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Shrouded in Myth

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Borlik: You know, I heard he destroyed a Peacekeeper Gammak Base, murdered an entire Nebari battalion, even laid waste to a Shadow Depository. The guy was a devil: he raped and pillaged, he popped eyeballs—
Crichton: Whoa-whoa! Where do they get these stories? Let's set the facts straight. First off, there was no raping, very little pillaging, and Frau Blucher popped all the eyeballs.

You've heard the stories. There's someone out there, a Living Legend, mysterious and untouchable. Rumors and hearsay about their Dark and Troubled Past seem to surround their every word and deed. And not just the normal sort either, but the utterly ridiculous kind. Like that he's thirty feet tall and shoots lightning bolts out of his arse. Sure, there's a kernel of truth in there somewhere, but who even knows where or what it might be with all the stories surrounding the truth? This all may set up a moment of disappointment when the truth gets revealed.

Commonly The Reveal shows the Miles Gloriosus, Fake Ultimate Hero, or Feet of Clay. On the other hand, it's always wise to remember that the kernel of truth can be pretty dangerous; compare Badass on Paper.

Frequently part of a No Hero to His Valet, No Badass to His Valet, or Warts and All plot. Also, all three plots tend to absolve the idealized character of any responsibility for the misconceptions of anyone else, as he can hardly prevent rumors and stories from arising.

When a parent is Shrouded In Myth, the child's reaction is often Tell Me About My Father. When people don't want him to Turn Out Like His Father, they tend generally to add only the allure of Forbidden Fruit to him. (And often enough result in Anti-Climactic Parent.) Not to be confused with The Fog of Ages, which is something else entirely.

Objects, places, pieces of technology, and magic spells can also be Shrouded in Myth, but the effect is less dramatic. Does explain why the Penultimate Weapon can beat out the Ultimate one.

When this happens in the fandom rather than in-universe, it's a Memetic Badass.

Contrast King in the Mountain, Malicious Slander. Anything from The Time of Myths is invariably Shrouded in Myth. Compare Riddle for the Ages, Legend Fades to Myth, and Self-Made Myth.


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  • The theme for Dos Equis beer's "The Most Interesting Man in the World" ads; unlike the Stigs' myths, these are accompanied with (unrelated) film footage: (TMIMITW leads a group of people in evening dress with burning torches into a cave) "He once had an awkward moment, just to see what it felt like." (looking at a map filled with "been there" pins) "He can speak French..." (a giant owl flies in and lands on his arm) "in Russian."

    Anime & Manga 
  • Kitano Seiichirou in Angel Densetsu. To hear the legends, he's a ruthless delinquent maniac and a strung-out heroin addict who will kill you if you cross him and is unbeatable in combat. The truth, however, is that he's an endlessly caring and compassionate boy with the heart of an angel; it's his unsettling appearance, along with a long series of misunderstandings, that caused the rumors to spread about him.
  • In Attack on Titan, rumor said that the Colossal Titan was so large that it had actually stepped over the fifty-meter wall of Shinganshina to get into the city. Eren, one of the few survivors of that attack, tells his fellow cadets that it was actually around sixty meters (still huge even by Titan standards) and had kicked in the main gate.
  • Guts' existence is completely obscure in Berserk, especially when he takes up his Black Swordsman persona after the Eclipse. Before the Eclipse, it was well known that there was a mighty man among the Band of the Hawk who slayed 100 soldiers by himself, thus earning the title "the Hundred Man Slayer." His actual name was more well known then, but after the demise of the first band, he became nothing more than myth, but his legendary feats continued to disperse and became so overblown that now a lot of people believe that he killed a whooping 1000 soldiers by himself.
    • This leads to a pretty hilarious moment when his companions start talking about the original Band of the Hawk. Isidro mentions that the Hawks' raid leader was an amazing warrior and he wonders what happened to him. Guts' Visible Silence is priceless.
  • Train Heartnet from Black Cat has a rather legendary status of having been the strongest member of Chronos and being an extremely competent and strong sweeper. Criminals were shown cowering in fear and immediately surrendering to an impostor when said impostor showed them his fake XIII tattoo and claimed he was the Black Cat.
  • Black Clover: Virtually everyone in the Clover Kingdom knows the legend of the First Wizard King, Lemiel Silvamillion, who defeated a cataclysmically powerful demon centuries ago, saved the kingdom from complete annihilation at the cost of his own life and had a statue of himself erected on top of the demon's skull to immortalize his accomplishment. What nobody knows is that the demon in question was Licht, the leader of the elves and Lemiel's closest friend, who turned himself into a demon to prevent a devil from possessing him after orchestrating the massacre of Licht's people at the hands of human nobles, and entrusted Lemiel with the grim task of killing him. Oh, and the statue? It's no statue: it's Lemiel himself, turned to stone by his servant Secre Swallowtail so that he could return if the devil ever broke free of his seal and attempted to finish the job.
  • Bleach: There is Quincy folklore centring around a prophecy regarding a Sealed King. The prophecy states that the Sealed King will regain his heart after 900 years, his reason after 90 years and his power after 9 years. Six years before the story begins is when he regains his reason, resulting in the Plot Triggering Deaths of Ichigo and Uryuu's mothers. Nine years after their deaths, the storyline's final arc kicks off with Yhwach's power being restored, along with the revelation of a hidden stanza to the prophecy: 9 days after he regains his power, he will reclaim the world. It turns out a lot of the story ties into this prophecy, even Aizen's actions.
  • Papillon from Buso Renkin becomes an urban legend.
  • Casshan: Robot Hunter: The Black King doesn't even believe that Casshan exists until the end of the first episode, and most of the other characters think of him as a legend until his Big Damn Heroes moment.
  • Cowboy Bebop plays with this in the episode introducing Ed, "Jamming With Edward". When Jet tries to track Ed down by getting descriptions on the street, the compilation is something along the lines of "He's a seven-foot-tall ex-basketball pro, Hindu guru, drag queen alien." (Ed is actually 13-year-old girl who is an excellent Playful Hacker and a Cloudcuckoolander). One of the rumors happens to be true purely by chance; it describes her as a whimsical child, a brat who loves horrible pranks.
  • Fallan of Double Arts has this. He's been seen correcting some of the more outrageous rumors. Later inverted when he reveals that a story where he defeated 50 bandits is was actually a far greater number. Cue asskicking.
  • Lucy from Fairy Tail is often given credit for things that the rest of the team has done, and it spreads fast so she barely gets the chance to correct those myths. On the flip side, most of the fights she has won are known to only a select few.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has the Laughing Man, who, in addition to being a Villain with Good Publicity, also benefits from this, to the point that an entire episode is dedicated to discussing whether or not he even exists, or is some sort of spontaneous cultural phenomenon, or spontaneous artificial intelligence phenomenon.
  • The titular Goblin Slayer has bards singing praises of him in faraway towns, and even the elves, dwarves and lizardmen have heard of him as a selfless, relentless warrior who heroically protects the common people from goblins. The adventurers who have met him personally, however, don't think quite so highly of his goblin obsession, and even High Elf Archer is dismayed to learn that the famed "Orcbolg" is just a guy in cheap, dirty armor with No Social Skills. Nevertheless, for all his flaws, Goblin Slayer's endless quest to eradicate all goblins does make the world a better place, even if sometimes people don't fully understand the pain and suffering he's saving them from.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya:
    • Haruhi herself, of course. She's done all sorts of crazy things that no one understands, leading to boatloads of rumors and the majority of the student body avoiding her like the plague.
    • Yuki gets this from people who are paying attention, due to barely speaking a single word to people who aren't in the SOS Brigade, not to mention her superhuman skills. Her class treats her like a seer, which led to her acting as a fortune teller who told ridiculously accurate fortunes during the School Festival. The computer club starts saluting her in the hallway after the Day of Sagittarius incident, where while playing a video game against them she micromanaged twenty fleets at the same time (the max the game allows) while simultaneously hacking the program to undo their cheating.
    • To people involved in the masquerade, Kyon sometimes gets this treatment. He's an ordinary human who has piqued the interest of Haruhi herself, not to mention earned the respect and loyalty of Yuki and Koizumi. The Data Integration Thought Entity, a non-physical Eldritch Abomination data construct beyond human understanding, is careful to avoid provoking him after the events of Disappearance.
  • This would be pretty much the entire point of Irresponsible Captain Tylor.
  • K has the Silver King, Adolf K. Weismann. To normal people, he might be an ordinary eccentric billionaire... or a cult leader... or an actual god. Those involved with the Kings and Clans know that he is the First King, and that he is immortal, but not much else, since he's lived in a blimp for 70 years without much (if any) contact with anyone. It turns out he's a sweet guy with not much of a sense of grandeur about himself at all, though he will use his immense power to help others when it comes down it it. The One-Letter Title also might refer to his initial.
  • Kenichi of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Thanks to Nijima, most of his school believes him to be a badass of epic proportions, pulling ridiculous stunts like knocking out a bear. While he's a very good fighter, he's a lot more of a wimp personality wise.
  • Books on Ancient Belka in Lyrical Nanoha speak of the Dark King Ixpellia, a barbaric, war-mongering, tyrant king that delights in death and destruction as he leads his undead army to conquer any land within his sights. When Subaru eventually tracks her down in StrikerS Sound Stage X, she finds... a weary Mysterious Waif who's really sick of all the fighting she had to do during the Ancient Belkan Wars and thus finds her necromantic ability to create single-minded, battle-lust filled Super Soldiers from corpses to be really sucky.
  • Seiji from Midori Days thanks to his friend who constantly spreads rumors.
  • The First Hokage Hashirama in Naruto is known in legend as the God of Shinobi and a badass of epic proportions. When he is revived via Edo Tensei with his personality intact in chapter 619, he's... a dorky Butt-Monkey not unlike Naruto.
  • In Nightschool: The Weirn Books, the Hunter Daemon qualifies. When the Shifter Grey brings out a small mercenary army, he lists all the incredible things Daemon is supposed to be able to do, but then points out that nobody's ever seen him defeat entire armies, or break bones with a look, and as such is calling his bluff. Daemon's response before the epic beat down?
    Daemon: "You're right, the stories aren't true." (Shifter behind him has his arm snap in multiple places) "I don't need to look to break bones." (proceeds to defeat entire army without moving)
  • One Piece:
    • At one point Luffy has to enter a tournament undercover. Despite him accidentally blowing his cover, the surrounding combatants are still not convinced it's Luffy because, at this point, rumors have spread of Luffy being a 5-meter brute, and Luffy bears no resemblance to said rumors at all.
    • In the Corrida Colosseum of Dressrosa lies the statue of a man named Kyros. Nobody really knows how long it's been there or why it was built, but it stuck because it tells of his awe-inspiring record: an uninterrupted streak of 3000 victories. Some like the young female gladiator Rebecca even question whether he really existed or not, believing him to be nothing more than a fabricated legend to inspire gladiators to become better. He does exist, and still lives; the townspeople simply forgot about him because he was turned into a toy by an executive of the Donquixote Pirates, Sugar. His record isn't fabricated, and he's Rebecca's father.
    • Parodied with the Yeti Cool Brothers, where Brownbeard tries to paint them as this, claiming that nobody knows anything about them...except for their names, ages, birthplace, weapons of choice...pretty much everything except what they look like under those hats and ever-present shadows (and even that gets revealed in supplementary materials.)
  • One-Punch Man has the enigmatic Blast, the highest ranked hero in the Hero Association. He never shows up for meetings, has only appeared once in a flashback in the webcomic, but he surprisingly encounters Saitama and Flashy Flash in a personal mission during the raid of the Monster Association in the manga; and aside from being in a hunt for mysterious black cubes related to God -and meeting Tatsumaki as a kid while securing one of said cubes-, putting the head of the Ninja village in a coma, and being part of a group of heroes from another dimension, next to nothing about him has been divulged to the reader as of yet. The One Punch Man Encyclopedia has Fubuki speculating about what Blast's powers could be, which just comes off as as a wild hodgepodge of random abilities, and concluding that he could probably take on every other S-Class hero single-handedly.
  • In the Alternate Universe of Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, a Gendercide plague killed off 3/4 of Japan's male population early in the Tokugawa period. By the time of the 8th shogun, Yoshimune, 50/50 gender ratios are out of living memory and the time since they existed has expanded in the retelling from "four generations" to "a couple hundred years" to "in the Heian Era" to "in the time of the gods".
  • Legendary dog Plue, from Rave Master is a huge mystery to most of the world. They've come to assume he's some great beast hybrid of a unicorn and wolf, much to the horror of the cast.
  • Rebuild World:
    • Akira deals with this after selling his first haul of Lost Technology relics, with Gossip Evolution saying he struck it rich, followed by a huge overreaction by other hunters searching for him to follow or exploit him, not knowing his name. Shirakabe thinks that the rumored boy must have had a secret route underneath the city ruins. For another incident around the same time where he saved her, Sara spread the rumor that he was a dashing rich boy who hunted for fun.
    • Much later, Akira becomes infamous for using illegal Anti Matter weaponry and for taking on an entire army of hunters sent to collect a bounty on him supposedly by himself, when it was a team effort, with people asking if he's "that Akira".
  • Rurouni Kenshin: During the War to unite Japan under the Emperor, a certain extremely proficient assassin named Hitokiri Battousai fought for the Emperor's side, and developed a fearsome reputation. His identity was kept secret, so it's easy for hoodlums to claim his identity in the post-war Meiji Period. Nobody ever suspects the mild-mannered, pint-sized eccentric Technical Pacifist with a blunt sword...Unusual in the sense that Kenshin is actually as good as the rumours say.
  • Samurai Champloo:
    • Throughout the series, Jin is dogged by stories of the "Thousand-Man Killer", a title Jin acquired by defeating the previous holder his master, Mariya Enshirou. The rumors were started by the other members of his dojo who don't know that Jin killed Mariya in self-defense and have grown out of all proportion with reality...although Jin's still good enough to defeat almost everyone who tries to challenge him based on that outsize reputation.
    • In one episode, a couple of bystanders are rapping about the doings of the ghost of Yoshitsune (a legendary 12th century samurai general around whom similar legends grew in real life), and how he supposedly haunts a nearby mountain. As it turns out in the episode, it was all a combination of rumors about Last of His Kind/The Drifter Okuru and Jin, the latter of which were deliberately spread by his former schoolmate Yukimaru.
  • Lina Inverse of Slayers has an impressive - and mostly negative - reputation, as demonstrated very nicely in the first episode of Slayers Revolution.
    • And an OVA features a spell Shrouded in Myth that can summon a meteor. And then promptly demonstrates why the spell is only a legend. Aiming from space is hard enough that the spell is inaccurate to the point of uselessness.)
  • The wildly conflicting rumors about Vash from Trigun become an issue in the very first episode. Even at the end of the series, the fact that a dorky, Actual Pacifist is the world's most notorious outlaw is still stunning everyone who learns the truth. He finds it useful on occasion to play into the stories surrounding him seen here. Many of the rumors about Vash in the first episode could just as easily describe the 12-foot tall criminal Descartes.
    • This culminates in a showdown between Descartes, the bounty hunter Loose Ruth, and (sort of) Vash, with Ruth and Descartes believing each other to be the real deal pretty much solely because they both wear red and have blond hair.
    • Later, the conflicting rumors allow a nameless crook to impersonate Vash convincingly because he wears sunglasses and has spiky hair.
    • The really scary thing about Vash is that none of the rumors come close to what he's actually capable of.
  • Keima from The World God Only Knows is a weird guy deserving of the title otamegane, but his reputation, while partially true, is a little off.
  • Ya Boy Kongming!: Lampshaded when the cafe owner, who is a major Romance of the Three Kingdoms geek and fan of Zhuge Liang (aka Kongming), confides in Kongming that he'd always found the story of the Stone Sentinel Maze, in which Kongming trapped the enemy in a valley of stones using illusions, to be rather far-fetched, even for someone of Kongming's talents. Kongming amusedly replies "Oh, so that's how the story of those events has been passed down", and states that he used no illusions or magic of any kind, just clever use of the terrain and some mundane psychological tricks. He proves it later in the episode by pulling a similar trick to keep partygoers in the room where Eiko is giving her performance.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman. He is Badass Normal but builds up an aura of being a creature of the night as part of his psychological war on crime.
    • Back in the '70's, they used to have issues devoted to people telling Batman stories that grew more and more disconnected from reality. Often it was revealed that the teller of the scariest story was Batman himself in disguise.
    • The Batman: The Animated Series episode "Legends of the Dark Knight" explored this concept with three kids who tell stories of different versions of Batman that aren't true to life... but are actually based on previous versions of the character from the comics. Also, in "Almost Got Him", some villains briefly discuss various possibilities of who/what Batman is.
      • Something similar happens in Batman: Gotham Knight, where one of the kids encountered Batman and was left with the impression that he was some kind of robot; another thought he was some sort of shadow-creature; and the last thought he was a literal Bat-Man.
      • The comics story "The Batman Nobody Knows" has Bruce Wayne taking a group of inner-city kids on a camping trip. After they trade tall tales about Batman, he makes a real appearance. The kids are unimpressed.
      • In "Legend", a story set in the distant future by Walt Simonson for Batman: Black and White, a mother tells her young son about Batman, describing him as a larger than life figure with powers beyond those of mortal man. He could fly, breathe underwater, his suit was shiny and metal and fired missiles - and he would retreat to a solitary fortress when he needed to rest from his never-ending battle.
    • In more than one story, Superman has had to sub for an ailing Batman (or vice-versa). Because the criminals never see Batman coming and are knocked out, they assume "Superman" just used his speed, while the outlandish things "Batman" gets up to are accepted by small-time criminals because they're that superstitious about him.
    • Lampshaded in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as Carrie Kelly tells off her friend for telling outlandish stories about Batman, then sets the record straight that he's just a man, about twelve feet tall (365cm). This could also be a jab about the art, since Bats is almost twice her size in some panels.
    • The entire point of Batman, Inc is to foster a dense network of rumor and suspicion around the identity of Batman — based around the fact that now, Batman is everywhere.
  • A similar event happens in Aquaman, where several kids tell their version of who and what Aquaman is. According to one kid's poorly drawn comic, he's a '90s Anti-Hero with a long beard and a hook for a hand. Another claims he lives a normal life only underwater, even having his own aquadog, and is also a superhero. Another says Aquaman is a giant made completely of water. Again, the funny thing here is that they're all technically correct; Those have all been different versions of the character in continuity before.
  • Bucky Barnes became this from Ed Brubaker's run onwards, which retooled him as first an SAS trained kid commando intended as a counter to the Hitler Youth, before his famous fall led to him losing an arm and winding up in Russian hands without his memory, but with all his combat and linguistic skills. One bionic arm later, and the Winter Soldier was born.
  • In one Groo the Wanderer story the tyrant Pipil Khan keeps hearing stories about all of the battles Groo has won and the carnage he has caused, and imagines that Groo must be a huge, fierce warrior with demonic powers. Then the real Groo finally shows up—a rather short, scruffy, plump guy with a broken nose and stick legs—and Pipil Khan dies from shock.
  • The Phantom. While he in fact doesn't have any superpowers, he relies on and encourages the four hundred years of history surrounding him and the prior Phantoms (which includes a reputation for being immortal and fearless) in order to fight the bad guys.
  • In Transformers, rumors abound among the Decepticon ranks about the mysterious Autobot who constantly slips through their every security measure to pilfer their supplies and personal effects en masse. The fact of the matter, however, is that they're all being played for chumps by their own comrade, the Insecticon kleptomaniac Chop Shop, who contributes to the rumors and even "steals" from himself to mask his deeds.
  • The Black Tarantula in Spider-Man comics is rumored to be immortal because he has been active for over 700 years. The truth is that the identity is simply passed on from father to son in the LaMuerto family.
  • In Earth X, the identity of Daredevil is the subject of this sort of rumor. Some say he's Johnny Blaze, or Deadpool, or the original Daredevil, or Foggy Nelson, or Mr. Immortal, but nobody knows for sure.
  • Played with Legacy Character Darkdevil, too, in Spider-Girl. He's rumored to be Daredevil brought back to life, a demon, or maybe a clone (fanon at the time leaning towards Ben Reilly). Turns out there's a bit of truth in all the rumors. He's Ben's son, turned into a demon and accidentally soulbonded with the deceased Matt Murdock.
  • In Hellblazer, this is the very definition of John Constantine's reputation. His rep is just large enough that he himself is a small celebrity as a con man in the UK, a master mage in the occult world, and the feared Hellblazer in the underworld. Sometimes, even the government and members of the public ask him for help in some supernatural happenings.
    • There's one issue in The Books of Magic where Timothy is held by the Cult of Blue Flames, and John comes and rescues him, though he did this by just literally showing up. The sight of John scared the hell out of the cult. John later explains that since he has a reputation of getting anyone near him killed, no one wants to be near him at all.
  • The true identity of Greyshirt, from Tomorrow Stories, is a mystery, but to the underworld of Indigo City, he might as well be the Boogeyman. His reputation for being impossible to kill (eyewitness reports of surviving multiple gunshots, knife wounds, shrapnel explosions...) led superstitious crooks to worry that he was a ghost come to bring them to justice from beyond the grave. This is supported by the widely held belief that Greyshirt is the long-thought deceased Franklin Lafayette. The wide variety of physical aptitudes he holds, from tremendous brawling ability to dancing that draws comparison to Gene Kelly, and the fact that many experts come to different conclusions when analyzing his romantic history, only heighten his mystique.
  • The Immortal Weapons of Immortal Iron Fist actually are mythic figures, which is all fine and dandy until you have to write an official SHIELD file on any of them but can't tell which stories are true.
  • Max from The Losers is a villainious version that really is that powerful/connected/ruthless, although there turn out to be perfectly good reasons for some of his more outlandish stunts, like somehow leading a special ops team on one side of the world while at the same time recovering from a serious wound somewhere else...
  • In PS238, the protagonist, Tyler, is a Muggle Born of Mages attending a Superhero School. Just to keep up with the other students, he starts taking Badass Normal lessons with Revenant and creates the superhero identity Moon Shadow. While all the empowered students know each other's secret identities, nobody knows that Moon Shadow is Tyler, and somehow, Moon Shadow has become such a Memetic Badass to them that everybody believes he's won the Superpower Lottery.
    • At one point, some students see him just as he's slipping through a magic portal. A few pages later:
    Herschel: Accordin' to some "eye witnesses," Moon Shadow came down here, made some big speech about savin' Ms. Imperia from wherever she got to, then turned himself into a cloud of "dark justice mist" and went through the door.
  • Diabolik has the title character, about which in the first story is said "Ginko says that, in the international criminal underground, people whisper about a ''being'' called ''Diabolik''". Even Ginko at the time wasn't sure he actually existed, or that the extremely dangerous and unnamed criminal he once arrested was him (it was) until he first discovered one of his hideouts and found some of his [[LatexPerfection plastic masks (the ability to become anyone being one of the skills attributed to Diabolik), while the public wouldn't be sure until he was arrested and tried.
    • Even with his arrest, Diabolik's reputation is still exaggerated: he hasn't done some of the things attributed to him, but he could very well do them if he saw the necessity.note  Also, some people think he's an alien.
  • Subverted in Empowered. Emp has defeated an Eldritch Abomination, saved the lives of a significant percentage of her peers at the Capeys Awards, went toe to toe with a supervillain considered to be The Dreaded and so on. Her actual reputation is that of supervillain shoulder candy.
  • Miss Klanbaid, Homeroom Alpha teacher in The Intimates. She's said to have a deep, dark secret, and rumors abound as to what it is. Some believe she was once the boy sidekick of an urban vigilante, others claim she was a college activist in an alternate timeline where the Vietnam War lasted 30 years.
  • X-23 to an extent. The mere mention of her name involved in events surrounding Messiah Complex sets off red flags with S.H.I.E.L.D., and prompts them to send a team (actually H.A.M.M.E.R. agents infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D.) after her. Her reputation as an assassin is certainly justified. What nobody expects is that this accomplished killer is outwardly a waifish teenager.
  • In The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Issue "King of the Klondike", readers are not privy to what exactly happened when Scrooge hit his Rage Breaking Point with Soapy Slick and his thugs. After the Red Eyes, Take Warning, we shift to outside of the riverboat, in sepia tones, as the gambling ship falls to pieces. The narration makes it clear that no one in town really knew what happened, even saying that the whole thing might have been exaggerated in many retellings, or just made up entirely. Regardless, whatever went on was enough to turn Scrooge McDuck, then a scrappy prospector, into a legend.
  • In Watchmen, most members of the vigilante group called the Minutemen have had the details of their lives documented, and their identities and fates are public knowledge. The exception is Hooded Justice, who was not only one of the original (and most brutal) of the masked vigilantes, but also the most secretive and aloof, which invited much In-Universe speculation about him. This only increased when Hooded Justice responded to being summoned to a Congressional committee on vigilante heroes by refusing to attend and vanishing without a trace, and even Hooded Justice's former teammate/bitter enemy turned government super agent The Comedian claimed to have been able to find no clues about Hooded Justice's identity or whereabouts. Hollis Mason (another old teammate from the Minutemen) speculated in his book about the group that Hooded Justice was a German-American circus strongman named Rolf Muller, noting that Muller was one of the few people who could match Hooded Justice's height, build, and strength, and that Muller also disappeared at around the same time as Hooded Justice. Furthermore Muller's background would explain some of Hooded Justice's actions, and Muller was a known Nazi sympathizer, which is another reason why, if Muller and Hooded Justice were one and the same, he would want nothing to do with testifying before the infamous House UnAmerican Activities Committee. (There's also speculation that The Comedian only claimed to have been unable to find anything on Hooded Justice, and that Comedian actually killed the man, covered it up, then claimed to have found nothing.) On a more meta level this has also extended to real life, as Alan Moore has alternated between responding to fan questions about Hooded Justice with fairly plausible answers, and at other times his responses come off more like a Trolling Creator. (For example, Moore has said that Muller might be Hooded Justice... and that Muller might have just been one of many aliases and identities for a man who was spying on America for the Nazis. Or the Soviets. Or both at once.)
  • Astro City:
    • The Blue Knight is the subject of much rumor and speculation. An ex-cop with a holographic skull face, an actual avenging spirit, etc. Whether or not he's eight feet tall or has a skull collection is also disputed.
    • The Confessor originally existed as little more than a legend because no video footage or photos of him had ever been taken. This is because he's a vampire. The fact that after Altar Boy succeeded him there were photos made criminals even more confused on the matter, thinking that he's somehow immune to traditional vampire weaknesses and that he'd come back from the dead rather than making the more obvious connection.

