->''“Every era tells the Trojan War legend a little differently. That’s only natural. Homer’s Iliad features the gods directly influencing the action—even joining in some of the battles. I’ve gone so far as to shove the gods offstage... I’ve chosen to downplay the supernatural element in order to emphasize the human element.”''
-->-- '''Eric Shanower''', about ''Age of Bronze''

Parallel to ExternalRetcon: taking a legend and revealing what 'really' happened by stripping all the fantastic elements out of it (or, at the very least, renders them MaybeMagicMaybeMundane so that they do not have to be fantastic). This sometimes falls flat, because without the gods and magic, the audience might wonder what the point is. If KingArthur is just another warlord with no Lady of the Lake and no Merlin, he had better be made an interesting character in his own right.

Filmmakers sometimes [[SturgeonsLaw forget this second part]]. In particular, the onus is on the writer to make the "imagined" historical events at least as interesting as whatever actually inspired the legend (and the actual events sometimes weren't).

If the historical period in which the original story is set is [[SmallReferencePools unfamiliar to audiences]] (and only [[BroadStrokes touched on]] for verisimilitude by the writer for that reason), audiences may assume that the real-life historical milieu so lovingly depicted by the art department [[AluminumChristmasTrees couldn't possibly have been the source]] for the the story they know and love, and is part of the filmmaker's dastardly invention. This is complicated by the fact that RealityIsUnrealistic, not to mention [[RuleOfDrama less dramatic]], and so, in the course of taking some of the more fantastic elements out, a certain amount of HollywoodHistory must be added in.

This technique is often used to give an adaptation a [[SlidingScaleOfShinyVersusGritty grittier]] and [[SlidingScaleOfRealisticVersusFantastic more realistic feel]] in situations when it is perceived that the fantastic elements in the traditional version might seem too whimsical or even silly to the intended audience.

Expect the hero to become FamedInStory, thereby [[HistoricalInJoke setting the stage]] for the rest of the story to become ShroudedInMyth.

This tends, as a rule, to be a retelling of the legend in its ''current'' form. As a consequence, it can explain the "real history" behind figures who obviously had no real history in the story, because they were introduced to the legend later - even centuries later. Frequent examples include Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, and Alan-a-Dale in RobinHood stories[[note]]Little John, Much the Miller's son, and Will Scarlet (or Scathelock, Scarlock, Scarlet, Stukeley, Stuteley, etc.) are his oldest companions[[/note]], and Lancelot and Galahad in KingArthur tales[[note]]Bedivere, Kay, and the greatest of them all, Gawain, are the oldest "proto-knights of the Round Table"[[/note]].

Incidentally, the technical term for this technique is {{Euhemerism}} named after a 4th-century BCE Greek, making the trope OlderThanFeudalism. Sometimes coupled with a less than subtle TakeThat against religion, particularly {{Anvilicious}} writers will give the characters [[OutgrownSuchSillySuperstitions anachronistically agnostic attitudes towards the gods]].

MagicalRealism can take the form of {{Demythtification}} in a more contemporary setting, or vice versa, especially if your Retroactive Realism involves one or two elements (often the most beloved elements) that are left [[ShrugOfGod purposefully]] ambiguous as to [[MaybeMagicMaybeMundane whether or not the supernatural is in play]].

When a writer intentionally does this as a way of drawing out what historians "really think" inspired the legends, it is ''this'' trope. When a writer makes stuff up by way of LiteraryAgentHypothesis in order to [[TwiceToldTale rewrite an existing legend]], it is an ExternalRetcon, which is a sister trope.

When stripping away the fantastic happens ''within'' the same fictional universe that had the fantastic elements in the first place, that's DoingInTheWizard, which is a sister trope.

When a writer takes definitely ''historical'' accounts and reimagines what actually happened, it is HistoricalFiction (or AlternateHistory if the changes are great enough). When a writer makes a subtle reference to actual history in a work of fiction, it is a HistoricalInJoke.

See also OralTradition, TwiceToldTale.

Not to be confused with {{Defictionalization}} or LowFantasy. See HistoricalFantasy for the opposite.

!!Arthurian Legend

[[folder:Anime And Manga]]
* In ''Manga/VinlandSaga'' [[spoiler:Askeladd]] is the last remaining direct descendant of King Arthur, who was really named Artorius Castus. (Same as the ''Film/KingArthur'' film, which it might have referenced.)

