy grail) and about animals (the Loch Ness monster and the abominable snowman).

General structure of the legends

Portrait of King Arthur by Charles Ernest Butler, one of the most popular legends of all time. Source: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The structure of a legend is the same as any other narrative text; that is, it presents an introduction, a development or a middle and an outcome.

In addition to this, the legends are usually framed in some of the following themes: the struggle between good and evil, friendship and enmity, wealth and poverty, wisdom and ignorance, strength and weakness, justice and injustice, and adventures.

Legends that have a relevant historical character as the protagonist usually follow the following structure.


In the introduction, the information concerning the narratological elements of the legend is exposed, that is, space, time and characters..

Space refers to the physical place in which the story takes place and time is the historical moment in which the events narrated in the legend occur..

For their part, the characters are the actors of the story. In legends, the characters are often individuals who really existed and whose feats are admirable. At the end of the introduction, a problem is included that starts the development.

Development or knot

In development, the characters try to solve the problem. However, they constantly encounter difficulties that prevent them from solving the problem..

So, the main character, our hero, devises a plan that promises to be successful, leading to the end.


The hero solves the problem and thus ends the story. In many cases, it is intended that the characters have a happy ending, but sometimes historical events do not allow the outcome to be as satisfactory as the audience would like.

Structure of legends based on fantastic places, objects or beings

Unlike legends that focus on a historical person, legends that are based on fantastic places, objects, or beings do not have a fixed structure..

In the introduction, the characteristics of the locality, the object or the creature can be presented and it is explained why it is of interest.

The development can be constituted by an anecdote around these elements. For its part, the end can be open, it can refer to the present or it can leave a moral.

Examples of legends

Here are two examples of legends.

Example n ° 1 - Joan of Arc

Although Joan of Arc was a real character, many aspects of her story are considered a legend.

Joan of Arc, also known as the Maiden of Orleans, was born in Dorémy (Lorraine, France). At just 17 years old, he led the French army under the mandate of King Charles VII to expel the English from the territory of his nation.

At 13, Joan of Arc claimed that she could hear the voice of God, later she would say that it was actually the voice of Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret.

This voice invited her to go to church and assured her that Juana would be the only person capable of ending the siege that was taking place in Orleans..

In 1429, the maiden of Orleans led the army in various confrontations, such as the Battle of Patay, in which she was victorious.

After her triumphs, Joan retired to Sully Castle. Unfortunately, there she was captured and handed over to the English who accused her of heresy, for which she was burned in Rouen..

Later, the case of this young woman was reopened at the request of various kings and in 1456 she was acquitted of the charges with which she was accused. For their part, the judges who intervened in his case were declared heretics.

Example # 2 - The Loch Ness Monster

In Scotland, United Kingdom, there is a lake called Loch Ness in which a giant aquatic animal is believed to inhabit, which has been named Nessie.

Those who have seen it affirm that it is about ten meters long, that it has two humps, four fins and a head similar to that of a snake..

Since the 7th century, there have been sightings of the creature. There is even a text, "Life of Saint Columbia", in which it is said that a missionary faced the beast to save a person who was being attacked..

In 1933, a traveling couple claimed that they saw the creature as they passed by the road near the lake..

Since then, the competition to find Nessie began. However, the results have been unsuccessful and, today, the existence of this creature remains a mystery..

Textual sequences included in the captions

The textual structures or sequences included in the legend are the narration, the description and, in some cases, the dialogue.

Among the stories, the following stand out:

1- Chronological episodes

2- Stories about travel

3- Life stories of the main character

4- Stories of the community in which the events of the legend take place.


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  5. Myth and Legend. Retrieved on June 27, 2017, from omeofbob.com.
  6. Legend vs. Myth. Retrieved on June 27, 2017, from diffen.com.
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