    Fan Works 
  • In Aeon Natum Engel this is a reason behind the biggest bad moment in the Operation It got worse CATO: The whole reason behind the invasion of Iceland was to capture Moloch, the dormant Herald. The intelligence presumed that it will only be slightly larger than the {EVA}s, but when it finally surfaced, it was at least as big as the city.
  • Played with in Dungeon Keeper Ami, Mercury's exploits — magical, and on the field of battle — are recounted remarkably accurately. This might be because her detractors have a vested interest in downplaying her achievments, and thus her combat reputation is basicaly accurate. Her other reputation, on the other hand...
  • In KOTOR: The Prodigy of Revan, it's heavily implied the Jack's father and sisters are regarded like this, as well as his ancestry. Jack himself has garnered a great deal of repute himself, though for maintaining a command position in the military when all of his elder brothers had been killed early in their careers than his actions as an officer.
  • The Golden Boy's Last Temptation: Invoked. Supergirl goes into the Dreaming realm, meets a demon who reveals what happened to beloved, deceased President Prez Rickard, and turns his temptations down, preventing him from gaining control upon the world and herself. Kara is then saved by Dream of the Endless, whom she asks remember everything. The Lord of Dreams decides to allow it on the condition that she only shares the story with one person every ten years, so that it slowly passes on the realm of legend, where it will gain inspiring power.
    Dream: "Very well. You will retain this dream, Kara Zor-El. In all its particulars. But you must be very circumspect as to whom you share it with. Some things should be kept in the realm of legend, for thereby they gather power. And if the legend of Prez Rickard should gather power in your world...well, there are worse alternatives that could be dreamed. Once every ten years, you may pass on the dream to one you believe worthy. You may not reveal the fate of Prez Rickard to anyone else. What they do with their dream afterward is up to them. As with King Arthur, and the squire he spared to tell the tale of Camelot. All Truths begin as Dreams."
  • The Good Hunter has The Wild Hunt, though not a character per se but an organization. Rumours abound concerning the way to join this uncannily effective team of warriors. Common rumours include killing a hundred thousand of their own kind, or bringing some sacrificial tribute. One of the Wandering Scholar's encyclopaedia entries dedicated to this organization, named The Blood Contract, documents the exact way to join the group while dispelling the previous rumours (assuming his information is accurate).
  • In the fourth chapter of the Death Note fanfic Pocky in Ramen, Mello becomes renowned among the Wammy's residents as "the kid who pulled a gun on Mr. age three!" In reality, he was only doing it out of fear, and never actually fires the gun.
  • Harry Potter fanfiction:
    • Child of the Storm has the Winter Soldier, feared around the world as an unstoppable, implacable, faceless wraith, a killing machine without equal and a Hero Killer par excellence. His first appearance is suitably nightmarish, with it being left unclear whether or not he's actually human, silencing a room of hardened Death Eaters and the like by throwing the heads of a Nundu and a Chimera on the floor. He'd killed them without taking a scratch, or, apparently, even slowing down. In fact, he scares the crap out of quite literally everyone, with Nick Fury admitting that while he isn't actually afraid of him, he is 'terrified of what he's capable of', and the prospect of his return is greeted with a sort of quiet hysteria that Harry notes is actually far more disturbing than the fearmongering about Sirius.
      • Doctor Strange has a staggering (and as per a throwaway remark in the sequel, carefully cultivated) reputation as an omniscient, invincible, immortal super wizard. He's none of these things, but he is extremely close to all of them. He isn't omniscient, but he is very, very close, being a mixture of time traveller and Seer whose powers were boosted by the Time Stone and this, along with his mastery of the Batman Gambit, allows him to run the plot almost entirely offscreen until the finale of the first book (these manipulative tendencies, and a habit of only showing up when the excrement is about to hit the fan, do not make him popular). He's not invincible, either, but it takes a fragment of the Elder God Chthon possessing a necromancer who was already on Loki's level to beat him in a straight fight - others who have tried and failed include a demonically supercharged 'godlike' Grindelwald (the duel lasted for days. By the end of it, Berlin was mostly rubble, Grindelwald was exhausted and largely stripped of his enhancements, and Strange, by all accounts, strolled off whistling), the aforementioned necromancer, and the Disir. The latter are 13 nightmarish Valkyries who devoured entire Asgardian armies and who Bor, a Skyfather at the height of his powers, could only banish. Strange, displeased by the way they went after/were sent after Harry, caught up with them and demonstrated his displeasure by restoring their consciences and trapping them in a crystal ball for as long as he wishes them to remain there. And while he's not immortal, he's 500,000 years old and counting, hasn't aged since the 6th century, and occasional remarks that he's getting a bit old and tired aside, shows little or no sign of slowing down.
    • The Wizard in the Shadows (by the same author as the above): Harry is noted as variously being considered as either some sort of god, an avenging angel, an incarnation of one of the Valar, or an elf lord who had revealed himself in a time of need. Harry generally finds it rather funny, and considers glamouring his ears into points on hearing the last one. Since he is the titular 'Wizard in the Shadows', and he turns up wherever there is trouble and kills it, this is not surprising.
      • He is even outright compared to Batman by Ron (who can't actually remember Batman's name, and has to be corrected).
      • Merlin. It's a vast surprise when it's revealed that not only does he have grandchildren but he's still meddling.
    • This process is how Harry's "Mr. Black" persona in Make a Wish comes to be known as an immortal ex-Dark Lord super-Auror type and the personification of Death. When Harry tells Fred and George that his reputed summer adventures are "one way of looking at it" they commend him on unintentionally pranking the entire wizarding world.
  • This has happened to Adam Jensen in Mass Effect: Human Revolution. Due to having Ghosted through much of Deus Ex: Human Revolution canon's events, there are few records of his capabilities.
  • Kyon in Kyon: Big Damn Hero, according to the Sumiyoshi-rengo. The reputation of Kowa-Keigo Kyon is so strong that the mere mention of his arrival to a rural village is enough to make members of the Sumiyoshi-rengo flee.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfiction:
    • An extremely common trope as applied to Luna, Celestia, and Discord.
    • The Triptych Continuum applies this treatment to Luna and Celestia, whose origins have been lost to the mists of time (and their own attempts at hiding them). Discord is, to some extent, shrouded in myth even to them.
    • A Mighty Demon Slayer Grooms Some Ponies: Megan (from G1 My Little Pony) becomes this over the thousands of years after she left Ponyland. By the time the fanfic takes place, in the modern-day empire of Equestria, she is believed to have been a mighty, tall fearless warrior, not to mention the pony Messiah. When she meets face-to-face with the ponies, she finds their beliefs ridiculous.
    • The same thing has happened in The Elements of Harmony and the Savior of Worlds, except that Princess Celestia was actually in a position to correct people's misapprehensions but didn't, for reasons that aren't terribly well-explained. Megan is a bit annoyed about this, but it gets overshadowed by the time desynch issue that meant everyone else she knew before is long dead.
    • Yet another Friendship is Magic story that gives humans this treatment is The Last Human, a Fusion Fic with Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn. There are also plenty of rumors surrounding General Yarak and his White Roc (the story's stand-in for King Haggard and the Red Bull).
    • Commander Shepard enjoys this reputation in Shepard's R&R. After all, he did unite a galaxy of bickering aliens, end a cycle of galactic annihilation that had continued for billions of years, and blew up a sun or two. The Equestrians are naturally curious to learn why all Shepard's companions speak almost reverently about him, and once they have access to his biography, they realize just who they're dealing with.
    • Fallout: Equestria has Littlepip, who quickly acquires a rather impressive reputation. It's deserved, as she's smart, deadly and extraordinarily determined, but never outgrows being small, socially inept and a terrific dork. Towards the end of the fic this is noted by several characters who were really Expecting Someone Taller.
  • In the Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion fic Country of Sweets Homura is this to her classmates. According to rumor, she's an academic genius who can conjure furniture and turn water into wine. As the readers know, all these rumors are true, and they're only the tip of the iceberg.
  • SAPR: After the Battle of Vale Cardin's exploits get exaggerated to such a degree that he's almost brought to shame.
  • A Boy, a Girl and a Dog: The Leithian Script:
    • Beren waged a ten-year-long one-man rebellion against Morgoth's forces overrunning his homeland. His heroic deeds generated countless stories whose veracity can't be assessed because, albeit all of them can't be true, the most unbelievable ones are actually accurate.
      Beren: [between mouthfuls] "You can talk, I can listen. Am I so much weirder than my ancestors?"
      Captain: "Well, let's see. Old 'Fetters' sent his top commander and an army of wolves into North Beleriand because the Orc-bands wouldn't go after you any more, and no one, friend or foe, would even try to claim the king's ransom on your head. So many stories are told about you that they can't all be true — only the more improbable ones, apparently. And you wonder why people want to come and have a look at you?"
    • Several human generations ago, Edrahil gave a domestic abuser a lesson by challenging him to a musical contest, after which he offered the harpist's wife to take her away from her emotionally abusive husband. Somehow that event gave birth to dozens of folk songs narrating a rather distorted tale of an Elf whose singing magic seduced women away from their families.

