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American Legends and Tall Tales by Steven James Petruccio: Book Cover

Everyone becomes a storyteller once they begin '"retelling" the tales of those who once lived centuries ago. 

Legends are stories based on fact and told as truth.  These tales began as an actual event, person, or place.  The stories gained acceptance within a village/town/country and through out history have been associated with a certain culture/country/time period.

  • Historical legends
  • Heroes
  • Badman Legends
  • Saints
  • Giants/Leprechauns/Gnomes
  • Camelot/Brigadoon/Atlantis
  • Loch Ness Monster/Sasquatch/Dragons

Bad Man Legends: Those "dead-shot" rebels who fight fair.  These legends are known for the fights against authority/wealth/power, they have a passion for justice but made their own laws.  They would steal from the rich and give to the poor.  They killed only in self-protection or to prevent a wrong from being committed.  They usually gave thier opponents an even break and were known for their sense of truth and valor.

  • Robin Hood
  • Stackalee
  • Railroad Bill
  • King Arthur/Merlin
  • Calamity Jane
  • Davy Crocket/Daniel Boone
  • Geronimo 


 Medieval Castle    George & the Dragon    
 The Leprechaun        
 'So the child was delivered unto Merlin...' by N.C. WyethH5, 1917



 Animal Myths & Legends home

Just click the above picture for a list of legends to read

The White Stag by Kate Seredy: Book Cover 


The White Stag 

Kate Seredy 



 The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit: Book Cover


The Book of Dragons 

E. Nesbit 






Earthmakers Tales 

Gretchen Will Mayo 


Northern Native American 



The Apple and the Arrow 

Mary & Conrad Buff 





Drummer Hoff 

Barbara Emberley 





Ka-Ha-Si and the Loon 

Terri Cohlene 





The Legend of Scarface 

Robert D San Souci 


Native American 



The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood 

Howard Pyle 





Clamshell Boy 

Terri Cohlene 


Native American 



Grandfather Twilight 

Barbara Helen Berger 


North America




Fin M'Coul 

Tomie dePaola 





Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back 

Joseph Bruchac 


Native American 

 The Legend of Bass Reeves by Gary Paulsen: Book Cover


The Legend of Bass Reeves 

Gary Paulsen 


African American 

 The Legend of Freedom Hill by Linda Jacobs Altman: Book Cover


The Legend of Freedom Hill 

Linda Jacobs Altman 


African American 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Back to GMT Library Front Page  2010 


This site gives clear characteristics of a legend so it would be easy to create a check list


A good source for writing

Other lessons




Maybe you've already seen these:



1. A story about a real person
2. The story cannot be proved or verified in history
3. The story is told despite its unreliability because of a culture's respect for the person and the value the story seems to uphold
teach using Characters, Setting, Plot..

So if Fairy Tales feature:
C= Archetypal characters
S= Long ago and far away
P= Conflicts caused by or solved by the use of magic

Then, Legends feature:
C= Extraordinary humans such as Robin Hood
S= Definite sense of time & place such as Hamlin, Germany in 1284
P= Events may have been exaggerated, such as Gershon's Monster

I like to do Golem by Wisniewski, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Pied Piper as examples of Legends. The Trojan War (legendary event) is good as a bridge from Mythology to Legends. John Henry is a good one that bridges Legends and Tall Tales. Compare a John Henry legend with a John Henry Tall Tale and Scott Reynold Nelson's Ain't Nothin' But a Man. (This always leads to questions about whether MLK is a legend or a real man...) The Devil's Tramping Grounds in Bath, NC would be an example of a legendary place, as would Stonehenge.
sites which may enable you to develop your
own graphic organiser.


(also click on 12. Legends from the menu)

Legends are stories once believed to have been true, turns out to be fictional. The heroes of legend are fictional heroes or real people who aren't quite what they're made out to be, who were either so lifelike or so admirable that people wished they were real. This description fits the works and heroes typically associated with the genre. legends are focused on individuals and their accomplishments look for these things in a story.


- exaggerated characters & events
- usually handed down by tradition (maybe)
- focuses on individuals and their accomplishments
- fictional story once believed to be true (turns out to be fictional)
- characters aren't what their made out to be

A legend belongs in the category of folktales. Some of the characteristics above explain those of folktales, not legends. For example, folktales were handed down ORALLY by tradition.

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