* In Creator/DonRosa's ''[[http://disneycomics.free.fr/Ducks/Rosa/show.php?s=date&loc=D950792 The Once and Future Duck]]'' Gyro, DonaldDuck and his nephews go back in time and runs into the (extremely unheroic) warlord Arturius Riothamas (King Arthur) and his bard Myrdin (Merlin). They also accidentally create the basis for the legends of the Holy Grail and Excalibur. The main characters manage to thwart Arturius and flee back to the future, but in the end, Myrdin decides to make the entire incident look like a great victory and create a heroic song about "King Arturius and his Narts of the Round Stable", promising that it will be a huge hit in the future. It is based on a genuine [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_basis_for_King_Arthur#Riothamus theory]] about the "historic" Arthur.

[[folder:Fan Fiction]]
* ''FanFic/DiariesOfAMadman'' plays with this. Several human myths are actually true, including Merlin, whereas others such as legends surrounding several of the human gods are instead revealed to be powerful mages.

* ''Film/KingArthur'' (2004) attempts (the keyword being: ''attempts'') to present a historically accurate version of the Arthurian legends. No mean feat: the evidence is vague and contradictory. The film takes the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_basis_for_King_Arthur#Lucius_Artorius_Castus Sarmatian Hypothesis]] and runs with it, stripping out all magical elements in the process. Some elements are right [[AluminumChristmasTrees despite seeming wrong]]. But most are more the product of the the EiffelTowerEffect: Hadrian's Wall as the site for the battle of Badon.
* ''Film/FirstKnight'' is still technically a fantasy film with no attempt made to ground it in real places, but it also strips the Arthurian length down to a group of knights, their leader, the BigBad and his horde, and a LoveTriangle. No [[CoolSword magical sword]] bestowed by [[EnigmaticEmpoweringEntity some watery tart]] -- or any other magic elements, like Myth/{{Merlin}}. [[spoiler:Like at the end, Arthur isn't taken to mystic Avalon by fey women, he just gets a VikingFuneral.]]

* N.M. Browne's ''Warriors of Camlann'' (sequel to ''Warriors of Alvana''). There are elements of magic, but it tries to address historically plausible explanations for Camelot and Arthur. Though good luck, at points, figuring out who is who with all the alternate naming.
* ''Literature/TheWarlordChronicles'' by Creator/BernardCornwell. Nimue, Morgan and Merlin's "magic" is a masterful mix of psychology, timing and chutzpah. The UnreliableNarrator is predisposed to believe in pagan magic, and believes every trick, Merlin and co. pull until Merlin explains in detail how he did it. Sometimes he still believes, despite the explanation. Similarly, pagan ceremonial magic is a mix of [[BatmanGambit psychology]], showmanship, trickery, and taking credit for natural occurrences.
* Creator/AndreNorton's novella "Pendragon: Artos, Son of Marius" - one of the quartet of stories in ''Dragon Magic'' - is set in post-Roman Britain. It ends with an explanation of the later legends of Arthur's death - he was secretly buried in such a way as to give his followers hope of his eventual return.
* Creator/TerryPratchett has a subversion in the story "Once and Future"; of course Merlin isn't really a wizard, he's ''a {{time travel}}ler''! The stone holding the sword is an electromagnet. (It's also made clear that, even without magic, the AnachronismStew of Arthurian Britain isn't any history Mervin's familiar with.)
* Philip Reeve's ''Here Lies Arthur'' tells the story of how Merlin (not a wizard) built up the legend of Arthur (not a hero, but a common warlord, and a fairly stupid one at that) using a web of deceit and the help of the book's young protagonist.
* Creator/MaryStewart's ''Literature/TheMerlinTrilogy'', although Merlin is ''sorta'' magical and is teased to be the [[HalfHumanHybrid son of an incubus]] in the first book. After that, it's made pretty clear who his father is.
* Creator/RosemarySutcliff's ''Literature/SwordAtSunset'' is another stripped-down Arthurian retelling (in fact, one of the first.) This one does contain much more historical plausibility and [[ShownTheirWork historical research]] than the movie ''King Arthur'', though it is left deliberately ambiguous if the "curse" put on Artorius is supernatural or just psychological.
* Creator/MarkTwain's ''Literature/AConnecticutYankeeInKingArthursCourt'' portrays the magic in the Arthurian legend as fraudsters (including the title character) fooling the ignorant. Also subverted, when said title character falls unconscious for 1500 years so that he can personally deliver the story to Twain.
* Elizabeth E. Wein's ''[[Literature/TheLionHunters The Winter Prince]]'' deals with such characters of the Arthurian Legend as Artos (Arthur), Medraut (Mordred) and Queen Morgause (Morgaine) without any magic or magical swords at all. It is about people.
* Jack Whyte's ''Camulod'' series removed virtually every scrap of magic from the KingArthur tales - except the [[{{Unobtainium}} Made Of Unobtainium]] Excalibur and a few characters having [[PsychicDreamsForEveryone psychic dreams]]. Good historical fiction, just [[InNameOnly don't fool yourself into thinking it's a King Arthur series]].
* Stephen R. Lawhead's ''Pendragon Cycle'' series contains virtually no explicit magic, though Merlin is descended from Atlanteans (who are treated like Tolkien's Elves).
* Joan Wolf's ''The Road to Avalon'' has no magical elements except for Arthur and Morgan (portrayed as Arthur's friend) sharing a telepathic link. Merlin is a Roman-trained engineer.
* Courtway Jones' ''In the Shadow of the Oak King'' similarly strips out the magic except for making Arthur and his half-brother Pelleas telepaths. Merlin is a blacksmith and general wise man.
* Parke Godwin's ''Firelord''. Followed by ''Beloved Exile'', about Guinevere's later life at the EndOfAnAge.
* ''The Sword and the Flame'' by Catherine Christian (published as ''The Pendragon'' in the US).
* Helen Hollick's ''Pendragon's Banner'' trilogy.
* ''Black Horses for the King'' by AnneMcCaffrey, told from the viewpoint of a stable boy.
* ''The Last Legion'' by Valerio Massimo Manfredi. Made into a movie with Creator/ColinFirth and BenKingsley.
* ''The Great Captains'' by Henry Treece. His version of Arthur and co. also appear in ''The Green Man'', a retelling of Theatre/{{Hamlet}} based on the original Danish legend.
* ''Excalibur!'' by Gil Kane and John Jakes.
* ''The Lovers'' by Kate Hawks, about Tristan and Isolde.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/ArthurOfTheBritons''
* In ''Series/DoctorWho'', the SufficientlyAdvancedAlien Doctor is apparently Merlin. Or maybe he will be in the future. Or he already was, but in an alternate universe. [[Recap/DoctorWhoS26E1Battlefield It's complicated]].