    Films — Animated 
  • This happens to Z, the main character of Antz. His reputation alone leads a people's revolution while the ant himself is entirely absent and unaware of what's happening back at the colony. One rumor says he caused a soldier ant to burst into flames by looking at him, when said spontaneous combustion was actually caused by an insect-scale Kill Sat: a kid with a Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass.
  • Horst, one of the chefs in Ratatouille, tells varying stories about why he served time in prison, alternating between defrauding a corporation, robbing the second largest bank of France armed with nothing but a ballpoint pen, putting a hole in the ozone layer, and having killed a man with his thumb. The net effect of these rumors is that when he catches the deposed Skinner snooping around the restaurant, all he has to do to send him running and screaming is show him that thumb.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Invoked in Desperado, where the hero has a friend going around to bars and telling people tall tales about him.
  • This trope is played with in The Gunfighter, as that film presents the reputation of being "the fastest draw in the West" as a huge burden, to the point where the hero basically curses his killer with it at the end.
  • Hickey, a Psycho for Hire gunman and The Dragon for the Irish Mob in Last Man Standing, has this sort of reputation, and seems to hint in one scene that he encourages it.
  • Tyler Durden from Fight Club draws this sort of reputation. It's particularly noticeable when the narrator tries to track him down and find that Tyler's cult-like legend has been growing every step of the way, with wild stories about him everywhere.
    • Some of them are probably true; for example, according to one rumour he only sleeps three hours a night. That pretty much has to be the case so that he can get anything done, when the narrator hogs his body half the time.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • The version of Rā's al Ghūl in Batman Begins keeps a Body Double around so he can pretend to have faked his death and build a reputation as an immortal that hides his reputation as a kind of con artist, that hides his true immortality.
    • Bane in The Dark Knight Rises is a larger-than-life figure, even to the people of the prison where his story began. The myths are so deeply layered nobody realizes many of the stories are also about Talia instead.
  • In 10 Things I Hate About You, this reputation quickly grows around Patrick Verona. Among other things, he's purported to have sold his liver and eaten a live duck.
  • The Dread Pirate Roberts is just such a figure in The Princess Bride.
  • The Sphinx in the movie Mystery Men. In a bit of a subversion, everything that had been said about him was true. Plus, he can, like, cut guns in half with his mind.
  • In Braveheart, William Wallace develops this reputation. When he identifies himself to his fellow Scots before a battle, one man challenges him, saying that the real William Wallace is over 7 feet tall. Without missing a beat Wallace sarcastically replies "Aye, so I've heard. He kills men by the hundreds, and if he were here, he'd consume the English with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse". The last line has become completely associated with this trope both being played straight and being mocked.
    • In the How It Should Have Ended version this is exactly what happens. Also he's a robot.
    • Notably, the real Wallace was very large and tall; though his exact height is undetermined, it was probably not much less than seven feet. Part of the purpose of the scene in the film was to invoke this trope in order to lend credence to his being played by 5' 10" Mel Gibson. Hamish, his second, is actually pretty close to the historic Wallace in appearance though.
  • Subverted by Roger Moore's character Seymour in The Cannonball Run, who insists on using his "surprising" resemblance to Roger Moore to introduce himself to people as James Bond. Nobody is particularly impressed or intimidated by this.
  • Word of God is that Delios is deliberately pulling this on the assembled Spartans during his narration in 300.
  • There are many different versions of the story of Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects. Many, and not without reason; it's a mystery exactly who, if any, of the characters is or is not connected to him until the very end, after all. Unlike most characters on here, Söze lives up to the myths.
    • Or does he? After all, most of what we know of him comes from the man himself. Hardly the most trustworthy source.
      • Well, even if we take away everything from said source, we still keep a villainous character who is wanted on an international scale and whose face isn't even knownuntil the end. Maybe.
  • Dalton has a reputation along these lines in Road House (1989). Except that the more ridiculous and out there stories are actually true. Like the time he ripped a man's throat out with his bare hands.
  • Dude, Where's My Car? has the "Continuum Transfunctioner", a very powerful and mysterious device. Its mystery is only exceeded by its power! And its power is only exceeded by it's mystery!
  • Maximus in Gladiator. When a little boy asks him if he can really crush a man's skull with one hand he answers "A man? No. But a boy's..."
  • William Munny from Unforgiven. And by extension, lots of Clint Eastwood's Western roles. The Man With No Name is one of the better-known examples.
  • It is shown in Star Trek: First Contact that people idolized Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of the warp drive as some sort of idealistic man who dreamed of bringing the world into the paradise it would become, but the characters discover that the real Cochrane is an alcoholic, and the only reason he invented the warp drive was to make a ton of cash. Although it is implied that he eventually became somewhat like the legend after being the one who made First Contact with the Vulcans because of his invention.
  • The Right Stuff begins shrouded in mist with a voice-over as follows:
    Narrator: There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die ... He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass. They called it the sound barrier.
  • Inglourious Basterds. When the Basterds are first introduced, we first see Adolf Hitler and his subordinates talking about how the Bear Jew is a Golem. Hitler is clearly very, very nervous and upset. This is Hitler we're talking about here. Towards the end of the movie we see the opposite end of this spectrum; the only other surviving member of the group besides Aldo is upset to learn that due to his below average height he's been storied of as "the Little Man" and described as a circus midget.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    Prisoner: I've heard stories. She's been preying on ships and settlements for near ten years. Never leaves any survivors.
    Captain Jack Sparrow: No survivors. Then where do the stories come from I wonder?
    • Captain Jack Sparrow, especially in On Stranger Tides. Rumors about him are so out of hand that he has to learn from several of his shipmates the things that he's supposedly been doing.
  • Mean Girls uses a montage of Character Shilling to establish Regina George as a feared and revered Alpha Bitch before we even meet her:
    Janis Ian: Regina do I begin to explain Regina George?
    Emma Gerber: Regina George is flawless.
    Lea Edwards: She has two Fendi purses and a silver Lexus.
    Tim Pak: I hear her hair's insured for ten thousand dollars.
    Amber D'Alessio: I hear she does car commercials — in Japan.
    Kristen Hadley: Her favourite movie is Varsity Blues.
    Short Girl: One time she met John Stamos on a plane...
    Jessica Lopez: And he told her she was pretty.
    Bethany Byrd: One time she punched me in the face...It was awesome!
  • The elusive fence Wei Hong in The Thieves. The Hong Kong Police do not even know what he looks like.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier has the titular antagonist. His origins remain a mystery, yet what he's done over the course of the last five decades have shaped the world, and rightfully earned him the title of the world's deadliest assassin. Even Natasha, arguably the best spy in the world and a deadly assassin in her own right, is apprehensive of him thanks to a previous encounter, and when he appears it becomes very clear that only Steve, Living Legend and, as Nick Fury said, the greatest soldier in history, is capable of matching him. Of course, things become less mythical when Steve sees his face, and realizes that he's a brainwashed Bucky Barnes.
    Natasha Romanoff: "Most of the intelligence community doesn't believe he exists. The ones that do call him the Winter Soldier. He's credited with over two dozen assassinations over the past fifty years."
    Steve Rogers: "So he's a ghost story."
  • In Batman (1989), the goons who capture Batman for a minute, observing that he's wearing body armor, say, "He's human after all."
  • In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, an elderly Ranse Stoddard is a famous political figure due to this. The movie is a Whole Episode Flashback of Ranse setting the record straight about who the titular man actually is to a group of reporters. In the end, the reporter throws away his notes.
    Reporter: This is the west, Sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
  • Star Wars:
    • By the time of The Force Awakens the heroic duties of the Original Trilogy Power Trio Luke, Leia, and Han have become somewhat of a myth to the more common folk. Even main heroine Rey is in shock to find out Luke Skywalker is indeed a real person.
    • The Last Jedi: After the fall of the Empire, the Jedi have become legends again, but due to the Empire's attempts to erase them from history, no one really knows who the Jedi were or what the Force is.
      Luke: Tell me what you know about the Force.
      Rey: It's a power the Jedi have that lets them control people and... make things float.
      Luke: Impressive. Every word in that sentence was wrong.
  • Shandra is this this at the start of Shandra: The Jungle Girl; having been a native myth for a century or more. At the point where Armstrong is about to abandon his quest to find her, he says Shandra belongs in the same category as bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. By the end of the film, it is still not entirely clear what she is.
  • Wild Thing: Most of the people who have seen the Wild Thing are homeless winos, so some people think he doesn't exist, while others think he can magically turn into a cat.
  • True to Real Life, The Butchers ends with the viewer having learned nothing about the Zodiac Killer's true identity.
  • Ghost Note: Since Eugene Burn's titular album, Ghost Note, was hidden away by Mallory's grandfather before it could be mass-produced and distributed, there's not a lot of people who know anything about it. Some even doubt it ever existed in the first place.

