Some people become famous. They're well known, even if not very much is known about them. The Living Legend is Famed in Story
Some famous people are famous for specific things. Some are infamous. Regardless, they actually did, can do, or were present at specific events. The Living Legend is famous because of where he's been, who he's been, who he's been with, and/or what he can do.
The Living Legend is respected for these things. Wherever he goes, people recognize him and buy him drinks. They ask him if he really did all those things. They want to know what it was like being where he was. They ask him to demonstrate his prowess.
This is a person whose reputation makes him larger than life even in his own time. The Living Legend can run the gamut from hero to villain, truth to lie, professional to amateur. The point isn't whether his reputation is deserved, but that he has it.
If the Living Legend doesn't deserve his reputation, he's No Hero to His Valet
. If he deliberately plays up his false reputation, he's Miles Gloriosus
. If someone else is doing this for him, he's the Fake Ultimate Hero
If his reputation is based on having just been in the right place at the right time, he's the Accidental Hero
. If he's a random guy thrown into it, he might be an Action Survivor
Sometimes the Living Legend's reputation is non-specific and he's Shrouded in Myth
. Sometimes it's very specific and everyone calls him "The Butcher of X"
When a character's deeds are remembered in subsequent works, he's Legendary in the Sequel
When he shows up to ruin a protagonist's day, The Ace
will often be hailed as a Living Legend by his legion of squeeing fans.
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- In One Piece there are several powerful pirates who fit in this category, most notably Silvers Rayleigh, the Number Two of Gold Roger himself.
- The Marines have Garp and arguably Sengoku. It says something that Garp revealing that he's actually going to take part in a battle is one of the few things that actually made the Whitebeard Pirates hesitate. It's especially telling when their own captain, Whitebeard himself, also fits the bill, having been considered the only man to equal Gold Roger in sheer fight prowess and the current World's Strongest Man.
- Ricardo Martinez in Hajime No Ippo is the Mexican long-time featherweight world champion who never lost. He's actually called "The only living super-legend" and it's said that there's a higher chance that Mexican citizens know him than their own president.
- This happens across the generations in Naruto.
- Konoha had the Sannin, the Yellow Flash, the White Fang, the First Hokage etc., all definitely living legends when they were in their prime.
- Kakashi the Copy Ninja is known all over the world, even to people like the Raikage. His contemporary Asuma had a bounty of 35 million ryō on the black market.
- By the time of the Fourth Shinobi War, Naruto himself is not only a legend in Konoha but is even known to shinobi from other villages.
- It would be quicker and easier to list superheroes who are aversions of this trope. So many are famous in their respective universes that it's almost superfluous to list them. A special mention should be made, however, for characters such as Superman, Captain America, Batman, and the Justice Society of America, who are famous even amongst the other heroes.
- The DC maxi-series Trinity showed people breathe a sigh of relief when they're in trouble and the Justice League shows up. The Justice League cheers when they're in trouble and Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman show up.
- V, from V for Vendetta, deliberately invokes this in order to bring down the Norsefire government.
- Watchmen deconstructs this and explores both the positive and negative effects of Living Legends, particularly the dehumanizing and demoralizing presence of Doctor Manhattan.
- Lucky Luke, the man who shoots faster than his own shadow, not only is this himself but also meets nearly all real life legends from the The Wild West across the series: Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill, Roy Bean, Wyatt Earp and his brothers, Mark Twain, Jesse James and his gang, Billy the Kid... the list is simply endless.
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Li Mu Bai is famous throughout China for his prowess with the Green Destiny.
- Down with Love: Catcher Block - Ladies Man, Man's Man, Man About Town, is a Memetic Sex God in-universe.
- Hancock is very well known as a less than popular hero.
- The super heroes of The Incredibles are all well known. This bites them when they start getting sued by an angry populace and they're all forced into hiding.
- Pai Mei, in Kill Bill, is presented, by Bill, as a figure Shrouded in Myth and incredibly proud and deadly.
- The Princess Bride: The Dread Pirate Roberts is a mysterious and terrifying pirate who has long terrorized ... some maritime province.
- The title character of You Don't Mess with the Zohan, at least in Israel and Palestine.
- The eponymous hero of Zemeckis' Beowulf turns into this in the latter half of the movie. At the same time he has aspects of No Hero to His Valet. And a small touch of Miles Gloriosus, as he likes to exaggerate his prowess.
- "I am Iron Man."
- By the end of Army of Darkness, Ash (housewares) has achieved legendary status, so he claims, among the people of Mercia. They wanted to make him king. In his own way, he is king.
- El Mariachi. "We call him 'El'. It means 'The'."