!!Abrahamic Religions

* ''Music/JesusChristSuperstar'' and ''Film/TheLastTemptationOfChrist'', although they don't debate Jesus' divinity, do question him from [[SympathyForTheDevil Judas' point of view]], and seemingly [[DoingInTheWizard do in the wizard]] with respect to physical miracles and angels incarnate. Rather than being made to look especially fallible, Jesus counsels his followers to be more sensible, but his [[ExternalRetcon best intentions are tragically unheeded by his flock]].
* ''Film/TheManFromEarth'': while the movie has one supernatural element on which the whole story is based, the way it explains the myth of Jesus is quite realistic.
** Not supernatural as much as highly speculative. The characters themselves discuss whether it would be scientifically plausible for a man to stop ageing and live indefinitely. They conclude that it's theoretically possible, if highly unlikely.
* ''Film/TheMessengerTheStoryOfJoanOfArc''. This is a borderline case, however, as more than one interpretation is offered for the Visions, and indeed implied [[{{Satan}} for 'the Conscience']]. Of course, since Joan of Arc was definitely a real person, ''The Messenger'' might also be accused of going the opposite route and adding fantastic elements (though this gets into a tricky theological debate).
* ''The Ten Commandments'' mini-series stripped bare the story of Moses.
* ''Film/LifeOfBrian'', despite expectations, actually subverts this. It follows the whacky misadventures of a man that is repeatedly mistaken for a prophet in Roman Galilee, from his adoration by the Three Wisemen to his crucifixion by the Romans, and shows (accurately) that there were many self proclaimed prophets in that time and place. The movie does not make comment on Jesus' nature, however, and he stays offscreen except for one scene early in the movie where he is seen addressing people from the top of a hill. Despite this, many censorers considered the film blasphemous and [[BannedInChina it was denied a release in several countries for decades]].
* ''Film/ExodusGodsAndKings'' will reportedly have naturalistic explanations for at least some of the supernatural events in the story of Moses [[spoiler:like the parting of the Red Sea being caused by the water receding before a tsunami.]] Though it [[http://insidemovies.ew.com/2014/10/23/ridley-scott-red-sea-exodus/ "doesn’t completely shy away from the miraculous".]]