  • Animorphs has Tobias. Even as the Animorphs were catapulted into fame, he vanished from society. People knew very little about him as compared with the other Animorphs, at least until Jake published his autobiography, which he did mostly to tell the world about Tobias and Rachel.
  • In Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue, the Christian cross is known as "The Worship Object." The citizens of the community bow to it simply because all they know about it is that it was admired in the past, but the knowledge about it has been lost because of The Ruin. This crosses over with Future Imperfect.
  • In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, the Myrddraal are pretty wicked monsters, but popular folklore grants them a couple extra levels in badass, depicting them as twenty feet tall and able to disappear whenever they turn sideways. (Real Myrddraal are man-sized and possess a limited ability to teleport through shadows.)
    • This trope also applies to Rand himself, who eventually seems to be treated as some kind of demigod or demon by people from the other end of the continent who have only heard mad rumours about the giant man-eating warrior women who serve as his bodyguards. Although that particular rumour was voiced by someone who lived in the same city in which Rand was holding court at the time—Jordan is probably making a point about how myths get created (which ties in which the way the world thinks about the Dragon and the Age of Legends), sometimes ending the main part of the book before the epilogue with a comment about how the cataclysmic event would mutate in the telling, on one such occasion even stating that, most unusually, it was something fairly close to the truth that was most widely believed. This really kicks Rand in the arse down the line as even childhood friends of his believe monstrous tales about him (which are usually unfairly slanted against him even when they contain a grain of truth).
      • The tales about Rand's specific deeds range from dead-on to wildly inaccurate, but when it comes to his Memetic Badass status, by the end if anything he's even more powerful than the stories.
      • Eventually this starts to happened to his other friends. Mat becomes particularly annoyed by this because his fame and reputation destroy his ability to anoymously put his luck to work while drinking and gambling, and it interferes with him whenever he wants to lay low and avoid notice.
    • This trope also applies to the Forsaken. They know a lot of forgotten uses of the One Power that modern Aes Sedai don't have access to, and they are definitely every bit as evil people as their reputations have it, but that's about it. Three thousand years of myths and legends turned them from more-powerful-than-average channelers to Physical Gods in the imaginations of characters in the series. Consider that modern channelers kept in practice with battle magic over all those years, and still managed to preserve a few Dangerous Forbidden Techniques of their own, and some of the Forsaken quickly had to turn tail and run whenever a protagonist showed up.
    • Becoming Shrouded in Myth is the first step to becoming a Hero of the Horn.
  • In Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, Anomander Rake is widely seen as one of the most uber-badass characters in that entire universe, both a Master Swordsman and an Archmage. He's led his people, the Tiste Andii, for millennia, has an ongoing feud with the Champion of Light, Osserc, and has about a gazillion names and titles slapped onto him whenever he is mentioned. The world's longest and best known poem, Anomandaris, is about him and his deeds and characters cite it liberally in the first book, Gardens of the Moon. It's all true, though, and Anomander Rake just is that awesome, has lived for that long and only adds to his legend whenever he does anything, whether he wants to or not.
  • Terry Pratchett:
    • Discworld:
      • In Interesting Times, Rincewind is surprised to hear the weird and wonderful theories people develop about the Great Wizzard (sic), including being 9 foot tall, multiheaded, and breathing fire. Rincewind tends to resent his reputation for always escaping danger not because it is untrue per se, but because people assume he then must be a great hero who defeats his enemies, rather than his deliberate, actual attempts to be a well-planned (but breathing) coward.
      • Happens to Rincewind again in The Last Continent, when a series of events engineered by a trickster god lead to him becoming seen as the ultimate Ecksian hero.
        Rincewind: I didn't do any of that stuff! I mean, I did, but...
      • Similar rumors swirl around Vimes in several books. In The Fifth Elephant, his traveling party's killing seven bandits leads to Gossip Evolution claiming that he did it alone, and it was thirty men — and a dog. When Vimes leaves the city, the crime rate goes down — because most criminals think that if they make too much of a mess, he would be unhappy and clean it up personally. In Monstrous Regiment, a foreign country dubs Vimes "The Butcher" for propaganda reasons. Vetinari himself also banks on the unspoken but generalized fear of Vimes both criminals and nobles have, knowing that some insinuations would be true if not for the steps Vimes takes to control himself.
      • The issue with Vimes is that even the honest truth of his exploits sound like overblown tall tales: "Sam Vimes once arrested Vetinari for treason. Sam Vimes once arrested a dragon. Sam Vimes stopped a war between nations by arresting two high commands. (He's an arresting fellow, Sam Vimes.) Sam Vimes killed a werewolf with his bare hands, and carries the law with him like a lamp. Watchmen across half the continent will say that Sam Vimes is as straight as an arrow, can't be corrupted, won't be turned, never took a bribe. The Assassins' Guild refuses contracts on Sam Vimes." And that's not to mention that he arrested an Eldritch Abomination within himself by sheer force of autodiscipline. And he doesn't even know it. It's mentioned in passing at least once that city police forces that pattern themselves like the Ankh-Morpork City Watch are often called "Sammies" (even in areas where most people haven't heard of him), in part thanks to the Ankh-Morpork trained watchmen who leave the city to take up officer positions elsewhere. (Presumably a reference to the fact that British police officers are nicknamed "Bobbies" in reference to Robert Peel, the man who wrote the book precepts on How To Be A Good Copper.) Most recently, he's become something of a demon amongst some dwarves (for whom his most impressive title is not 'Duke' nor 'Commander' but 'Blackboard Monitor').
      • Also on the Discworld is Lu Tze. His deeds as an agent of the History Monks are so legendary among the few who know of the secret society that no apprentice who hears the tales suspects that Lu Tze is actually one of the temple's janitors. Even when learning the truth, it can be tempting to discount the stories or underestimate him... until you find out why Rule One on Discworld is "Never act incautiously when confronted by a small, old, wrinkly, bald smiling man!"
      • Powerful witches on the Discworld, such as Black Aliss, the ultimate wicked witch, and Granny Weatherwax, the ultimate good witch, tend to get shrouded in myth. Miss Treason from Wintersmith shrouds herself in myth (as part of what she calls "Boffo", the power of becoming what people expect) in order to gain respect as a witch.
      • Making Money parodies this. Multiple times there are myths surrounding Magnificent Bastard Vetinari or personal possessions of his, like that he has a sword made from the iron taken out of the blood of a thousand men, but every time it shows exactly how cheap and tacky these gimmicks would be compared to the pure awesome of Vetinari just being Vetinari.
    • In Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny's helping Bigmac after he saw his friends crash gets mutated, by the next morning, into his having pulled him from the wreck.
  • David Eddings used this trope several times, and liked to play with it or exploit it for snark:
    • In The Belgariad, Belgarath, Polgara, and Hettar all have rather ... exaggerated descriptions among the Murgos in particular. As in, enormous height and a habit of biting off heads, exaggerated. Justified for Belgarath and Polgara, as they are 7000 and 3000 years old respectively, two of the most powerful sorcerers in the known world, and have played leading roles in opposing the Dark God Torak for most of their lives. Hettar is known more for his determination: he's only a Badass Normal, but he kills Murgos with great enthusiasm after a Murgo warband killed his parents. At one point Urgit comments that he doesn't quite match the stories, and Hettar remarks "I'm in disguise."
    • In the sequel The Malloreon, Garion has acquired this status himself, mainly as a result of his battle with Kal Torak at the end of the first series.
    • Subverted in The Elenium: the Pandion Knights have a terrifying reputation in story and song, but much of that was planted by Pandion agents. It seems that when evildoers have a deep-seated fear of the Pandions as a concept, they're much less likely to fight back when an actual Pandion comes looking for them.
  • Drenai:
    • Druss is introduced in Legend as a sixty-year-old Retired Badass. He's fully aware that he's mortal and fallible and that the bards have exaggerated his prowess, but he also knows the value of his legend to morale.
    • Waylander appears in his own novels as a backstabbing regicide Anti-Hero who was less than sporting at the best of times; by Druss's time he has been transformed into a Knight In Shining Armour in the popular imagination.
  • Dragaera universe:
    • When she is introduced (via Anachronic Order) in Taltos, Vlad talks about how Sethra Lavode has gained a reputation as almost a fairy tale villain, known as an evil vampire enchantress who likes to change into animals heroes that challenge her. All of which is true; she's also been Warlord of the Empire more times than anyone can keep track of, is older than civilization, and has turned down an offer to become a god. If anything, the myths undersell her. She turns out to be surprisingly nice given this.
    • Mario Greymist is supposed to be the greatest assassin ever and when Vlad meets him in Dzur, he is a portly middle-aged man in appearance. Still quite ready and willing to kick ass, though.
  • To some extent, the title character of Mike Resnick's Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future, though the hyperbole surrounding him was that he was an expert in criminal field of endeavor, a polymathic genius, and a master of disguise. It turns out that being Santiago (and the head of Santiago's crime family) is actually a position, handed down much like being the Dread Pirate Roberts was, and that no individual Santiago has lasted in the job more than ten years... and that each individual Santiago was an expert in different fields and of different physical description, thus creating most of Santiago's reputation as an unkillable omni-talented man of a thousand faces.
    • And given the events of The Return of Santiago, where several of the galaxy's most talented criminals find out the truth about the original Santiago myth and decide to secretly resume the scam over a hundred years later, the myth cycle of Santiago has expanded to include the ability to return from the dead.
    • Penelope Bailey, the Soothsayer (or the Oracle, or the Prophet), in a trilogy of novels by the same author. By the end of the first book, her reputation has grown immensely and only continues to do so throughout the other two books. Subverted in that all of the legends told about her, however fantastical, massively understated the actual truth — which was that her abilities to see the future and manipulate probability bordered on both omniscience and omnipotence.
    • Santiago's reputation was done no harm by Black Orpheus giving him no less than forty verses in an epic poem where three marks you as one of the biggest badasses in the universe, with lines like:
      His father was a comet
      His dam a cosmic wind.
      God wept when first He saw him
      But Satan merely grinned.
  • In the Myth Adventures series, Skeeve, the protagonist, gets a reputation as a master wizard. However, he is a novice who barely knows the basics of Magik.
    • Most of his early instruction, both by his original teacher and in the first few books, is composed half of showmanship designed to attain the reputation and rewards of a master, and half of the attitude and conscience which it's stated by the second book is as integral to that rank as the technical skill. This is probably critical to the reputation in that it gives actual professionals reasons to respect him instead of trying to expose him as a fraud.
    • And then there's the dimension of Perv. In Perv, magic and technology are balanced out, which attracted so many visitors that the natives were almost overwhelmed. After getting rid of the non-contributing outsiders, the Pervects started a negative ad-campaign, spreading many bad rumors about Perv to scare off any prospective tourist; things like Pervects eat their enemies and/or indulge in unpleasant sexual practices to name a few. And given how nasty your average Pervect can be in casual conversation, there's no way to tell what's real and what's fabricated, and no one wants to find out.
  • The Wizard of Oz.
  • In a tragic subversion, Elphaba of Wicked is branded the Wicked Witch of the West, when every single one of her "wicked" deeds was done in an attempt to do good.
  • Arthur from the Keys to the Kingdom books is an asthmatic twelve-year-old. By the third book, someone has taken to writing fictionalised versions of his already fairly impressive accomplishments that portray him as seven feet tall, and looking something akin to a Greek god. Needless to say, people tend to be somewhat disappointed on meeting him in person.
    • The "someone" being Japheth, commissioned by Dame Primus, who's technically Arthur's servant. It's for propaganda reasons.
  • Alaric Morgan in the Deryni works has a fearsome reputation, which he promotes (in part by dressing in black for many years) as a means of self protection. In private, he jokes about it; early in High Deryni, he recounts a peasant rumour that he has cloven hooves.
  • John Taylor of the Nightside series by Simon R. Green has a reputation of such mythic proportions that he's essentially weaponized it. He defeats many enemies just by introducing himself.
    • This is especially useful for Taylor as he's bluffing at least half of the time. When he isn't, though...
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga:
    • Admiral Count Aral Vorkosigan does not hesitate to use his hated (and false) sobriquet as "The Butcher of Komarr" to intimidate people if necessary, justifying this with "Why not? I paid for it" on at least one occasion. Later in life he admits to his son that he has found his murderous reputation a "mixed damnation". Ironically, he actually has committed murderous crimes—just not the ones he's accused of.
    • The reputation of ImpSec has travelled all the way to Jackson's Whole where Great Houses make up bogey stories about it. Then again, sometimes what actually happened was even more extreme. House Ryoval was taken down by a single ImpSec agent? Well, no, actually it was taken down by the ImpSec agent's brother, who was being held hostage as bait to draw the ImpSec agent to him, got fed up with waiting for Imp Sec to rescue him and rescued himself by kicking Baron Ryoval to death with his bare feet (since he was chained up and naked at the time, not to mention being physically and psychologically battered by days of torture), made a tidy profit out of the adventure, and invested his newfound wealth into rescuing a group of enslaved doctors and funding medical research to make the exploitation of clones (one of Jackson's Whole's major industries) obsolete.
  • One of the minor incidents in Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel First And Only, involving a shootout with Corbec, Rawne and Feygor against twenty mob enforcers, becomes embellished into an incident where the enforcers supposedly unloaded thousands of shots, but were killed with exactly 20 shots from the "off-world gangsters". Of course, exactly how false this is, given the Ghosts' competence—and those three in particular—is not known, as the exact details of the event are not told to us readers.
    • In Armor Of Contempt, Landerson explains that the Gereon Resistance deliberately attributed all sorts of feats — including those performed by others — to Mkvenner to build up his myth in the eyes of the Chaos occupying forces. Consider that in Traitor General it was revealed that he had been taught by the mysterious, deemed legendary Nalsheen on Tanith, only fitting.
  • In Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, as main character Kvothe tells Chronicler about his past he's interrupted by some locals coming into the inn, telling a story about the legendary Kvothe the Kingkiller that is a hilariously exaggerated and embellished retelling of events that Kvothe himself had gone over a few minutes before. They had no clue that the story was really about the unassuming innkeeper who's been serving their beer for the past year. As a youth he'd been the one to deliberately start many of the first rumors about himself.
    • Chronicler had attempted to get him to tell his story by telling him about the stories revolving about him. Only when he told some that were Malicious Slander was Kvothe moved.
    • The villains in the novel—the Chandrian—are also this trope. In fact, they are so Shrouded In Myth that practically every official source and educated person Kvothe encounters consider them to be purely mythological, making his quest to find them that much harder. The Chandrian seem to actively encourage this by teleporting in and murdering anyone who is able to piece together enough to uncover one of their names (along with their family, friends, and anyone else in the same general area).
  • Gotrek & Felix: Inverted, as Felix's brother has published the journals Felix kept of their adventures. They are by and large true, but everybody believes them to be fairy tales.
  • Red Mars Trilogy: Many of the First Hundred become mythical figures over their better-than-two-hundred years of life; for example, John Boone's communion with the little red men of Mars, Saxifrage Russel having been injected with the brains of multiple superintelligent lab rats, or the rumored Coyote who stowed away on the colony ship that carried the First Hundred to Mars. In the third book, Nergal refuses to believe that Hiroko Ai died or was captured in the raid during which she disappears, and another character responds that having reported sightings on opposite ends of the planet is a sure sign she's dead. However, she did disappear for a time in the first book, and the character who makes this admonishment is Coyote, about whom the same things have been claimed.
  • The hero of The Dark Tower, Roland, was advised by his teacher to "Wait. Let the word and the legend go before you." He ends up being the stories, though. In fact, he's a bit more than the legends because he has a tendency to Leave No Survivors, and there's not enough trade in his post-apocalyptic world for people to notice how towns die wherever he goes.
  • In the short story Green Stones, the eponymous greatest assassin of all time (who had a habit of leaving behind green stones with the corpses) turns out to be a stout old lady running a tavern in the middle of nowhere. She actually did earn her reputation in her earlier days, though. The newbie assassin looking for a teacher refuses to believe she's the Green Stone.
  • In Poul Anderson's Virgin Planet, a planet of women, isolated by accident, has legends of these marvelous beings, men. A real, flesh-and-blood man appears, and they conclude he's not marvelous enough and must be an alien. Their realizations of their own unreasonableness take most of the novel.
  • The War Gods:
    • Zig-zagged with Wencit of Rūm. He's over 1400 years old, the most powerful wizard alive, the last living member of the Council of Ottovarnote , and the only living wild wizard, whose magic power is limited only by his body's ability to channel it. Then you meet him, and find that he's just an ordinary-looking middle-aged guy. Then you see him in action, and discover that the stories don't do him justice.
    • Played straighter with Bahzell Bahnakson. His real feats are impressive enough, but thanks to that song The Lay of Bahzell Bloody-Hand, people think he's even more amazing. And (for evildoers) even more terrifying.
  • The Dresden Files
    • Harry reflects on how the stories of his exploits are inaccurate because while he did everything they said, it was frequently by a hair's breadth. He doesn't seem to realise that other people would think even "only just" doing any one of the things he does on his Crowning Moments Of Awesome list is a nigh-on godly task.
    • Nicodemus, the leader of the Knights of the Blackened Denarius actively invokes this. He makes sure to track down and destroy the Knights of the Cross's records every century or so to ensure they never have enough decent information regarding him and to make himself even more intimidating.
    • As a more existential threat, Outsiders are also barely understood. All that's known is that magic doesn't affect them, and that they are little more than mindless animals from "outside" that cause havoc whenever they come into our reality. Harry finds out that they are very much not mindless animals, and worse, that Outsiders all work together: ever single Outsider that's been encountered in the series has been working towards an objective, even when it seems like they aren't. And no one knows what that objective is.
    • As revealed in Skin Game: Hades. All of the stories about him are accurate to a degree, but the motives behind them are obscured. Harry asks him about it, and Hades says that the myth outlives the reality for everyone.
  • Dawn of War: In C. S. Goto's Dawn of War: Ascension, an aspirant had heard tales of the "Sky Angels" but thought them overblown — why, they didn't even agree on the color of their armor! When he actually sees Space Marines in battle with Eldar, he is awe-struck. After a time, he realizes that they are fighting a stalemate, but he concludes that means the foe is worthy of their steel — and that he and the other aspirants should help.
  • In Breakfast of Champions, while traveling through New York City, Kilgore Trout gets mugged along with another man. He can't identify the assailants to police afterwards, saying that an intelligent gas from Pluto might have attacked him for all he knows. The headline the next day in the New York Post is "PLUTO BANDITS KIDNAP PAIR". The story spreads and becomes more and more embellished, and it isn't long before everybody in the city is scared to death of a fearsome pack of thugs known as the "Pluto Gang". Even international news is warning people who might travel to NYC that they need to be careful and watch out for the Pluto Gang when they get there. And a group of punks then start up a Pluto Gang...
  • The Emperor in Fred Saberhagen's Books of Swords. He is a clown, or he is the most powerful man in the world. He is immortal, or he is dead. He is the king of beggars, or he is the father of kings. We never get the full story. We meet the Emperor, but we never learn his history. He may have been the Big Bad Emperor from Saberhagen's Empire of the East series, but who knows. Come to think of it, that Emperor is equally Shrouded in Myth.
    • It's pretty clear that the Emperor is, in fact, G-d. Also, Ominor was not particularly shrouded in myth.
  • Pavel Kazakov, Big Bad of the Dale Brown novel Warrior Class, is alternately rumoured to be high in The Mafiya, a powerful drug lord, a spy from a hostile power, and so on. Even those highly-placed in the Russian government do not know for sure.
  • In the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan, the Rangers are kind of real-life ninjas, so Shrouded in Myth as to have magical powers attributed to them. At one point, Halt stops a bandit attack simply by appearing to step right out of a tree and ordering them to drop their weapons. He then orders a boy to tie them up, threatening to imprison him in the same tree if he doesn't comply.
  • Camaris, of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, fully earned his reputation as the greatest knight in Osten Ard, as is demonstrated when, even twenty years later and after suffering a Heroic BSoD, he utterly dominates the field of battle.
  • In the Heralds of Valdemar series, the titular kingdom's legendary badass is Vanyel, the last Herald-Mage, who was said to be capable of leveling cities with his power, and whose Heroic Sacrifice destroyed an entire invading army. In the Last Herald-Mage Trilogy, the prequel detailing his life, these myths are seen to be entirely true but not half of the story.
  • Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe series features the Spymaster of the Copper Isles, who is only known as Topabaw (it's scarier in the native language). He has controlled the spying organization in the islands for decades and is renown for his ability to stop any rebellious activity before it even starts. Unfortunately his tremendous legend caused him to grow increasingly complacent, confident that his terrifying image was enough to keep people in line. The last we hear of him is that he was executed for gross incompetence after failing to stop multiple sabotages on royal property.
  • In Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, after the climax, Badger is used to threaten naughty weasel and stoat children — which is unjust since he's fond of children.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Black Colossus" Thugra Khotan
    Over all myths of Thugra Khotan hung horror and death like a pall. From where the thief stood he could see the ruins of the great hall wherein chained captives had knelt by the hundreds during festivals to have their heads hacked off by the priest-king in honor of Set, the Serpent-god of Stygia. Somewhere near by had been the pit, dark and awful, wherein screaming victims were fed to a nameless amorphic monstrosity which came up out of a deeper, more hellish cavern. Legend made Thugra Khotan more than human; his worship yet lingered in a mongrel degraded cult, whose votaries stamped his likeness on coins to pay the way of their dead over the great river of darkness of which the Styx was but the material shadow.
  • Harry Potter gets some of this, due to his status as "The Boy Who Lived". As he points out in one of the books, though, he's just a student, with a student's knowledge of magic. And anyway, no one was there when he supposedly "defeated" Voldemort, so all those stories about him have to be nothing but made-up stuff and nonsense. Even some of the things he's confirmed to have done (destroyed an evil wizard in his first year, killed a basilisk with a sword, fought off over a hundred Dementors at once) sound a lot more impressive than they were in reality, as Harry is always quick to point out (the evil wizard was killed by magic that Harry didn't even know he had, the basilisk had been blinded, when he repelled the Dementors they weren't actually focused on him... and in each case he came a hairs-breadth from dying in the process).
  • In the Mistborn trilogy:
    • Kelsier was introduced this way—ever since he escaped from the Pits of Hathsin, which nobody had ever done before, all sorts of—rather incredible—rumors began spreading about him. Of course, he encouraged them at every opportunity, and helped start some of them, to give the downtrodden skaa someone to believe in. After Vin killed the Lord Ruler, she got this treatment more than a little as well.
    • The Lord Ruler himself as well, in this case backed up officially by his priesthood. A large part of the plot of the first book concerns the heroes trying to find out where his myth ends and the man begins. As it turns out they drastically underestimated his power, which was enough to slaughter entire armies by himself.
    • After the timeskip, the Alloy of Law takes it a step further by essentially treating every character from the original trilogy as a mythical figure. Which, in certain cases, leads to quite a few in-jokes for the reader.
  • Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events and framed fugitive, is shrouded in errors made by the Daily Punctilio rather than myth.
  • This works to the world's disadvantage in the Green-Sky Trilogy, after two girls rediscover a long-forgotten telekinetic technique. In a matter of days, they're Holy Children and the story has been elevated into grandiose myth. The kids get so self-conscious they start mind-blocking and lose all their ESP abilities.
  • Septimus Heap: There are many people who are Shrouded in Myth, including the Last Alchemist Marcellus Pye, the first ExtraOrdinary Wizard Hotep-Ra, the first Queen Eleanor the Wise, and so on.
  • Due to the secretive nature of his business, the lead character in Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp books about an elite counterterrorism agent starts to accumulate this status as the series progresses. His boss explicitly says she knows for a fact that he could not have possibly been involved in all the deeds attributed to him. Rapp admits the usefulness of an intimidating persona, if still second to the total anonymity he would prefer to operate under.
  • Robb Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire quickly gains supernatural Memetic Badass status among his enemies. It doesn't save him.
    • Most of anything from more than 500 years or so before present day is this, as various stories contain contradictory elements, such as someone serving as a Kingsguard before the unification of Westeros and even before the knightly traditions of the Faith of the Seven had reached the continent.
  • Quite common in Tolkien's Legendarium, as information in Middle-earth is something that travels slowly and is easily lost.
    • There are countless myths regarding the nature and feats of the five wizards, which they actively tend to encourage. Only a small handful of people in Middle-earth know the whole truth about them, with most believing them to be long-lived and well-learned humans or elves.
    • Gandalf, specifically in The Hobbit: "Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort of remarkable tale. Tales and adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever he went, in the most extraordinary fashion."
    • Though they're considered no big deal in Bree and Ered Luin, hobbits are increasingly believed to be an old wives' tale the further one gets from the Shire. Théoden was amazed when he met Merry and Pippin for the first time, and the people of Minas Tirith were no less so when Pippin rode into the city.
  • Given the reverence of the Howard families for long-lived people and the reticence of the man himself, by Time Enough for Love Lazarus Long has acquired an almost mythological status among those who know of his existence. He himself is quick to deflate their near-worship by pointing out that he's just a "grumpy old man". To which Howard Foundation Chairman Ira Weatheral retorts that he's lived over two thousand years, so he must possess some unusual traits, even if it's just the knowledge of how to live that long.
  • Part of what makes the titular Wishing Maiden so difficult to find.
  • In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, the Rosa. They know it trapped enemies, who aren't there any more. Lucian picks the most palatable explanation of the fate of those it trapped for Lindsey; turns out that none of them are true. The bushes have roses that look like human faces, and the Rosa traps another enemy, kills him, and produces a new rose during the course of the novel.
  • Jonathan Shadowhunter lived during the Middle Ages and the details of his life have been heavily mythologized in the thousand years since. This is one of the reasons nobody in The Mortal Instruments knew what the Mortal Mirror was, because the specifics of how he summoned Raziel (with the help of a warlock) had been buried beneath idealized legends.
  • The Secret Garden: Archibald Craven is reputed to be a dreadful-looking hunchback, but when his niece, Mary, meets him in person he's revealed to be normal-looking, with high and crooked shoulders. His son, Colin, is reputed to be a hunchback as well, and unable to walk due to malformed legs, when actually he's just a sickly boy who is so spoiled the servants never try to get him walking.
  • The Enchantment Emporium has the Gale family. In the first book, the family's history is a matter of discussion between the Big Bad and his Dragon. The third book shows part of might have actually happened, as part of a Stable Time Loop.
  • Robin McKinley's The Outlaws of Sherwood sees this happen to Robin Hood. Folk legend quickly transforms Robin from a runaway forester who accidentally killed a man in self defense, to the valiant outlaw rebel against Norman tyranny who's a crack shot with the bow and robs the rich to feed the poor. (Some even believe he's one of the old pagan gods come to save England, a sideways reference to more modern myths.) A newcomer to his band is shocked to discover that Robin is actually the worst archer of the bunch. King Richard wryly expresses disappointment that the real Robin Hood doesn't wear Seven League Boots and knock down walls with his voice.
  • Moby-Dick is the epitome of this trope. The whale has gained such a reputation for its destructive power that many sailors insist it is not a whale at all, but rather the physical form of an Eldritch Abomination which exists everywhere in space and time simultaneously. At least one sailor outright claims that it is nothing less than an incarnation of God himself.
  • Watership Down:
    • It's implied that many of the rabbit legends of El-ahrairah are in fact the half-remembered stories of different rabbit chiefs.
    • At the end, an elderly Hazel overhears a young doe telling some rabbit babies a folk tale, which is a very heavily-mythologized account of Hazel's own adventures in establishing the Watership warren. Also General Woundwart gets made into a supernatural bogeyman used to frighten children; the narration comments he might not have been displeased by this.
  • The Elder Empire: The other guilds know very little about the Consultants, only that if you hire them, you win. The Consultants actively cultivate this reputation (one person notes that there are no stories of the Consultants failing, even though it must have happened before), and rely on stealth and espionage to perform seeming magic.
  • Doctor Who New Adventures: At the end of The Also People, Bernice Summerfield complains that the Doctor and many of his other friends are shrouded in myth on various worlds, when's it her turn? The Doctor assures her that there is one planet that worships her as the Goddess of Alcohol and Sarcasm. She's not impressed.
  • In Marooned in Realtime, Wil Brierson gets a bit of this regarding his detective abilities, to his embarrassment. During his career, his employers liked to use his accomplishments (which admittedly included things like stopping a foreign invasion more-or-less single-handed) in their advertising, and after he was involuntarily bobbled his son grew up and wrote an acclaimed series of detective novels featuring a fictionalized version of him. As a result, all of humanity thinks of him as a Real Life Sherlock Holmes. Luckily, he is pretty damned good, managing to save Humanity from its last surviving dictator as a side note to finding humanity's last murderer.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Ciaphas Cain: Despite his cowardly, self-serving tendencies, and his valiant attempts to quell them, Ciaphas is regarded as a sterling hero with touching modesty. One religious sect has even proclaimed him to be a physical manifestation of the god-emperor's Divine Will.
    • Grey Knights: The secrecy surrounding the Grey Knights is actually used to the advantage of the Big Bad in setting up a Right Hand Versus Left Hand Let's You and Him Fight.
    • Soul Drinkers: In Chapter War, the legends of the Black Chalice — apparently based on an earlier visit from the Soul Drinkers — greatly complicate the Soul Drinkers' lives. Especially since the Howling Griffons have sworn Revenge on the Black Chalice. After considerable deaths, and letting the Orks advance while they fought the Soul Drinkers, the Howling Griffons learn that they are not those they swore revenge on — and they had sworn an oath to protect the planet from orks.
    • Space Wolf: In Wolf's Honour, when Ragnar and other Space Wolves on the shadow planet meet up with the Thirteenth Company, while they are waiting to move, the Company regales them with tales of their primarch as a human being, not as "the blessed Primarch". He still impresses the Space Wolves who come from ten millennia after his time — as does the Company.
    • Storm Of Iron: When trying to verify whether a soldier really had survived an attack, Vauban remembers hearing of Yastobaal, a great and selfless hero who sacrificed himself to save his planet, and how his further researches had discovered the man was a reckless Glory Hound. He wonders how this soldier, a discipline problem, would be remembered in history.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Kaladin is this from the perspective of the other characters, most especially in the early books. While the readers know all about Kaladin's past - much of the first book was about explaining How He Got Here - in the eyes of everyone else he's a slave barely out of his teens who rolled into military camps of the Alethi with the word for "dangerous" branded to his forehead but carried himself like a young lord, with prodigious military skill, medical knowledge on par with a surgeon, an uncommonly strong sense of right and wrong, an inexplicable habit for surviving the unsurvivable, and a seething hatred for the aristocracy. Other characters are often left wondering just who the hell this kid is, and their theories started getting pretty out there.
  • Elianto: the two main factions of Neikos, the Oroni and Argentoni, are stuck in a Forever War because of an event known simply as the "Ultimate Offense". When Fuku actually asks the Oroni leader what was the Ultimate Offense, he admits that noone remembers anymore and he suspects that's the same even for the Argentoni. When Fuku tries to mention old text, the man has this to say:
    "Chronicles aren't useful at all: they all say 'This was they Year of the Ultimate Offense', no more and no less. They don't explain shit!"
  • Dolphin Trilogy: John is a Wild Child raised by dolphins, and as he grows up, he's sighted several times by humans and becomes known as the Merman of the Caribbean. Even after he rejoins society, a lot of people still believe the rumors that he's an actual merman who transforms into a human when he leaves the water.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Some demons on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and to some vamps, Buffy or Slayers in general.
  • At least one episode of Burn Notice has Michael pulling a Keyser Soze story to scare the criminal of the week into doing exactly what he wants them to do.
    • Michael doesn't always need to pull a story to do this. He is this for real at least as far as the Russians are concerned, and probably in many other parts of the intelligence/special forces world.
      You joke. Everyone in Russian special forces knows the name Weston. He is like the boogeyman. Not real.
  • Colonel March of Scotland Yard: 'Monsieur Z', the head of the underworld in Marseilles in "The Headless Hat", to the extent that the majority of his underlings do not know what he looks like.
  • Abed's film "ABED" in Community got this treatment even before it was even revealed.
    "I heard it's the same film backwards and forwards."
    "I heard the deleted scenes are the real scenes and the scenes are the deleted scenes."
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor's name and knowledge of his various incarnations is sprinkled liberally throughout history. There are groups dedicated to seeking him out, but for the most part, especially in Nine's initial portrayal during the new series' first episode, "Rose", he is portrayed as a strange enigma whose true identity is known only to a few and who seems to appear all over the place in totally unconnected ways (well, unconnected except for the fact that there's always trouble wherever he goes: from the RMS Titanic, to Pompeii, to a 51st Century weapons factory). This is one instance where his reputation is well deserved.
      The Doctor: I'm the Doctor, and you're in the biggest library in the universe. Look me up. [the aliens in question do so, and promptly run for their lives]
      • Famously seen in the Eleventh Doctor's introductory episode, when the aliens who want to destroy Earth have an Oh, Crap! moment as they realize who he is.
        The Doctor: Hello, I'm the Doctor.
      • Lampshaded by Dorium:
        Dorium: All those stories you've heard about him. They're not stories, they're true.
    • Rory Williams in "The Big Bang". He spent two thousand years guarding the Pandorica while his fiancée healed inside. By the time she gets out, the tale of "the Last Centurion" is chronicled in museums detailing his appearance in every single culture throughout history up to the London Blitz. Since the entire universe is falling apart at this point, people's belief in this story is one of the few things holding it together. When the universe gets rebooted, the myth of the Last Centurion is woven throughout human history, even though it technically didn't happen this time.
      Amy Pond: There's someone coming. I don't know where he is, or what he's doing, but trust me, he's on his way. There's a man who will never let us down. And not even an army can get in the way. He's the last of his kind. He looks young but he's lived for hundreds and hundreds for years. And wherever they take you, Melody, however scared you are, I promise you, you'll never be alone. Because this man is your father. He has a name but the people of our world know him better... as the Last Centurion.
    • And River Song definitely counts by "The Big Bang", as when a Dalek informs her that as an associate of the Doctor, she'll show him mercy. She tells him her name and tells him to check again. The Dalek proceeds to beg for its life, which she encourages. When Amy and Rory ask what happened to the Dalek, she just says "It died."
    • The Series 9 story arc pivots on the question of the identity of the Hybrid, a creature of Gallifreyan folklore that is said to be the ultimate warrior, half-one species and half-another, who might save or destroy all. Many conflicting stories and prophecies surround it, and the Doctor might just be the one who has all the answers to the questions...
  • This happens to John in Farscape as time goes on and he racks up more and more crazy adventures.
    • First in "Suns and Lovers" while pretending not to know who "John Crichton" is. The act is ruined pretty quickly by John's need to set the record straight:
      Borlik: You know, I heard he destroyed a Peacekeeper Gammak Base, murdered an entire Nebari battalion, even laid waste to a Shadow Depository. The guy was a devil: he raped and pillaged, he popped eyeballs-
      Crichton: Whoa-whoa! Where do they get these stories? Let's set the facts straight. First off, there was no raping, very little pillaging, and Frau Blucher popped all the eyeballs.
    • Happens again in "Scratch 'N Sniff" when an alien who has been playing Crichton and D'Argo from the start reveals her game when she realizes that the stories are a bit... exaggerated:
      Raxil: 2 guns? I mean — I thought you were the Great Crichton and D'Argo! I mean — you blew up a shadow depository! I thought you'd bring pelshfer charges! And a plasma bomb! And a really big gunship! BUT NO! YOU BRING NOTHING! YOU BRING 2 LITTLE WEAPONS THAT WOULDN'T KILL A NIKNIK!
      D'Argo: [hesitantly] You... have heard of us?
      Raxil: Yeah — I've heard stories. But obviously they aren't worth a bucket of dren!
    • You know, for escaping prisoners who don't want to be caught, they do call an awful lot of attention to themselves.
  • In Father Ted, the mysterious Beast of Craggy Island causes some especially odd rumors, such as: It has four ears, two are for listening and two are sort of back-up ears. Some of the ears are on the inside of its head. For some reason it has a tremendous fear of stamps. Its yawn sounds like Liam Neeson chasing a load of hens around inside a barrel. Instead of a face, it has four arses.
  • An in-universe example on Firefly: In "Jaynestown", Jayne is regarded as a folk hero shrouded in myth by the working-class mudders of Canton, and even given a statue and a song in his honor. (The song is apparently sung nightly at the bar.) Of course, they think he dropped a bunch of money in their town square because he was a Robin Hood type; in reality, he was just trying to escape and had to push the money out of the ship. He even pushed his partner out first.
    • It actually goes farther than that. In Serenity: Better Days, the crew gains an absolute shitload of money. Now having enough cash to be able to waste some, Jayne gives a handful of bills to a monk, who then remarks: "The Hero of Canton... he's real!" This is happening on a completely different planet.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Facts from the distant past are prone to be embellished into legends. For instance, Aegon the Conqueror forged the Iron Throne from less than two hundred swords rather than the reputed thousand. However, George R.R. Martin's original vision of the Iron Throne is much more monstrous than the show version, with the thousand swords apparently meant literally.
    • After curb-stomping his enemies twice, Robb quickly becomes an in-universe Memetic Badass accused of Lycanthropy because his pet direwolf fought beside him.
    • Because this trope is acknowledged in-universe, some characters are suspicious of magical things that actually exist, such as dragons and White Walkers. For the first few seasons, Daenerys' dragons are commonly dismissed as just a story by people who have not seen them.
    • Events surrounding Lyanna Stark's abduction remain a mystery to this very day.
    • Nobody has a clue where exactly House Reed's stronghold is, or what their members look like except Bran, Rickon, Osha, and Hodor (well, the latter part at least) because Jojen and Meera personally looked for them. Greywater Watch, their "castle", is a crannog — basically a really large floating artificial island/houseboat. Thus it moves, and during times of war, they just pull it back deeper into the swamps.
  • On Grey's Anatomy, Arizona has survived enough near-death experiences she's reputed to be immortal, and the interns regard her as a legendary figure.
  • In Grimm, Monroe mentions to Nick that the Grimm have become the monsters in Wesen Fairy Tales, due to their long history of decapitating Wesen simply for the crime of being Wesen. It helps that the Grimm ability to see a Wesen changing into their half-wog form (normally invisible to humans) has a side effect of scaring the pants off the Wesen in question. It is not clear whether this is biological or supernatural in nature but it has the effect of making a Wesen who never met a Grimm instantly believe in all the horror stories he/she heard.
    Monroe: You're the monster under the bed! [...] You're not real! You're a scary story we tell our kids! Be good or a Grimm will come and cut your head off...
  • Highlander: The Series has Methos, the oldest Immortal still alive. He's said to be at least 5,000 years old, (this part is true, the man himself claims that further back than that, his memory starts to turn into a blur, so even he has no idea how much older than 5,000 he is) and when you put together all the stories about him, they all contradict each other in everything from his physical description, his deeds, his personality, etc. The truth about Methos has been so obscured that in the present day even other Immortals and the Watchers Organization (the sole group of mortals who are clued in to the existence of Immortals and have been cataloging the history of Immortals for millennia) think Methos is just a myth or a collection of legends about different Immortals that have falsely been attributed to one person. Of course, it helps when the subject is deliberately invoking this; it turns out Methos infiltrated the Watchers, became the leading expert on himself, viewed by other Watchers as the greatest authority on the legend of Methos, then deliberately played with the different stories and descriptions of himself so that they would say what he wanted them to say, and omit what he wanted them to omit. Part of what Methos wanted was for it to be impossible to put together a coherent picture of who Methos is or even what he looks like. For Methos the best way to make sure nobody came after the Oldest Immortal in a bid to take his head and claim his power for themselves is to make sure nobody is looking for him... and that even those who are can't find him, even with all the information in the world at their fingertips.
  • Leverage: By the time of "The Two Live Crew Job", Nate and his team have acquired a reputation in the thieving community for absolutely balls-to-the-wall cons (framing a crooked judge for a bank robbery, rigging a jury, stealing money from the Irish mob, etc.). And due to the fact that no one knows the real reason they do the jobs, they merely come off as the scariest thieves in the business.
  • Jude Hays' conflicting death stories on Life. He didn't.
  • In the Masters of Horror episode "Cigarette Burns", La Fin Absolue du Monde has been buried years ago after the initial massacre at the premiere and is nearly untraceable. Kirby remarks that everywhere he goes to look there's a wall of silence surrounding the topic.
  • Catalina from My Name Is Earl had quit stripping because she got a guy so excited that he died. Turned out he was very rich, but cruel to his workers, so they see Catalina as their savior.
  • Just check out the following quote to see how people in the NCIS universe see Gibbs.
    "What have you heard? That bad guys would rather confess than be interrogated by him? That his steely gaze can cool a room by five degrees? That he can only be killed by a silver bullet, like a werewolf? They're all true, except for the silver bullet part. Might give him indigestion or heartburn, but I don't think it'd kill him. Any other questions?"
    • Also this:
      Timothy McGee: I've heard stories about Special Agent Gibbs.
      Tony: Only half of them are true...the trick is figuring out which half.
  • Henrietta "Hetty" Lang in NCIS: Los Angeles also receives this treatment amongst the intel community, even having enough favor to summon a pair of fighter jets just to scare a militia group in one episode. "G" Callen also gets this due to his covert work, and the fact that nobody, not even Callen himself, knows his first name. A villain actually uses the latter to coerce G into obeying his phone instructions by saying "I know what the 'G' stands for."
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In "The Camp", none of the human slaves have ever seen one of the New Masters, the alien race that conquered Earth twelve generations earlier. During an uprising two generations earlier, one man caught a glimpse of the world outside the huge wall that surrounds the camp and supposedly told the father of Prisoner 91777 what he saw: scorched Earth, black steel and New Masters everywhere. The New Masters were alleged to be three times the size of a human with four arms and razor teeth. The Commandant reveals that the New Masters abandoned Earth 100 years earlier, meaning that they were gone by the time of the uprising. After another, more successful uprising, the slaves open the gate and see that the landscape is lush and green.
    • In the sequel "Promised Land", some of the very few New Masters (known as the Tsal-Khan) who remained on Earth after the evacuation are seen and it is readily apparent that the stories about their appearance had been greatly exaggerated: although they are vaguely reptilian, they are the same size of humans, have two arms and their teeth don't seem to be any more or less sharp than the average human's. Given that humans are believed to have all died out, similar legends have grown up around them. T'sha teases his younger brother Ma'al by telling him that the woods are filled with humans with razor teeth and claws like hooks who hunt in packs.
  • Mention is made in Person of Interest of the first hacker, who broke into and crashed the early DARPANET at a time when most people didn't know that there was such a thing as an internet, and this action is why the net exists for the public today. A comment made by Finch at the end of the episode where this first comes up revealed that hacker to be Harold himself, as a high school student fooling around with a home-made computer and a plastic whistle he used for phone phreaking.
  • Part of the appeal of Ronnie Gardocki, on The Shield, was his mystery shrouded past.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Early on, we meet one of the heroes of the Bajoran Resistance movement, whom the new Bajoran government wants to replace Major Kira with as liaison to the Federation. He's competent, but many of his successes are good luck and more are just stories; the example given being a particularly notorious Cardassian military officer whose death was made out to be some kind of epic Duel to the Death... when in fact they walked into each other as said Cardassian was getting out of the lake where he'd been taking a swim, shot him before he could grab the sidearm he'd left next to his clothes and didn't even realise who the guy was until later. He soon dies a heroic death.
    • One episode dealt with them stumbling across a hidden colony established by a time-displaced version of the main crew. One group lives in the Klingon way, as hunters and warriors, revering their biological and/or spiritual ancestor Worf, "The Son of Mogh", about whom many legends are told. When a boy who hopes to grow up to join them asks Worf if it's true he can kill a man just by looking at him, after a brief pause, Worf puts on a stern expression and clarifies: "Only when I am angry."
    • Another episode had O'Brien and Bashir debating how Davy Crockett met his end at the Alamo, specifically whether he tried to surrender before being killed. Worf interrupts and invokes the importance of this trope, arguing that if they truly believe in his legend there should be no question he died as a hero, but if they don't, Crockett would be just a man, and the details of his death wouldn't matter.
    • One episode dealt with this, bringing back Kor. The crew of the Klingon ship (barring Martock, who held a grudge against the man for denying him the chance to be an officer), was in utter awe of the Dahar Master. However, Kor was old, and dementia was setting in. At one point of the battle, Kor had to take over command, but thought he was fighting one his legendary battles and nearly got the entire crew killed.
  • Top Gear (UK) has their "tame racing driver", The Stig. Some say that he sleeps in a barrel of nitrous oxide... and that he has an irrational fear of staples. All we know is, he's called the Stig.
  • Much like the original Watchmen, Watchmen (2019), a Sequel in Another Medium to the comic, takes this approach to Hooded Justice. Part of the reason "This Extraordinary Being" is such a Wham Episode is because in the universe of the series, the relationship with Captain Metropolis is the only accurate piece of In-Universe speculation as recurring character Will Reeves, a still-living 100+ year old African-American former cop, is revealed to be Hooded Justice, possibly making him the sole surviving Minuteman.
  • Omar Little's larger-than-life exploits on The Wire are exaggerated by everyone on the street, and even criminal kingpins treat him and the stories about him with a sort of fearful awe. After Omar dies in the final season a huge Gossip Evolution effect kicks in, turning Omar being shot in the back by a 12 year old psychopath while buying some cigarettes into an epic Last Stand where Omar fought to the last bullet against a whole crew of gangsters with AKs. When one character who knows the more mundane truth tries to correct the rumors, everyone refuses to believe him. In the background of one of the last scenes of the show, two random drug dealers continue to retell the stories to each other, and the tales are apparently getting even bigger, because now one of them claims that the cops were in on Omar's death and helped set him up to be killed.

