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!