* ''The Gospel According to Jesus Christ'' by José Saramago is basically Jesus's entire history, from his conception to his crucifixion and death, told without absolutely anything divine or miraculous. As you can imagine, the Roman Catholic Church didn't like it, starting off because he was conceived by Joseph and Mary through normal sex instead of through divine intervention from the Holy Spirit.
* ''[[http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/JefJesu.html The Jefferson Bible]]'' was an attempt by no less a personage than UsefulNotes/ThomasJefferson, a Deist who considered Jesus to be a great moral teacher but had a strong dislike for organized religion, to strip the Gospels of their more "fantastic" elements. Deism was a philosophy common in the 18th century that denied the existence of miracles and perceived God as a "cosmic watchmaker" who creates the laws of nature and carries out His will in accordance with them. It still exists but is much less popular and influential than at its peak, and is best recognized today for its influence on Unitarianism.
* Creator/LeoTolstoy's [[http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Gospel_in_Brief The Gospel in Brief]] does much the same as it tries to infer the life and teachings of Jesus without the myths that Tolstoy believed to be later applied to them. Tolstoy goes through with this more thoroughly than Jefferson however as he applies it not only to what passages he includes and excludes, but also to the entire translation proses itself.
* ''Act of God'', similar in style to ''The Holy Blood & the Holy Grail'', raises the hypothesis that the Thera eruption was responsible for the Exodus story. From plagues to Pillar of Smoke By Day, Pillar of Fire by Night, the idea is an interesting one.
* Shulamith Hareven's ''The Miracle Hater'' is a mostly naturalistic retelling of Exodus, a historical depiction of a desert tribe who don't yet have the kind of religion that Judaism would eventually develop into.
* In Zora Neale Hurston's ''Literature/MosesManOfTheMountain'', some of the famous miracles Moses performs in Literature/TheBible while leading the Hebrews out of Egypt are really tricks he learned from his first trip into Midian: he crosses the Red Sea because of his knowledge of tides and strikes water from a stone by finding a spring he had once encountered. However, some of his miracles are still as fantastic as the biblical version, and from Moses's perspective there is no difference between them: they're all just applications of his vast knowledge of nature.
* ''Gospel of Afranius'' by the Russian author Kirill Yeskov presents the [[Literature/TheBible four canonical Gospels]] as [[RashomonStyle honest but one-sided eyewitness accounts]] of "[[FalseFlagOperation Operation Pisces]]" by the Roman secret service to undermine right-wing militia support in Judea. While not denying (or supporting) the claim of {{Jesus}}' (who is shown as an unwitting (?) victim of the Romans) divine nature, it explains most of his miracles with actions of the DoubleReverseQuadrupleAgent Judas and his posthumous appearances, with various impostors (one of whom went on to write the Q document).
* ''Literature/TheRedTent'' does this with the story of Dinah (daughter of Jacob) in the Old Testament. In this story, instead of Dinah being raped by the prince of Shechem, they had a consensual relationship that her brothers didn't approve of. Instead of Jacob's visions and name change (to Israel) being seen as from God, they are seen as a man slowly going crazy as his family falls apart.
* The whole "genre" of AncientAstronauts theories concerns itself with on explaining old myths and religious stories, but Abrahamic religions and the pagan mythologies of their original Semitic believers tend to steal the spotlight. To be specific, these stories are considered fanciful accounts of, like, ''totally'' mundane stuff like human-alien interaction. Nothing fantastic at all!
* ''King Jesus'' by [[Literature/IClaudius Robert Graves]], which mixes the canonical and non-canonical Christian gospels, presents Jesus not as the son of God but the secret grandson of Herod. Though he does perform miracles and is resurrected at the end.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''Franchise/AssassinsCreed'': [[spoiler: There is no God or afterlife, all the supposed miracles that occurred throughout history were illusions caused by pieces of lost {{Precursor}} technology stolen by Adam and Eve, who were slaves to said precursors.]]

!!Fairy Tales

* ''Film/EverAfter'' does this for the "Literature/{{Cinderella}}" fairytale, the story in a somewhat more down to Earth environment devoid of external magic. The Cinderella character is Danielle, a French noblewoman [[FallenPrincess who's reduced to servanthood]] by her stepmother and one of her stepsisters after her dad dies. The crystal slippers actually are based on the shoes that belong to Danielle's MissingMom and the PimpedOutDress was made by humans, not by magic. There's no Fairy Godmother... but there ''is'' a CoolOldGuy and sorta Crazy Inventor Godfather, who's none other than ''LeonardoDaVinci''. To go to the Ball, Danielle gets help from her other stepsister Jacqueline as well as the family servants. The Prince, Henry, is a flawed human being with both pros and contras, [[spoiler: and he doesn't take the revelation about Danielle being a "commoner" well, so Leonardo has to give him a harsh pep talk before he goes apologize to her.]]

* ''Just Ella'' by Margaret Peterson Haddix also retells "Literature/{{Cinderella}}".
* ''Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister'' by Gregory Maguire also does this (excellently) with "Literature/{{Cinderella}}".

* Rossini's opera ''La Cenerentola'' tells the story of Literature/{{Cinderella}} minus the magical elements.