  • This has been applicable to Bob Dylan for a certain degree throughout his career, right up to the present day. While a good amount of details about his private life have always been known, Dylan has always done his best to mystify fans and press. At the start of his career he often gave wildly varying accounts of his origins, and he's known for verbally sparring with interviewers in the mid-60's, answering their questions in confusing and enigmatic ways. After his motorcycle crash in 1966 he spent years running away from the limelight, and has never fully stopped doing so. These days, though still on his so-called Neverending Tour, he rarely gives any interviews, and his uncharacteristic release of a completely traditional Christmas album in 2009 shows he hasn't lost his knack for doing what people least expect him to.
    • Part of his mystique is the varying public images he's taken on throughout his career. The aloof, sneering rock star in shades of the mid-60's might be hard to reconcile with the shy, humble folk singer he started out as, or the Feliniesque vagrant in white clown-makeup of the '75 Rolling Thunder Revue, the preachy Born Again Christian of the early 80's or the old, dishevelled bluesman with the silly hat and pencil moustache he's become during the past ten years.
  • Iron Maiden: The titular subject of "The Nomad" from Brave New World.
    Legend has it that you speak an ancient tongue
    But no one's spoke to you and lived to tell the tale
    Some may say that you have killed a hundred men
    Others say that you have died and live again
  • The Protomen are this, with the band insisting on wearing codenames and facepaint; the member K.I.L.R.O.Y. is even a robot. Nothing is known of them for certain except that they are truly awesome.
  • Robert Johnson was this for most fans through the sixties and into the nineties. Stories abounded—and were likely believed—about his mysterious techniques and the Faustian ways he acquired them, as well as the ephemeral details of the bluesman's life. Subsequent research has demystified him somewhat. Details of his birth and death are now widely agreed upon, as well as facts about his career and development as a musician.
  • The Frank Zappa song "Billy The Mountain" from Just Another Band from L.A. has Studebaker Hoch, of which little is known. Aside from some interesting rumors that he was born next to the beef pies at a supermarket.
  • Tom Waits does this to his neighbour in "What's He Building In There?" from Mule Variations.
    I hear he has a wife in some place called Mayor's Income, Tennessee. Hey buddy, I've checked atlases; there's no such place. And he used to have a consulting business in Indonesia. That made me feel safe. So what's he building in there? What the HELL is he building in there?
    • And again to the unnamed subject of Black Wings from Bone Machine.
    Some say he once killed a man with a guitar string
    He's been seen at the table with kings.
    Well, he once saved a baby from drowning
    There are those that say beneath his coat there are wings...
  • Slint's Spiderland, with the album's backstory involving members becoming institutionalised and the band breaking up before it got released.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Jim Darkmagic (of the New Hampshire Darkmagics), who is supposedly eight feet tall with flaming hair and a muscular physique.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar:
      • Little is known about the monstrous Ogroid Thaumaturges, even amongst the most learned of the Arcanite Cults that attempt to recruit them. That they are magically gifted and blessed by the Chaos God Tzeentch is obvious but beyond this almost nothing is known of their origin beyond speculation.
      • While there are many legends and lies told about the origin of the Daemon Prince known as Mazarall The Butcher, nothing is known for sure about the bloodthirsty daemon except that he has been a force of destruction for centuries.
    • Warhammer 40,000:
      • The Space Marines are seen as legends by most of the Imperium's citizens. Seeing that the legends are true generally means something bad is going down.
      • The Space Marine Primarchs and the Immortal God-Emperor of Mankind receive this so much that most of the information about them is from stories, generally about how super-duper awesome they were, told millennia after they were still active. Due to the general nature of 40K continuity, it's difficult to determine what is true.
      • While the basic outline of the Old Ones and their history — they existed a long time ago, wielded incredible power, made the Aeldari, Orks and some others, and were destroyed by the C'tan and Necrontyr — is well-established, much else about them is deliberately obscure. Their precise nature, appearance and powers were never made clear, and background material often presents in-universe information about them as hopelessly mired in hundreds of millennia's worth of allegory, mistranscribing, and mythologizing. To modern galactics, little is known of their godlike predecessors, and every lead on their true nature simply obfuscates the picture and raises further questions.
  • Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games is an intensely private person, considering he put his name (and an all-seeing pyramid) on the building. Even his exact age is shrouded in myth.
  • Hoyles Rules Of Dragon Poker: The lunatic behind the game created a fictional myth surrounding the games invention, all the while explaining why it was complete nonsense. Until he revealed it was all true.
  • In Nomine:
    • ucifer, as a supernatural liar, has gone to great lengths to ensure that there is very little clear information available to others about his powers, goals or plans. Demons see him as essentially an unguessable force of nature, and even the sourcebooks give nothing but hints and suggestions.
    • The true origins and nature of Kronos, the Demon Prince of Fate, are unknown to anyone save maybe Lucifer and Kronos himself. The official line is that he's a Balseraph, a specific type of demon associated with lies and delusions. In actuality, he's... well, defintely more than just a fallen angel, but things get blurry past this point. The most popular theories among those who suspect is that he's either a member of some higher celestial order of beings than angels and demons, a dark embodiment of the universe's guiding Symphony, or an aspect of God broken off by the War in Heaven. One demon NPC believes that he's actually Jesus, caused to Fall by the trauma of the Crucifixion and death.
    • There's a persistent rumor in-universe about the Dozen, a cabal of twelve immortal sorcerers, sometimes with a thirteenth as a leader, who can command powers that should normally be impossible. The details vary wildly in telling — they might be led by Merlin or Solomon or Cain or the Wandering Jew, they might be able to command angels or summon Demon Princes or raise the dead — and ultimately nobody knows anything for sure. Demons make a point of playing up the joke in order to mislead ambitious sorcerers... but when they talk among themselves, they aren't too sure that the Dozen really are fictitious, and maybe some of those stories are real after all...

