Created By: bobfrank on November 12, 2011

Legend Fades To Myth

Mythology forming from actual events within a fictional setting

Name Space:
Page Type:
A thousand years ago, the Glorious Hero led a rebellion against the oppression of the Evil Emperor McDoom, rallying an army of downtrodden peasants, Storming the Castle of the dark empire, and defeating the emperor in hand-to-hand combat. His wise leadership ushered in a Golden Age of peace and prosperity that lasted for four generations, and he is remembered fondly to this day as the great founder and establisher of freedom in the land.

...huh? Wait a second, that's not right at all! See, this isn't just a backstory; his story was actually told in the previous series. He didn't raise the rebellion; he just got caught up in it, and the attack on the castle was just a diversion so he could catch the emperor alone and assassinate him with a dagger in the back. (It was the most expedient way to get rid of the guy.) And no one called him "glorious hero" until many years later, when he had dedicated most of the rest of his life to cleaning up the mess left behind by the power vacuum he helped create.

You know this as the reader, but the characters 1000 years later don't. No one from back then is still around today. The language has changed, and ancient records have never been all that good at remaining intact, so certain facts tend to get distorted over time.

The Trope Namer is the introductory passage at the beginning of each Wheel of Time book: The Wheel of T Ime turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.

This trope only covers instances where the audience is already familiar with the original picture, and then can see the mythology it gets turned into by later generations.


  • As noted above, The Wheel of Time. The series describes history as a circular repetition of seven Ages, and the story is set in the Third Age, which is both after and before our own time. One minstrel in the first book claims to tell tales of an ancient Age which are recognizable as distorted memories of the 20th Century, and many of the events of the series bear a distinct resemblance to any number of what we know as ancient mythologies.
  • The Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson, is set 300-odd years after the Mistborn trilogy. The events of the trilogy have taken on mythological and religious significance to the later generations. The most humorous of these changes is the ancient High Speech; when an example of it is given, it's quickly recognizable to readers as the silly-sounding thieves' cant used by a few characters in the original trilogy!
Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • November 12, 2011
    A somewhat backwards-order example:

    • In Dragonsinger from the Dragonriders Of Pern series, we are introduced to the legend of Moreta, the Dragonlady who saved Pern from a deadly epidemic at the cost of her own life. Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern (published at a later date) recounts the actual events that gave rise to the legend.
  • November 13, 2011
    • The prologue to The Lord Of The Rings movies, and basically why things came to be as they were at the end of the thrid age: people forgot about past threats, and grew complacent. Sauron exploited that.
  • November 13, 2011
    • The religious myth held by the apes in the first Planet Of The Apes movie turns out to be a distorted version of Caesar's rebellion and the human war that allowed apes to come to power as depicted in the sequels.
  • November 13, 2011
    Another backwards-example from Elizabeth Moon, I think - Gird is considered to be either a saint or a god in The Deed Of Paksenarrion, then the author went back and wrote the Legacy of Gird books to show what really happened.

    (Have read the trilogy a lot more recently than the legacy books, so memory might be serving me wrongly.)
  • November 13, 2011
    See And Man Grew Proud for when the legend of sorts was a catastrophe instead.
  • November 13, 2011
    In one Fantastic Four arc they come across a town suffering from Decade Inside Second Outside; inside the town the FF are considered legendary heroes (even more so than in Earth-616 Real Life) and are quite upset when they find out about how the FF are really.
  • November 13, 2011
    Not to be confused with Shrouded In Myth.
  • November 13, 2011
    After DC Comics' Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, due to the fact that so much of the old "Earth-1" continuity was pivotal to the Legion of Super Heroes canon, the pre-Crisis version of history was presented as the 30th century's distorted legends of the "actual" (post-Crisis) continuity.

  • November 13, 2011
    In Till We Have Faces Orual lives long enough to see her sister's life become the Eros And Psyche myth.
  • November 13, 2011
    • An episode of GI Joe had the Joes ending up in ancient Greece, and their actions end up contributing to various Greek legends (such as Sgt. Slaughter performing one of Hercules' labors).
  • November 14, 2011
    Warhammer 40 K is full of this.
    • The Emperor was not a god, half his campaigning was in order to eliminate the concept of religion (and one of his children turned against him because he ordered him to stop worshipping him). These days, he's the central figure of humanity's state religion.
    • Many of the more primitive worlds ascribe Space Marine landings as the God Emperor sending his Angels of Death, sometimes the Marines looking for initiates are remembered as selecting the worthiest to live with them in paradise.