[[folder:Comic Books]]
* In ''Age of Bronze'', Eric Shanower's graphic novel series based on the ''Literature/TheIliad'', the gods don't appear, and there's no evidence that they actually exist in the world of the adaptation. This is deliberate, as the afterword makes clear. Also, Helen of Troy is only fairly attractive, not beautiful (but she is very conscious about her image and spends a lot of time on her dressing and makeup; this, coupled with her exotic appeal and personality, is what makes all of Troy fall in love with her). Odysseus and Agamemnon decide to say she's the most beautiful woman in the world because the Hellene soldiers will fight more willingly than they would for the real reasons for the war, which are more complicated and less glamorous.
** The series is specifically set in the 12th century BC (the time the events that inspired Homer, who wrote around 800 BC, are believed to have happened) and there is [[ShownTheirWork great attention to detail]] to make architecture, dress, weapons, etc. be true to the period. So while the Homeric names, personalities and relations between characters are kept intact, these are ''cosmetically'' as far from any other adaptation of the Illiad, usually based on the Classical Greece of 500 BC or later, as they can be. The Achaeans are Mycenaean Greeks, and Troy is mostly Hittite with some leftover Minoan influences.
** Nymphs like Oenone and Tethys appear, but they are just wise women that engage in healing and divination. They are divided in orders that worship different gods; as a result, they call themselves "daughters" of said gods.
** The earlier sack of Troy by Heracles (aka Hercules) is narrated differently by a bitter Priam. Heracles is an Achaean warlord (though one so popular that he is treated "like a god" by his men) and he raids Troy after getting in "[[MythologyGag a dispute over a couple of horses]]" with Priam's father, Laomedon. Priam's sister Hesione is not saved from HumanSacrifice but taken as war bounty.
** The Judgement of Paris [[AlljustADream is a dream]]. A dream [[UnreliableNarrator Paris]] claims to have had, anyway, during a long, seductive speech he makes to Helen.
** Cheiron, while called a centaur, is a big, hairy MountainMan rather than a half man, half horse creature.
** Agamemnon does not kidnap the Oenotropae (goddesses of seed, wine and oil) to feed his army. He docks in Delos and uses its vast food reserves, deposited there as temple offers by the other Greeks. The comic's Oenotropae are in fact not godesses, but three priestesses that manage said offers, which is why their father Anius calls them the bringers of wealth to his island. Anius is addressed as son of a god - because he is a priest of Apollo.
** Helen is really the daughter of Tyndareus. Her mother believes Helen was hatched from an egg after she had intercourse with Zeus in the form of a swan because she is insane. However, in the world of the comic the story has already taken life of its own and translated into a rumor that Helen is of divine origin.
** The exceptions are the many prophecies of doom. Cassandra's, of course, are the most detailed and accurate, but true to Mythology, they are taken for incoherent ramblings and not believed.
*** Most disturbing is how Cassandra got the gift of premonition. She ''believes'' Apollo appeared to her when she fell asleep at the temple as a child, but this is actually a distorted memory of [[spoiler:her assault by a pedophile.]] He told her that nobody would believe her (about the incident), but she mistook it as a curse making her not being ever believed by anyone, about anything. This makes Cassandra's curse a SelfFulfillingProphecy: She acts crazy because she fears no one will believe her, and people don't believe her because she acts crazy.

* ''Film/{{Troy}}'' purposefully strips out the prominent supernatural elements of the original poems -- or [[MaybeMagicMaybeMundane renders them ambiguous]]. The gods are never seen, and never act, despite their large roles as {{Physical God}}s in {{Homer}}s telling. Achilles is a NayTheist who pooh-poohs the gods at every turn. Hector, of all people, paraphrases Stalin: "How many battalions does the sun god command?" The priest of Apollo acts as an inverted Cassandra -- he always gives exactly the wrong advice and is always believed.
** More ambiguously, Achilles' mother could be a goddess (well, one who really doesn't know the original version would think she is simply a seer rather than a goddess) or a strange but wise woman. Achilles' blasphemy tends to be followed by bad luck, and of course he is shot in both the heel and the chest when he dies, so we still don't know which arrow killed him. There are many other changes from the original plays unrelated to the trope.
* ''Film/{{Hercules2014}}''. A constant theme of the movie is legend vs reality. The adventures of Hercules shown in the film are purported to be the "truth behind the legend", with fantastic elements rationalised as hallucinations or fanciful inventions/exaggerations though some things like Amphiarus' visions are treated as real.