    Role-Playing Games 
  • Dino Attack RPG: Silencia Venomosa's infamous reputation combined with her mysterious nature tended to make her seem less human and more of a living myth, akin to Keyser Soze. There's even a Keyser Soze in the Dino Attack RPG universe, and there is some speculation that this universe's Soze is actually Silencia Venomosa.

  • The title character of the opera Paul Bunyan is never seen on stage, but the narrator tells some rather interesting stories about his life, saying "you must believe me" more than once.

    Video Games 
  • Halo:
    • Master Chief, the main protagonist, is regarded by the highly religious aliens of the Covenant as a literal demon. In fact, the Spartans have always been feared by the Covenant as demons, because what else besides a supernatural evil could possibly stand up to the might of the Sangheili? Halo: Glasslands reveals that some of the more superstitious Sangheili even believe that they were actually dead humans brought back to life. The Sangheili focus-character dismisses this until he actually met (read: was beaten to a pulp by) one.
    • Even before the Covenant arrived on the scene, the Spartans had a reputation. It's UNSC policy to never list Spartans as Killed In Action under any circumstances, instead listing them as Missing In Action or Wounded In Action.
      Voro 'Mantakree: One last fight Demon. You shall die, and we will reopen the silver path.
      Kurt Ambrose: (laughs) Die? Didn't you know? Spartans never die. (detonates FENRIS nuclear warhead)
  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, Lloyd Irving of all people seems like a character Shrouded in Myth to new protagonist Emil, especially since he's described as a Messianic Archetype by all his former allies, but has seemingly turned into a Rogue Protagonist at the start of the game, and had murdered Emil's parents before his very eyes. The truth? A Decus did it.
    • And in the first game, the Four Seraphim did this to themselves as part of the process of building the Church of Martel - mostly to Martel herself, who was never really a goddess, and Mithos, their leader. Overlaps with Legend Fades to Myth a bit - some of the stories they tell about the legendary hero and his companions are at least partly true, remembered down the millennia as local legends, but no one has the complete story.
  • Baldur's Gate:
    • In Baldur's Gate II, Renal the "Bloodscalp", head of the Shadow Thieves in Athkatla (but not really; he's a front man) is disappointed when he first meet you, having expected something more impressive. One of the possible dialogue options is to tell him that you expected more from such a high-ranking Shadow Thief.
    • In the first game, after clearing out the mines, the players can see the start of the rumors of the "Eight Feet Tall, Incredibly Handsome/Beautiful Spell-slinging badasses" rumors that you could either try to dispel, or help spread it. There's even a sequence where you can convince a particularly stupid bounty-hunter ogre to leave you alone:
      "Larze, my poor confused ogre. There is only one thing for you to do. You have to go back and take a closer look at the picture. I'm sure once you've had a second look, you'll know what a big mistake you've made. Now run along, we'll be waiting right here."
  • In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time the rumour mill talks about a fierce swordsman and a hideous giant with neck tattoos - they're actually Fayt, a fairly unassuming kid in his late teens, and Cliff, a handsome, muscular, tall man with green lines around his neck being the only way to distinguish him as an alien.
  • This actually happens to you in Skies of Arcadia as a part of the Swashbuckling Rating mechanic. When you start out, nobody knows you. Late in the game, people say you are a twelve-foot-tall demon who spits flames (you are a 17-year-old pirate wearing what looks like the preferred outfit of a J-Pop-singing Boy Scout with a strap fetish) and that you opened the Grand Fortress with your bare hands (when you actually had a little help from a Wave-Motion Gun).
  • Guybrush Threepwood in the fourth Monkey Island game.
    • As well as the titular Monkey Island, and Big Whoop in the second game.
    • Morgan LeFlay gets this treatment in Tales of Monkey Island: The Launch of the Screaming Narwhal.
  • Sir Daniel Fortesque was deliberately turned into one of these in MediEvil. Legends say he lead the charge against the dark forces of the sorcerer Zarok, who mutually slew each other in single combat. In truth, Sir Dan was a favourite courtier who managed to talk his way into knighthood (and head of the royal battalion) through a combination of good looks, a winning smile, and a talent for telling wild stories about himself. In the actual battle, Dan was killed by the first arrow fired not even a minute after it begannote , and Zarok and his forces were actually slain by the army behind Fortesque. In order to cover up the embarrassment, the King made up the above story, declared Dan the "Hero of Gallowmere" and gave him a nice tomb, then had the history books filled with other tales of his supposed "Exploits".
    • There are many books in the game that describe the deeds of legendary heroes, though when you meet them in the Hall of Heroes they tend to deflate these myths a little, if only with their appalling attitudes.
  • In Golden Sun, Isaac is selected to compete in the Inevitable Tournament of Colosso. When speaking with one of the other competitors, it's mentioned that rumor had it that Isaac was an intimidatingly large and muscular man, rather than the young (if magic-wielding) teen he actually is.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Solid Snake gets this treatment by almost everyone else who doesn't know him, and his daddy Big Boss is given an even bigger Myth-Shroud by the military and civilians. Unlike most examples of this trope, most of their reputation is well-earned - including Big Boss's ability to convert anyone to his side. Notably, Snake does - at least in the first game, seem rather irritated at being given this treatment.
    • Snake specifically tells Meryl not to hold on to her idealized version of him as told to her as a child by Colonel Campbell who shared stories of FOXHOUND and Snake's exploits. He emphasizes that often times the man doesn't live up to the legend and all the expectations that come with it, and that Snake is no hero but rather a professional, career killer.
  • The Dinosaur King DS game features three creatures-the Forest Dweller, the Lake Dragon, and the Great Bird, which are revered as supernatural beings, and blamed for some events in the levels in which they appear. As it turns out, they are actually prehistoric reptiles-Leallynasaura, Futabasaurus, and Pteranodon.
  • There are a few special Random Encounters in Final Fantasy Tactics that simply rock your party if you are caught unaware. One of them involves fighting 11 monks. First timers are so amazed they go to forums and start talking about how they were stomped by a "million monk march."
  • Neverwinter Nights 2. If you choose to help the City Watch clean up the docks you can take an assignment where you have to pose as a weapon buyer. When you protest that surely you'd be recognized, you are told the descriptions that are circulating of you. There are several different ones (depending on your starting character class) but they're all of this variety. One particularly amusing description paints you as a seven foot iron giant, yet it's possible to get this one even if you're playing a halfling.
  • This is the reason your player character can wander around the Imperial City freely in Jade Empire. None of the Imperial soldiers or Lotus Assassins who have seen you in person have lived to tell the tale, so the Empire is hunting for "The Scourge of the South", who is ten feet tall and wreathed in demonic fire.
  • In Dragon Age II, Varric intentionally spreads stories about Hawke (with some embellishment) to create a mythic shroud. By the end of the game, people are cowering in awe from the man/woman who supposedly slew a dragon with a rusty spoon and uses the Arishok's skull as a gravy-boat.
    • Equally subverted when some antagonists in the game don't believe the stories they've heard about Hawke, only to realise that those are the ones that are actually true.
    • This trope actually serves as the Framing Device of the game. Due to the tales about the Champion of Kirkwall growing with each retelling, Cassandra has been forced to seek out the source, Varric, in order to discern the fact behind the fiction, due to her believing that Hawke worked to begin a Civil War between mages and templars that is beginning to engulf all of Thedas. Unfortunately for her, he turns out to be something of an Unreliable Expositor who feels he has no reason to trust her (and the most significant lie wouldn't be uncovered until well into the sequel).
    • The Warden from Dragon Age: Origins has naturally become this in the sequel.
    • The Qunari are an example of this in-universe. Before their arrival in Par Vollen from an unknown continent, roughly three hundred years ago, no-one in Thedas had ever heard of them and - due to their reluctance to reveal much of themselves to those outside the Qun, their unwillingness to rarely allow people to venture to Par Vollen, as well as their fiercely kept technological and military secrets - very little has been learnt since. Furthermore, because female Qunari don't serve in the military, for nearly two centuries it was believed their species was solely male, until scholars were given the chance to visit Par Vollen and dispel that myth. Even they are pretty fuzzy about their origins; they know that they broke off from the Kossith and there's a vague idea of being Invading Refugees, but they don't even know if that's an old name for their race or a competing religion or what.
  • MEtroid: In the very first game's instruction manual, Samus Aran is described as being "shrouded in mystery", supernaturally skilled and Nigh-Invulnerable thanks to a plethora of cybernetic upgrades, encased in a suit of Powered Armor that's the terror of every law-breaker in the galaxy, and with his, her or its true form is known to no one. Of course, when the armor finally comes off at the end of the game, the galaxy's most famous badass turns out to be a rather attractive blonde woman.
    • The legend also winds up oddly inverted, as while higher-ups in the Federation are at least aware Samus is real, even if they don't know who's under the armor, most Federation Marines apparently consider everything about Samus to be only slightly more credible than fairy tales. One of the logs in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes sums it up quite nicely:
      PFC Crany: Last night at chow, Angseth starts talking about some bounty hunter and how she blew up a planet full of Space Pirates. I told her I didn't believe in fairy tales like that, and she took it personal. I just find it hard to believe that one person took out an entire Space Pirate base, that's all. But if she wants to believe in this Samus, or Bigfoot, or Santa Claus, she can.
    • The Space Pirates, not to be outdone, have grown Samus into their cultural mythology as a one-woman demonic grim reaper. Every game in the Prime series features an Apocalyptic Log sequence in which the Space Pirates describe the impending horror of a raid by "The Hunter." To clarify, the Prime series makes it clear that there are numerous other bounty hunters out in the galaxy; the fact that Samus alone gets the epithet of THE Hunter shows how terrified they are of her.
  • In the world of Spira in Final Fantasy X, the city of Zanarkand has the Shrouded in Myth effect, and for good reason. The people of Spira also seem to regard Auron as a minor case of this, but in a small inversion Auron is actually much more badass and has done more mindblowing things than the average citizen of Spira would believe.
    • In the X-2 sequel, it's shown that the events of the original game are Shrouded in Myth. Everybody knows that Yuna is the High Summoner who- accompanied by several guardians- defeated Sin permanently. But they don't know who all of her guardians were, or why some of them aren't around anymore- and Yuna herself isn't speaking.
      Maechen: They say that High Summoner Yuna was accompanied by a guardian from, of all places, Zanarkand!
  • Agent 47 in the Hitman games, sort of. He's considered nothing but a legend by most, because of ridiculous rumors that describe him as a giant bald perfect clone with a barcode tattoo. Well, who could believe that nonsense? Except it's all, uh, true.
  • In Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade (the first one released in the USA), Karel's final conversation with Dart reveals that the former is said to have killed people by the thousands all at once, laughing as he collects all their swords afterwards. True, Karel is a Blood Knight who's killed a LOT of ridiculously strong people, but he admits that those rumors are too much even for him.
  • Some of the player characters receive this treatment in the Ace Combat games:
    • Wardog Squadron from Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War remake themselves into the enigmatic "Ghosts of Razgriz", an elite squad of jet-black fighters who appeared in the late stages of the war and are seen as an incarnation of the namesake legendary demon.
    • Galm One/Cipher, "Demon Lord of the Round Table" from Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, whose existence the narrator initially doubts.
    • It receives some Lampshade Hanging in Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception, where two Leasath chairforcers disparage current player character Gryphus One while he's in a Left Handed situation for seemingly not living up to the rumours. The narrator of this game even ends up heading to the player character's recently-liberated capital just to meet him, despite his misgivings at first.
  • In BioShock 2, the Splicers aren't sure of the exact fate of Jack as part of the Multiple Endings nature of the first game. Because of this they argue exactly which ending is canon, with a sect even praising him as a Messianic Archetype.
  • A similar case occurs with Revan in Star Wars: The Old Republic; an Empire-side character can encounter a cult that reveres Revan as a prophet, and the events of Revan's life (and even his/her gender) are uncertain due to three hundred years of myths and warfare clouding the stories.
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • La Volpe from Assassin's Creed II. Among others, it is said that he can see through things and be in multiple places at once.
    • Eventually in II and then in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Ezio Auditore himself is this as well among some circles in Rome.
    • By Embers, Ezio is known as far as China.
    • In Assassin's Creed III, the Aquila is known as the Ghost of the North Seas.
  • In Fallout, every game becomes this to its sequel. In Fallout 2, the events of the first game are legend, and in Fallout 3, subtle hints are dropped regarding the events of the second game. This even carries over to the canceled Fallout: Van Buren, which had large portions of it made canon, and many references are made to it by Fallout: New Vegas, which takes place in the same area.
    • Notably, some of the things that are myth-shrouded in 3 aren't in New Vegas (partly because we get to meet one of the companions of 2's protagonist, partly because it takes place right next door instead of on the other side of the continent).
    • In New Vegas, Mr. House is this, since no one ever meets him or enters his headquarters, except for his cadres of Mecha-Mooks. Is he an immortal refugee from pre-War America? A savvy raider chieftain with a knowledge of history and a flair for drama? An evil super-computer that only thinks it's House? No one knows! It's the first one.
    • Also in New Vegas, if the courier persuades Raul to go back to protecting the innocent, he will dust off an old fancy dress costume from nearly a century ago, so that in the ending, people assume he is a ghost.
    • Few people have encountered the Deathclaws and even fewer have lived to tell the tale. Wasteland legend says that they're ghosts or demons who found their way into the world back when it was engulfed in fire. The reality is the pre-war US government created them using gene-splicing as Super Soldiers to help them win it.
  • According to the in-game Legend of Mana character encyclopedia, Mr. Moti (the dancing turban man who saves your game) is described thusly: "He is everywhere, doing everything."
  • In Mass Effect, the Shadow Broker and the Illusive Man.
  • The Correspondence in Fallen London, according to the sidebars, has many stories told about it. Most (but not all) of these assume it's either a document or a language, based on the name. Your character eventually gets the chance to investigate the Correspondence personally, as a mid-level Watchful quest. And there are a couple of ways to acquire Correspondence Plaques before that. It's a bizarre, mysterious, and very old written language that tends to drive readers mad and ignite both the materials it's written on and the hair of people who study it.
    They say it's the map that connects every glimmer of moonish light to a star. They say it's the key that unlocks the secrets of bat-flights. They say it's a trap that someone found inscribed on a wall in the First City, and if you decode its complicated patterns you inevitably decide you're God, to the considerable detriment of your social life.
  • The Elder Scrolls franchise is positively lousy with persons, organizations, objects, species, and events that became Shrouded in Myth. Emperor Talos/Tiber Septim, Ysgramor of the Companions, the Grey Fox, the Thieves' Guild, the Dark Brotherhood, every Daedric artifact, every Daedric Prince, and many more. Notably, the Player Character inevitably becomes Shrouded in Myth by the next game in the series (even when there is only a short Time Skip between games), and sometimes even within their own game, like Skyrim's Dragonborn.
    • Downplayed with the Nerevarine, the protagonist of Morrowind as of Skyrim, a bit over two centuries later: references are made that indicate there's a fair bit known about them, including a mention of an entire book written about them by an historian encountered in Morrowind — it's just that you never actually get to hear the details yourself (for example, the book is nowhere to be found in-game).
  • In Sword of the Stars lore, the Human intelligence officer Cai Rui eventually becomes feared as the "Man in Black".
  • When Nono first shows up in Third Super Robot Wars Z: Tengoku-hen, everyone immediately thinks Noriko might be this Nonoriri until she starts hyping her as this mystical superwoman, in which case they think maybe not because Noriko's not that mystical. When Noriko herself shows up, Nono's impressed with her but still doesn't think she's the mythical superwoman Nonoriri.
  • The first of the audio tapes left by The Jackal in Far Cry 2 suggests intentionally building this image so as to make yourself into your enemies' personal monster, and in turn make yourself stronger - saying you should destroy their idea of the dignity in bloodshed and show them just how horrible killing a man really is to do so (his ideas include shooting to wound, solely so you can execute the wounded later, and burning them alive). He notes, however, that all of this is a display, "like a lion's roar or a gorilla thumping at its chest", and warns against losing yourself in the display and becoming an actual monster.
  • Minecraft: Story Mode: Contrary to what the narrator said, this is what happened to the "Legend of the Order of the Stone". At least one detail is different than what actually happened, namely that there was an extra member of the team the legend doesn't mention. But that's not the only deception...
  • Averted in Uncommon Time. Not only are all the myths about the World Tuning and the spirits 100% true, but Alto's ancestor Arietta is everything the legends claimed her to be and more. Alto actually fears invoking this trope when the party prepares to look through Arietta's memories in the Uncommon Time Bonus Dungeon and when meeting Arietta's preserved personality copy, but in the end discovers that Arietta really was the hero she always looked up to and she needn't have worried.
  • Dark Souls has the legendary Knight Artorias the Abysswalker, who is said to have entered into the Abyss and come out untouched, and is credited for stopping the initial spread of the Abyss in the ruined nation of Oolacile. In the DLC, the player gets to travel back in time and participate in that legend. The reality: Artorias was indeed a brave and selfless knight, but he was unable to halt the Abyss, and was consumed and corrupted by it just like everyone else. The player is the one who actually halts the Abyss, and also puts poor Artorias out of his misery. Since most of the games' lore is based around legends and folktales, this episode also casts considerable doubt on... well, most of the lore in general. Who is to say the legends are accurate?
  • Kyros the Overlord in Tyranny has only been seen by their archons, who say little about them, and through their Edicts, which are undeniable demonstrations of vast power. Beyond that, nothing, not even species or gender are known.
  • Tyto the Swift from Gigantic is a mysterious masked swordsman whose origins, true appearance and even gender are all unknown. The only source of information about Tyto are the various tales and rumors of their exploits, which only get crazier over time.
  • League of Legends: This is Rammus' entire backstory. All that's known is that he roams the Shuriman desert with his impenetrable shell and packs enough punch to level a cliff. To what end? No-one knows. Some say he's a protective guardian, some that he's a territorial animal and others that he's just a Badass Bystander who didn't even know he was saving all those lives. His image appears on the oldest ruins of Shurima, leading some to believe he is an immortal demigod and form a Cult of Personality for him. Others just take this as him being one member of a species. Rammus himself just keeps moving and doesn't explain himself to anyone.
  • Zagreus in Hades takes to cheering Orpheus up with highly embellished (or entirely fictitious) stories of his escapades. Orpheus, being both a musician and literal Hero-Worshipper, starts composing hymns in his name. And since Zagreus had been so hidden from the outside world all his life that his own cousins on Olympus only recently learned he even existed, Orpheus's tale quickly becomes the dominant mythology surrounding Zagreus despite being absolutely absurd. Hades quite likes it, particularly since it means he doesn't have to acknowledge Zagreus as his son.
    Hades: Don't like the song? It's about you!
    Zagreus: It says I'm really the bastard son of Zeus, but also indelibly connected to the god of wine, and how your parents tore me to pieces, giving rise to mortals, but that I'm always going to be stuck here.
    Hades: You fill Orpheus's mind with nonsense, it produces nonsense. Nonsense I presume shall spread from this place far and wide, so everyone might know that I have nothing to do with you.
  • Total War: Warhammer III: Cathay's Monkey King Lite is referred to like this in a loading screen quote, most likely to tease Downloadable Content featuring him. The conflicting rumors parallel each of the four chaos gods.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Fate/hollow ataraxia character Shirou is infamous for helping anybody with anything they ask, however mundane, unpaid, or time-consuming, but never explaining his motivation for doing so. One student believes that he's incapable of self-preservation and would die if other people didn't feed him. Another speculates that he's secretly in a relationship with the School Idol, for whom he cooks twice a week. And everyone knows he's insanely good at archery, but left the club before entering any competitions and never returned.

  • In Get Medieval, Asher gains a reputation as a invincible, miracle-working warrior, much to his consternation. And even moreso when Sir Gerard reminds him that people (namely, Gerard's superiors) will expect him to repeat his Ass Pull victories on a regular, reliable basis.
  • Keen Kotoru from Fox Tails suffers from this regularly, eventually undergoing a kidnapping attempt for his status... at which point the rumors work in his favor.
  • Bob the Angry Flower brings us The Man on the Hill. But it turns out he's pretty lame.
  • In DDG either Zip is made of sterner stuff than we've been led to believe, or Netta's exploits have been exaggerated somewhat.
  • In Drowtales, Quain'tana is shrouded in myth to her daughter (actually granddaughter) Ariel, who daydreams of the day she'll meet her famous mother. Unfortunately, when her wish is finally granted, Quain isn't exactly the warmest parent.
  • This is a major theme of Girl Genius, with basically all of the main characters known widely through wild mixtures of exaggeration and utter fabrication. The protagonist gets a taste of this after her first involvement in a highly public event (partly on purpose, partly due to others taking advantage of the situation), which results in all sorts of ludicrous rumors circulating.
    • The problem is, those rumors werent that ludicrous. Agatha did project a hundred-meters-tall image of herself over the town whose voice did mess with her enemies' composure, she did bring down allies 'from heaven' (they decended from a blimp overhead) who did look like the Heterodynes thanks to a hallucinogenic gas. The only untruth seems to be the wings. Nonetheless, the word choice and exaggerated tone used by the soldier relaying the story made it seem—while technically accurate—utterly unbelievable.
    • A more straightforward example is the rumors once they reach Mechanicsburg and the Storyteller relaying to the Baron what people are saying about him.
  • In Crystal Sun one of the protagonists, Balior, is known through rumor and a mangled prophecy as a harbinger of destruction, and is attacked on sight based off this.
  • Erin Ptah of And Shine Heaven Now reveals that by the time The Eagle of Hermes happens, Seras Victoria has this status in the public's eye, only being seen a couple of times since the Millennium invasion.
  • Tales of the Questor: trying to learn what the dragon is like.
  • In Impure Blood, even Roan doesn't know much about the Ancients.
  • In No Rest for the Wicked, November assures Perrault that the rumors about Red are greatly exaggerated.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Grace is this for Noah as he first heard of her as the one who killed Damien (who killed Noah's parents). When he first realizes who she might be he loses his composure and when she reveals her code name he falls over. From that point on his perception of her is coloured by that reputation.
  • Blade Bunny, after the first main story arc, is written into legends. The White Monks say that she joined the gods as an advisor, while the Jade Seers say that the Big Bad was sentenced to share a prison with her forever as the worst torment imaginable. Meanwhile, Bunny herself is complaining that she hadn't been paid.
  • The Irregulars are completely foreign entities that surpass the strength of almost anybody in the Tower of God. Where they came from, apart from outside the tower, and what they want is a mystery to anybody.
    • Special mention goes to Phantaminum, whose name and sobriquet (The Riddle) should indicate enough. Nobody knows anything about Phantaminum except that he is the strongest, appeared out of nowhere and defeated the entire King's army.
    • Inverted and parodied with Urek Mazino, who is an Irregular and has the reputation to match, but who also has an in-universe reputation as a sexual predator (or at least pervert), combined with rumours that he can shoot a beam out of his pants. While the reputation is undeserved, he can come across as an egomaniac Casanova Wannabe with Testosterone Poisoning.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court has Annie, the main character whose exploits have been wildly exaggerated in forest legend to the point of near goddesshood.
  • Mushroom Go has an interesting example in Mario. Yes, that Mario. On one hand, everything about him is described as legends and myth, as people are too afraid in most circumstances to even get close to "Red Hat." Nobody is sure just what his limits are. However, as anyone who has played an appreciable amount of Super Mario Bros. games can confirm, what's described is Not Hyperbole — it's an accurate description of what Mario can do in-game as early as Super Mario Bros. 3.
  • GF Serendipity: Stan Pines is so rich he's rumored to have bought a whole country. The fic's author says Stan didn't.
  • In Questionable Content, Tai has developed this sort of reputation among the students at the college, as she, Dora, and Marten learn when they overhear some students discussing her. Marten and Dora are clearly surprised, while Tai looks intrigued at the prospect of deliberately trying to live up to the rumors.
    First Student: I heard she grew up on Alanis Morissette's tour bus.
    Second Student: I heard that she wrote her whole Phd thesis on birch bark while she was tripping on shrooms in a national park.
    Third Student: So cool!
    Marten: Since when do you have a PhD?
    Tai: I don't know how that rumor got started but it does sound like fun...