- Keyzer Soze of The Usual Suspects is a mysterious devil figure to the criminal underworld.
- Die Hard gives us John McClane. In the second film (Die Harder), he's recognized by a rogue special ops officer for his interview on Nightline. In the third, a fed makes an immediate connection between the Villain Du Jour and "the thing in LA". In the fourth... he's John McClane, the Irish flatfoot who throws cars at helicopters when he runs out of bullets.
- "People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden"
- Captain America / Steve Rogers was already well-known in in the 1940s. But after being presumed dead, he wake up almost seventy years later as a living legend, literally.
Live Action TV
- Burn Notice: Michael Westen is an Urban Legend throughout Russia. Several groups consider the name Michael Westen to be a codename for a team of operatives. In another episode some Russian gangsters find out who's after them, "He's Michael Westen! There are only four of us!"
- In Chuck the title character was given the name Charles Carmichael to protect his identity. By the third season Carmichael was known throughout the spy community as an exceptionally dangerous spy.
- In Heroes, Hiro Nakamura goes to medieval Japan to meet his hero, Takezo Kensei. Hiro then does everything he can to make Takezo live up to the legends about him, making him into the legend Hiro willen haven onen learned about.
- Doctor Who: The Doctor. Some love him, some hate him but he's known throughout the universe. River mentions that he can make an army turn and run at the mere mention of his name and it has been shown that she was not exaggerating.
- Firefly: Jaaayne, the man they call Jaaayne. Jayne became an Accidental Hero for a village of mudders. Their worship was boundless. He kind of cherished his position, yet he did not abuse it.
- Battlestar Galactica (Classic): In the episode "The Living Legend", the Galactica encounters the battlestar Pegasus, whose captain is the Colonial military legend Commander Cain.
- Parodied in The Rutles - the band are supposedly a living legend that will live long after other living legends have died.
- White Collar:
- Neal Caffrey is such a capable thief and Con Man that there's an entire unit on his alleged crimes in a college criminology class. When he shows up in person, the students and professor all squee, just a bit.
- Mozzie became an Urban Legend by accident. He was so smart that, as a kid, he hired a man to be the face of his book-making operation, the Dentist of Detroit. The operation got pushed out by The Mafia, but the Dentist lived on.
- There are hints that the crew of the Enterprise, and the ship herself, are considered this in Star Trek: The Original Series. Kirk is certainly a notorious figure among the Klingons, as demonstrated in "The Trouble with Tribbles"; and Spock, despite being only half-Vulcan, is explicitly described in the episode "Amok Time" as "a legend among our people" by his mate T'Pring. This is very prominent in the movies as well, particularly Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
- Kirk expected to end up with this reputation, and beat the Kobayashi Maru test by reprogramming it so the simulated Klingons would react to him this way.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- Kang, Kor and Koloth, who were all introduced in Star Trek: The Original Series, are living legends in Deep Space Nine, at least until the episodes that feature their deaths.
- Dax is an odd example. The symbiote named Dax has been alive for centuries although each host has a normal Trill lifespan. As a result, Dax is revered throughout the Klingon Empire because Curzon Dax brought peace between the Klingons and the Federation. Although Curzon dies two years before the start of the show, Jadzia Dax is accorded the honour due the reputation as if she were still Curzon precisely because Dax is still alive even if the host has changed.
- Andros and the other Space Rangers are this, demonstrated by "To the Tenth Power" ("You're Andros, the Red Ranger!"). Tommy Oliver and Jason Lee Scott are this at least among Rangers (since they kept their identities secret) in "Forever Red". Cole in particular goes fanboy over Jason.
- In an episode of Falling Skies, Col. Porter tells Tom Mason that he is quickly becoming one.
- John Sheridan in Babylon 5 is one, being not only the one human captain who won a battle against the Minbari but managed to blow up their flagship. Humans consider him a hero, while the Minbari call him Starkiller.
- Horatio Hornblower: Some naval captains receive this treatment, and more often than not, it causes problems.
- Captain "Dreadnought" Foster is ultra-famous and lots of people aboard the "Indy" admire him immensely, young Horatio included. Many sailors try to serve and indulge him, giving him blankets so that he can dry himself and alcohol to warm himself up. Pellew is reluctant to join in heaping praise on him and doesn't like that Horatio glorifies him. Hornblower's admiration for Foster is dashed when Foster insists on taking meat from a supply ship under Hornblower's command, which is still under quarantine for plague. Foster becomes a Broken Pedestal for him.