* Creator/DavidGemmell's ''Troy'' series dispenses with the gods so prominent in the original plays.
* Dares Phryx (5th or 6th c. CE) and Dictys Cretensis (2nd or 3d c. CE) both wrote more-or-less realistic narratives of UsefulNotes/TheTrojanWar, with a strong sense that this is the later-corrupted "real story" (both authors' pseudonyms are names used in Homer -- they're presented as eyewitness accounts by Trojan War veterans); e.g., in Dares, rather than using a giant wooden horse, the Greeks enter Troy through a gate decorated with a picture of a horse.
* ''The King Must Die'' and ''The Bull From the Sea'', Creator/MaryRenault's novels about Theseus. Successful in that Renault ''does'' make Theseus a complex and compelling character in his own right. She also succeeds in capturing much of the spirit of the myth because her first person narrator, Theseus, believes in the gods and their influence in his life, even if none of the book's events are depicted as blatantly supernatural - modern readers would interpret them quite differently.
* Robert Graves
** ''Hercules My Shipmate'' retells the story of Jason and Argonauts. The gods are real for the characters but their physical reality is not clear.
** ''Homer's Daughter'' is based on Samuel Butler's theory that the Odyssey was written by a young woman, who based it on her own realistic experiences, and based the character of Nausicaa on herself.
* A [[FootnoteFever footnote]] in ''Literature/HouseOfLeaves'', containing an idea that a character in the book thought up and then abandoned, explains the Minotaur as King Minos' deformed son -- the body of a man, the head "of a bull"- who was born so ugly that Minos would publicly accuse his wife of bestiality rather than [[BeautyEqualsGoodness accept his son as an heir.]] The labyrinth was a prison so complex, with the Minotaur himself being [[TheGrotesque "gentle and misunderstood,"]] that the Athenians who were "fed" to the Minotaur died mostly of starvation. Guess what the author of that idea (and, hypothetically, King Minos) [[UglyHeroGoodLookingVillain thinks]] [[NiceJobBreakingItHero of]] [[RonTheDeathEater Theseus.]]
* Ursula K. [=LeGuin's=] novel ''Lavinia'' is a mostly realistic version of Vergil's "Aeneid," though it does add the supernatural touch of Lavinia having proleptic conversations with the spirit of Vergil. By the end, Lavinia has learned how to use people's ''perception'' of the supernatural to her advantage.
* OlderThanFeudalism: There is a book called "On Incredible Tales" by one Palaephatus (an ancient Greek author). A nice reading, if you suffer from a really bad case of insomnia.
* Creator/CSLewis's ''Literature/TillWeHaveFaces'' is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. The jealousy of Ungit (Venus) for Istra (Psyche)'s beauty is presented as the jealousy of the priest of Ungit for drawing away worshipers. Psyche's "marriage" to the god of the Grey Mountain (Cupid) is being chained to a tree on the side of a mountain as a sacrifice. Orual later finds Istra living on the mountainside, clearly insane and claiming to live in a palace that Orual cannot see. [[spoiler:Turns out to be a subversion, as Orual later sees the god with her own eyes.]] \\
This trope is actually discussed within the story, as Greek philosophy is taking hold and some of the characters themselves are Euhemerists. A younger high priest of Ungit speculates that the stories of Ungit being both the mother and the lover of the God of the Grey Mountain are just allegorical ways of saying the earth (Ungit) creates the air, which in turn nourishes the earth with rain. The heroine silently wonders why they bother to wrap that up in a myth, if that's all the myth is saying.
* The short story "The Gardens of Tantalus" by BrianStableford, collected in ''Classical Whodunnits'', is a Demythification of the [[SnakePeople Lamia]] incident in Philostratus's ''Life of Apollonius of Tyana'', in which the "lamia" is a human, but metaphorically venomous, FemmeFatale, and Apollonius's own "magic" is a combination of natural philosophy and common sense. The story is [[LiteraryAgentHypothesis supposedly written]] by [[TheWatson a student of Apollonius]], who is tired of mythological tales attaching themselves to a rationalist philosopher.
* A few stories in ''The Lost Books of the Odyssey'' present the story of ''Literature/TheOdyssey'' as one put together by far more mundane sources, such as Odysseus as a wandering bard, who ended UsefulNotes/TheTrojanWar in a matter of months but spins out a far grander tale to get away from the boredom of kingship.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Hallmark's miniseries ''Hercules'' (2005). The existence of the Gods made rather ambiguous (Hercules being fathered by an escaped prisoner of war with a lightning shaped scar), but they do throw in mythical creatures of AncientGreece. It's heavily arbitrary on when to dismiss the fantastic. In addition, Hercules' SuperStrength and fighting prowess is explained as a CharlesAtlasSuperpower brought on by TrainingFromHell.
* The BBC documentary ''Atlantis: End of a World, Birth of a Legend'' is actually a dramatized retelling of the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_eruption Thera Eruption]] around 1628 BC, which is identified both as the reason for the decline of the Minoan civilization and the inspiration of the myth of Atlantis. The narrator - only one who ever says "Atlantis" - likens Plato's description of the Atlantean capital being built in concentric rings of land and water to Santorini (Thera)'s [[http://www.grecotour.com/img/cms/grecia/santorini/santorini-grecia/mapa-santorini-grecia.gif shape]].

* ''VideoGame/EmpireEarth'' zigzags this for its Greek campaign. The first level has a village chieftain named Hierakles lead his people to a new land where they build a temple and a city on top of a hill (the Acropolis), the Trojan War was fought by a few city-states against a city with vastly superior technology, Theseus was a leader of Athens who united the outlying city-states against Sparta and Thebes until the gods took him away.

!!European, Asian, American Mythology

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Creator/OsamuTezuka's ''Manga/{{Phoenix}}'' series often features this, despite the title character being an immortal god-bird. Many characters in the earlier historical chapters are gods and other figures from Myth/JapaneseMythology re-imagined as ordinary humans and ''Strange Beings'' & ''Robe of Feathers'' imply that various mythical creatures are actually aliens or time travelers. Tezuka dispensed with this as time went on, however, with the final completed volume, ''Sun'' featuring such oddities as battles between {{Youkai}}s and Bodhisattvas and retconning the alien angle out of the aforementioned ''Strange Beings'' (although ''Sun'' goes back and forth between the past and the (then) future of 2008, and it's entirely possible the part bits are an hallucination).
* ''Anime/KyogokuNatsuhikoKosetsuHyakuMonogatari'' features a strange subversion where a trio of outright supernatural beings are using their powers to fake or perpetuate myths of other supernatural beings. Through the series many myths and legends are examined and many of them are simply the trio using trickery to fool others. For example a sociopathic murderer is explained away as a ''tanuki'', a shapeshifting badger dog, who is suffering from ShapeshifterModelock.

* ''Film/TheDarkKnightSaga'' strips the world of Batman of fantasy elements. Batman fights many sci-fi and supernatural characters in the source continuities. In this version, arch-foes like Ras Al Ghul and the Joker are given much less fantastic backstories. The Joker is given less backstory, period. And Ra's is revealed to be not one immortal man but the latest successor in the long line of leaders of the League of Shadows, all calling themselves Ra's al Ghul, and any fantastic abilities are chalked up to a hallucinogenic flower.
* Although it's basically HistoricalFiction, and accurate in many respects (less so in others...), ''Film/KingdomOfHeaven'' has tendencies towards this school of film-making with respect to the legends of the Crusades. However, the Director's Cut of the movie heavily implies that [[NoNameGiven the Hospitaller]] is an angel.