- Captain Sawyer's one of Nelson's own and a national hero who distinguished himself at the Battle of Nile. He's also completely insane. Because of his reputation, Horblower and especially Mr Bush realize much later than they otherwise would have that he's unable to command and try to act for the good of the ship, which means The Mutiny. In addition, if Sawyer hadn't been a Living Legend, the court-martial could have been a mere formality or the jury wouldn't have been so hard-ass on the lieutenants. But since they felt they had to preserve Sawyer's reputation, they were looking for a scapegoat.
- Bruno Sammartino was called "The Living Legend." Larry Zbyszko appropriated the name as "The New Living Legend" during a feud.
- Zbyszko would later attempt to sue Chris Jericho, who had also appropriated the nickname. This did not go well for him.
- Forgotten Realms: Elminster, immortal Chosen of Mystra, goddess of magic. Becoming a Living Legend is easier, of course, when you're Really 700 Years Old
- As appropriate for the setting, BattleTech features numerous characters who were legends in their eras: Morgan Kell, Natasha Kerensky AKA The Black Widow, Victor Steiner-Davion, and Alexandre Kerensky were all legendary characters known for their skill (and in Natasha's case, being a sex icon) when they were alive.
- In virtually every universe, Optimus Prime and Megatron are the living legends. There are sometimes others—Overlord, Arcee, Starscream, Grimlock—but they're more often notorious. Only Optimus and Megatron are universally respected and/or feared.
- Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog: Country Mourns Whatshername. Both the Doctor and Captain Hammer are widely known, with squeeing fans. Likewise the Evil League of Evil, and maybe other heroes.
- Girl Genius:
- Othar Trygvassen, '''GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER''' is well known.
- Baron Klaus Wulfenbach also has a reputation, somewhat more negative.
- Agatha Heterodyne, Gilgamesh Wulfenbach, and Tarvek Sturmvoraus are all rapidly earning reputations.
- The Heterodyne Boys were beloved, in no small part because their family was not.
- As "Ol' Man Death" himself said, explaining the excess of attention he still receives from Jägerkin — "This old hat has become the stuff of legend."
- Sluggy Freelance: Torg earned a reputation in the Dimension of Lame during "That Which Redeems".
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender , Avatar Aang became a living legend after defeating Firelor...uh...Phoenix King Ozai.
- By the sequel Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben Tennyson has achieved this status amongst aliens for saving the universe multiple times. And he continues doing more as the story goes one. It reaches a point where, in Ultimate Alien, he actually convinces outnumbering Forever Knight to stop a murdering spree by delivering to their leader a speech that resume it all :
"Maybe you forgotten something: I'm Ben Tennyson, wielder of the most powerful weapon in the universe. I stopped the Highbreed invasion
, I defeated Vilgax
in hand-to-hand combat and I've beaten the Forever Knights
more times that I can count. Here's what's going to happen: you're going to release these prisoners, you're going to crawl back to whatever hole you came from and you're going to stop hunting down aliens because if you don't, I promise, you'll regret it for the rest of your very
- Danny Phantom became one amongst ghosts after defeating Pariah Dark.
- Real Monsters All the monsters know who Ickis' Dad is, even before Slickis visits the class. They even have biographies of him in the school library, and he's won numerous awards. Apparently, he's the source of at least one urban legend about the Bermuda Triangle, though Ickis cuts his father off before Slickis can tell that story again.
- Tron is one to the programs of the Grid in TRON: Uprising, even though many think he's probably dead.
- Kim Possible. Even though she doesn't get that much glory, everyone knows who she is, and most people appreciate what she does.
- The Bots Master: In episode "ZZ Come Home", Ziv Zulander's sister used the expression "living legend" to describe him.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Equestria Games, Spike is seen as this by the crystal ponies for the part he played in saving the Crystal Empire.
- As is often the case, think long and hard before adding a Real Life example to this trope. My Che Guevara is your Osama bin Laden...
- Most Living Legends are people who have risen to a celebrity status that is so enormous that it literally become Larger Than Life. They are either living legends because of one or more hugely famous deeds or events that have given them their iconic/heroic/infamous/cult/mystique status or due to their longevity where they have never ever been out of publicity or praise during their lives. Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Bruce Lee, and Michael Jackson are examples of people who were already living legends during their lifetime. Examples of actual living legends at this time of writing are Muhammad Ali, Pele, Diego Maradona, Eddy Merckx, Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan.
- While many try to exemplify this trope, Salvador Dali is one of the few artists to use it. Many artists become popular only after their death, but Dalí lived to see his work appreciated extensively and even a museum erected in his honour. Even outside of the art world, he was a well-known personality and socialite in his time, sure to be recognized wherever he went (although his iconic appearance probably helped with that).