* ''Literature/TheThirteenthWarrior'' (originally titled ''Eaters of the Dead'') combines the story of ''Literature/{{Beowulf}}'' with Ahmed ibn Fadlan's 10th century travelogue of Europe. In this story, ibn Fadlan joins a Norse rescue mission to face a seemingly supernatural enemy. Instead of Grendel, the enemy is a [[spoiler:tribe of cannibalistic Neanderthals]]. Grendel's mother is replaced by the [[spoiler:tribe's]] matriarch. The dragon is just an optical illusion created by [[spoiler:Neanderthal raiders carrying torches]] as they stream down from their mountain lair. However, the story does dabble in some standard wise woman prophecy and mysticism (in the book done by dwarves, who are real humans with dwarfism).
* Creator/RobertSilverberg's ''Gilgamesh the King'' is a retelling of Literature/TheEpicOfGilgamesh, sans supernatural elements; the "scorpion people", for instance, are just a family with a skin condition.
* ''Literature/{{Baudolino}}'' by Creator/UmbertoEco does this with the "conspiracy" version of the various Grail and Templar legends surrounding the Crusades - the same material that Eco dealt with earlier in ''Literature/FoucaultsPendulum''. The historical conspiracy is replaced by two petty criminals and forgers trying to make a profit by selling fake relics. Although it's clearly fiction, and the way that these two characters come up with nearly all the Dan Brown stuff on their own without planning is meant as a joke, the gist of it must be closer to reality than the organised, large-scale conspiracy version.
** Also, Baudolino himself is basically a medieval [[TheMunchausen Münchhausen]].
* Creator/SnorriSturluson's ''Literature/ProseEdda'', one of the major sources for Myth/NorseMythology, uses this technique in the prologue. As a 13th century Christian, Snorri advanced the theory that the Norse gods were warriors who left [[UsefulNotes/TheTrojanWar Troy]] after it was destroyed, travelling to Northern Europe where their advanced knowledge meant they became chieftains. After they died, hero cults arose around their tombs, which eventually led to them being worshipped as gods. The same outlook is also presented in another work attributed to Snorri, "Ynglinga Saga", the first section of ''Literature/{{Heimskringla}}'', but here, the Aesir are not identified with surviving Trojans, but an unrelated people whose home city Asgard was located somewhere in southern Russia or the Caucasus, and who migrated northwards to evade [[AncientRome Roman]] imperialism (about a millennium after the destruction of Troy). As ''Heimskringla'' is about a decade younger than the ''Prose Edda'', it seems Snorri eventually dismissed the identity of the Norse gods with the Trojans.
* In Creator/PoulAnderson's Literature/TimePatrol story "Brave To Be A King", Manse finds that the MosesInTheBullrushes legend is being told about Cyrus the Great in his lifetime, and learns that the actual Cyrus was exposed and killed, and the recovered one was actually the time traveler Manse was looking for. To keep history on track, they go back and intimidate the grandfather out of trying to kill Cyrus -- so that the legend must have become attached to Cyrus at a later date.
* The first Literature/DoctorWhoNewAdventures novel featured the Doctor and Ace wandering into the middle of ''Literature/TheEpicOfGilgamesh''. Enkidu is a neanderthal, Gilgamesh is a perfectly human BoisterousBruiser... and Utnapishtim is an alien starship captain, his flood-defying ark is a spacecraft, and the Scorpion Men are robots with lasers. Oh, and Ishtar is being impersonated by an alien criminal who Utnapishtim is trying to hunt down.
* Creator/NealStephenson's ''Literature/SnowCrash'' posits that Sumerian mythology and the Babel story are distorted retellings of real events surrounding the fragmentation of language.
* The ''Literature/DarthBane'' trilogy does this to an extent internally within the Star Wars universe, though it is still a case of this and not DoingInTheWizard. [[CanonDiscontinuity Originally the story]] of the Battle of Ruusan and the rise of Darth Bane was told in a pair of comic books that had elements more in line with Lord of the Rings than Star Wars including what appeared to be sailing ships in space and bows and arrows alongside lightsabers that felt extremely out of place in Star Wars. This was fixed in the Creator/DrewKarpyshyn novels that changed those elements to be more in line with the movies as well as the game Knights of the Old Republic(that actually took place chronologically earlier), which is by no coincidence written by the same author. It also has Force powers that are between the absurd mythic elements of the comic books and the movies in terms of abilities. Within the novel Bane even comments about how unrealistic some of the extreme Force abilities appear.
* "Frost and Thunder" by Creator/RandallGarrett has the main character time-transported to ancient Scandanavia. He uses his pistol to help the locals defeat the "giants" before being returned to the present. Afterwards, he muses that he was probably assumed to be a god -- specifically, [[spoiler: Thor, with his "hammer" that creates thunder, kills distant enemies, and returns to his hand]]
* ''Literature/TheRealmOfAlbion'', by Marcus Pitcaithly, demythtifies elements of TheMabinogion, other Myth/CelticMythology, and the late-medieval romances ''Amadis de Gaul'' and ''Perceforest''.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Dexter}}'' has pretty much dropped the demonic elements from the books, and made it a (relatively) more conventional series. Well, a conventional series with a serial killer protagonist. He does later refer to his "dark passenger" but only in a figurative sense, not an actual demon.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'' does this occasionally. Almost any supernatural element in the show is explained as either alien or extradimensional. Even vampires turn out to be alien ''fish'' using perception filters to appear human. The "teeth" are the product of human subconscious trying to warn the person of a threat. (At least, [[Recap/DoctorWhoS31E6TheVampiresOfVenice some]] vampires are. [[Recap/DoctorWhoS18E4StateOfDecay Other]] [[Recap/DoctorWhoS26E3TheCurseOfFenric vampires]] are actually blood-sucking, TheVirus-spreading monsters, repelled by faith [a "psychic barrier"] or garlic [or "garil", which is space-garlic], and only killable by driving a stake through the heart. But they're still from space or the future, so that's okay.)
* ''Series/{{Vikings}}'' uses [[Literature/RagnarLodbrokAndHisSons Norse sagas]] that feature monsters and supernatural events as part of its source material, but gives the supernatural elements of them a MaybeMagicMaybeMundane approach (sometimes leaning farther into Unexplainably Magic with its prophecies). No one questions that Aslaug is the daughter of [[Literature/TheSagaOfTheVolsungs Sigurd the dragonslayer and Brynhild the Valkyrie]], but whether they actually are her parents or even existed is left ambiguous. The show integrates the legendary inspirations with other historical sources, and often changes around both to fit its needs.