    Web Original 
  • Headless: A Sleepy Hollow Story: When looking for someone to help them break into Storms Inn, the Babes suggest resurrecting Paulie Tahoe, who supposedly once smuggled a slot machine out of a casino in broad daylight, never wore the same suit twice, and was the reason Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez broke up and got back together. This convinces Matilda to choose him.
  • Nightmare Time: Little is known about Miss Holloway's backstory, other than the fact that she made some sort of deal with an eldritch being. She doesn't hide her backstory on purpose, part of the deal makes anyone forget her past as soon as they learn any part of her backstory.
  • In Plumbing the Death Star, one of the metrics by which characters are ranked in "Which Fictional Character Would Make a Better Santa Claus?" is "mysticism," or how discrete and mysterious the new Santa Claus is. Naturally, this makes the mythical Abominable Snowman a highly appealing choice, while picking Ronald McDonald and his massive corporation, while efficient, is equated with ruining Christmas.
  • School Of Thrones: Parodying Regina George scene from Mean Girls, various characters share what they've heard about Tyrion Lannister (some of which reflected real Game of Thrones fan theories of the time):
    Jon Snow: How do I even begin to explain Tyrion Lannister?
    Sansa Stark: Tyrion Lannister is a total loner, and... a complete badass.
    Theon Greyjoy: Dude's got some huge chip on his shoulder.
    Robb Stark: Probably daddy issues.
    Renly Baratheon: All I know is, Tyrion Lannister can outdrink any mother-bleep-er in the room.
    Loras Tyrell: I hear he does car commercials—
    Margaery Tyrell:' — in Pentos.
    Stannis Baratheon: I hear his hair's insured for, like, a million gold dragons.
    Melisandre: I hear he's secretly a Targaryen.
    Joffrey Lannister: One time he slapped me in the face...It was awesome!
  • The Slender Man. All that's known, in-universe, is that he's some sort of Eldritch Abomination who hunts people that try to learn more about him. In a more meta sense, any author or creator who attempts to characterize Slendy or give him a backstory is going to be shot down, as the community has decided that he's much scarier when we know nothing about him.
  • Taylor. Poor, poor Taylor. Worm is built on this trope, and its protagonist gets it literally from the first night she dons a costume. Admittedly she brings some of her wildly inaccurate reputation on herself and eventually starts doing it on purpose to inflate her credibility. Her recklessly heroic nature doesn't help either.
    • After the story ends, Taylor becomes even more this trope- as one does when they singlehandedly avert the apocalypse and gain the effective power of a god. It's implied that people now call her Khepri, after the Egyptian god.
    • The Sleeper is a supervillain spoken of in the same breath as city-destroying, mass-murdering Hero Killer Kaiju. Up to and including the final chapter we never learn his real name or what his power does. What we do know is that he somehow subsumed an entire (admittedly diminished) world and that even against the final villain, with the Godzilla Threshold left far behind and all previously unthinkable manners of Enemy Mine put into play, he's still considered more trouble than is worth bringing him into the fight.

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of The Boondocks features this about a historical figure, Catcher Freeman. One of the slaves in the background describes Freeman like this: "14 feet tall... And he can fly! Underwater!". Characters in the present continue this by telling several wildly conflicting stories about him until Huey searches him up on the internet and finds what is presumably the true (at the least more believable) version.
  • Though the episode "The Ember Island Players" most conspicuously does not feature this for most of the main characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender, it is true that Toph, a twelve-year-old blind girl whose Earthbending is so powerful she can 'see' with it, morphs into a seven-foot tall muscleman who sees by emitting sonic blasts out of his mouth. Toph is ecstatic.
  • One episode of Batman: The Animated Series features a group of kids telling stories about Batman. One has him as a complete monster, one as the campy Adam West incarnation, and one is a rather brilliant Take That! at Joel Schumacher and his movies.
  • In Futurama, the robots of Chapek 9 are descended from robots who rebelled against humans centuries ago, and their culture is still centered around fearing and hating them. Among other things, humans are said to "suck your transmission fluid and turn you into a human, too." Eventually, the Planet Express crew are cornered by the Robot Elders, who are responsible for sowing this paranoia for centuries, though even they seem a bit fuzzy on the details at this point.
    Orange Elder: Can they really breathe fire or did we make that up?
    Blue Elder: Gee, I can't remember anymore! It might just be from that stupid movie.
    Green Elder: Was that the original or the re-make?
  • After his exile, Megatron of Transformers: Animated grew to near-boogeyman status among those Autobots made after the Great War ended. Amoung other things, it's said that he eats protoforms (a stand-in for children or babies) for breakfast.
  • In Dragons: Riders of Berk, Hiccup. The Big Bad actually refers to him as 'The Dragon Conquerer' who was so fearsome that no dragon would dare harm him. (In reality, Hiccup's just The Beastmaster- a very brave, intelligent one to be sure, but not the bloodthirsty subjugator legend paints him as.) It's actually Double Subverted; upon seeing the real, scrawny Hiccup, everyone laughs and mocks this trope. But then Hiccup meets a dragon, and the tribe gets to see that while Hiccup was exaggerated, his skills were not.
  • DuckTales (2017):
    • In "Woo-oo!'', Scrooge is seen as this by Huey, Dewey, and Louie, with each sharing a tale they've heard about him (which, symbolically, reflects the trait they themselves share with Scrooge: Smarter than the Smarties (Huey), Tougher than the Toughies (Dewey), and Sharper than the Sharpies (Louies)).
    • In "The Split Sword of Swanstantine!", Louie has purposely invoked this as The Silver-Tongued Serpent, spinning tall tales about his own criminal exploits so he can get into undergoing places. Double subverted when his true identity as Louie Duck is revealed, and he is still this trope for the things he has actually done, like stopping Magica De Spell.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "The War of the Simpsons", Homer promises to capture "General Sherman", a giant catfish in Catfish Lake, after hearing all sort of fantastic claims about it in a fishing store. He finds the fish and captures it, but throws it back in the water at the urging of Marge. The episode's Book Ends reveal that the fat, bald, not very bright Homer was later mythologized by the people of the fishing store as the man who almost captured General Sherman, in much the same way they had done with General Sherman earlier:
    One came close. His name was Homer. Seven feet tall. Arms like tree trunks. Eyes like steel, cold and hard. Had a shock of hair, red. Like the fires of hell.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Your Mother and Mine", the Off-Colors all have wildly different ideas about who Rose Quartz is (Rhodonite thinks she's an organic beast created on Earth, the Rutile Twins think she's a mutated Quartz that escaped, Fluorite thinks she doesn't exist at all, etc.). Garnet tells them the true story of Rose, how she was an ordinary Quartz soldier who rebelled against the oppressive Pink Diamond... except Garnet's story ultimately turns out to be false as well. Rose Quartz is Pink Diamond, who secretly turned against the other Diamonds. The only Crystal Gem who knew the truth was Pearl; everyone else was told the false story.
  • In the Wander over Yonder episode "The Legend", Wander and Sylvia save a band of kids from one of Dominator's attacks, and the kids regale Wander and Sylvia with stories of "the hero of legend" that are clearly wild exaggerations of Wander's exploits. One kid imagines Wander as a hulking giant who bear-hugs Hater into submission, another imagines him as a Totally Radical punk who humiliates Major Threat into giving up evil, another imagines him as The Kid with the Remote Control who fights evildoers with the help of his Robot Buddy "Silver 7" (AKA Sylvia as a Humongous Mecha), and the fourth one imagines him as the last of a race of "Star Nomads" who is also a werewolf, has a space princess girlfriend, and is secretly related to all of his arch-enemies.

    Real Life 
  • Ninjas and a number of other martial arts groups purposely cultivated this in order to discourage attacks.
    • Ninjas have also been considered a straight example by some, coming from a combination of insular hill clans acting as mercenaries and authors' desire to avoid implicating real soldiers in anything "dishonorable".
  • Otto Skorzeny, a German officer during WWII, certainly had larger-than-life rumors about his deadliness. He may have deliberately cultivated them. During the Allied advance, the rumor that Skorzeny (and/or a unit he led) had infiltrated the American forces led to the entire advance being held up while people questioned each other to prove they weren't the infiltrator(s), leading to a trope about soldiers asking each other questions about the World Series and so on to prove their bona fides as Americans.
  • Ask around, see how long various people say that it took Rasputin, the Mad Monk, to die.
  • Even 70 years later, when Yuri Andropov achieved supreme power in the Soviet Union, Western media was flooded with myths and half-truths about him, some of which permeated back in the Eastern Bloc. The reason behind it was the former KGB boss had always been secretive on everything concerning him and his personal life, unlike his Boisterous Bruiser predecessor Leonid Brezhnev, and popular imagination had to fill the gaps.
  • Any figures of folklore and myth are very popular subjects for this.
    • Consider especially the number of books claiming to uncover the historical Jesus of Nazareth, as contrasted with the theological Jesus Christ. Depending on whom you read, the historical Jesus emerges as either a proto-rabbi, a "fire and brimstone" monastic, a militant anti-Roman revolutionary, a magician, a radical socialist, or a mystic. And then there's the theories on just what his relationship was with Mary Magdalene, the circumstances of his death... best stop there.
  • Similarly, there is some pretty good evidence that there was a king in the Levantine named David, but it's not clear whether he really was the big important guy the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament) makes him out to be, or if he was just a minor leader in the Jerusalem-area who had good publicists and/or had his achievements exaggerated by future generations.
  • Arthurian Legend: King Arthur. Most people who've researched it agree that there is a kernel of truth about a real person in there somewhere, but no one knows exactly what it is after more than 1400 years (the first written accounts of Arthur date to about AD 600) of adding onto the legend.
  • Robin Hood may also have a kernel of truth - but some of the "Merry Men" appear to have been taken from other groups of brigands in different centuries.
  • Kilroy, a legendary Allied agent. No matter what front, no matter what foe, no matter the resistance, he has been there and left his calling card, a strange little graffito announcing "Kilroy Was Here." Rumor has it that Hitler became quite concerned about the enigmatic warrior's ability to infiltrate Nazi installations, and German officers ordered their men to secure any opponents named Kilroy for a thorough interrogation.
    • Other rumor has it that he was just an Army grunt sick of the Air Force bragging that they got there first, no matter where "there" was. So he started leaving "Kilroy was here" scrawled everywhere he could think of so that when the Air Force got there, oops! Kilroy got there first.
    • Conversely, according to Snopes, Kilroy was an inspector who got tired of his supervisors not believing that he had inspected some out of the way place on a ship or vehicle, so he started putting "Kilroy was Here" in places that could be seen easily, but to write it there would require actually worming your way into place. That way he'd only have do to the inspection once. Other GIs, stumped by Kilroy's ability to be there first (get a new tank, Kilroy was here was written on it) began scrawling it themselves, and the various resistance movements picked it up from them. Supposedly an American diplomat stationed in Moscow even scribbled "Kilroy Was Here" in the bathroom, leading to a furious Stalin demanding that this "Kilroy" be found.
    • The truth: James Kilroy was indeed a construction inspector, only he worked at the shipyard in Fall River, Massachusetts. His "Kilroy was here" marks were an attempt to cut down on fraud by riveters paid piecework rates. Many soldiers traveled to war on Fall River-built ships and it wouldn't have taken all that many of them to pick up on "Kilroy was here" and spread it all over Europe.
  • The Yellow Emperor. Whilst there might have been an actual historical figure that made the basis for him, the numerous legends surrounding his tale and the many achievements accredited to him (and his servants) makes it hard to tell where the historical figure ends and where the myths begin.
  • See the massive examples section on the Memetic Badass page. Humans like doing this.
  • ESPN the Magazine's original "Player X" was an anonymous NFL star whose identity is supposedly only known by four people (himself included). The guesses regarding his identity started once his first column was published and haven't ceased, but in all likelihood it will never be revealed. Adding to the mystery are MLB Player X, NBA Player X, and NASCAR Driver X. Gah, who are they? The world will probably never know.
    • The Mag also notes that Kyle Farnsworth, voted by MLB players to be the baddest ass in the league, has this reputation around him. "I know he knows some shit. He's... he's some kind of blackbelt." It neither confirms nor denies whether he actually karate chopped a bear, though.
    • NBA Player X clued many readers in to the existence of William Wesley, alias "World Wide Wes", often thought of as the most powerful man in the sports world... despite literally no one having a single clue what his actual job is or how he got so connected. Nobody knows who he works for or where he gets his money or what he really does at all - they just know that he's there at every finals/championship/bowl game, he's advising draft hopefuls, he's counselling players on the bench, and he's got custom Nikes - and even the people closest to him can do nothing but speculate.
    • And now there's a second NFL Player X, who mentions in his inaugural column that even he doesn't know the identity of the original.
  • Virtually every major personage in recorded history has this to a certain extent with the myth-to-reality quotient increasingly tilting to reality the more recent the person is.
  • Troy and The Trojan War. Let's just note that archaeological evidence has not made it clear if the city most likely to be the one Homer described in the Iliad was destroyed in a war or by one of the many earthquakes you get in that part of the world. Also, the actual ruins of the city would seem to be too small for the size of the palace, population and garrison described, even taking into account the mostly hypothetical "lower city" (which was not enclosed by major fortifications). Not to mention that by all evidence would indicate that a great coalition of most Greek mini-states would have been next to impossible under the rudimentary state of politics of the Mycenean Age, even for less than the stipulated ten years of the war's duration.
  • Speaking of Troy, Homer is even more mysterious than the city he, or she, or they wrote about. The traditional image of Homer is a blind, illiterate man, but there's no way of knowing whether or not this is actually true.
  • Some say he once punched a horse to the ground. Some say he has terrible plans involving the Moon. All we know is, he's called The Stig.
  • Almost nothing is known about 17th century Dutch Golden Age painter, Johannes Vermeer. What’s known is as follows: he was raised in a Protestant, middle class family, he was married to a woman named Catharina who came from a wealthier Catholic family, he converted to Catholicism when they got married, they had eleven children who survived to adulthood, and he died young and heavily in debt. No one even knows who taught him how to paint. He’s the thought to have only finished around fifty paintings, with three dozen of them surviving to the present. It’s also unknown who exactly is the subject of his most famous work, Girl with a Pearl Earring. The best guess is that she’s his oldest daughter Maria who’d have been around the age the girl looks to be (early teens) but that is really just a guess.
  • Greek Fire was the name for an incendiary weapon used by the Byzantines in naval combat against their enemies, similar to napalm and projected using a flamethrower-like device. The weapon was said to be extremely effective, and made such an impression that almost every incendiary device recorded in medieval European texts is called "Greek Fire", including Chinese and Mongol gunpowder weapons, which in addition to often-exaggerated contemporary accounts only added to the ensuing confusion about what Greek Fire actually was. The formula for Greek Fire was a closely guarded secret, and after the fall of the Byzantine Empire, it was lost. Since then, many have tried to find the exact formula to Greek Fire through experimentation, though nobody knows for sure what exactly the Byzantines used for it.
  • Few tanks (or weapons for that matter) in history inspire as much fear and reverence than the World War II-era Tiger I. The German heavy tank was developed as a response to the lack of tanks comparable to French and British heavy tanks encountered during the Battle of France in the German army, and was deployed for the first time on the Eastern Front in late 1942. Heavily armored, and armed with an 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56 cannon capable of destroying most Allied armored vehicle from ranges exceeding 2,000 yards, it caused a mass Oh, Crap! reaction among Allied command, which spurred the development of several up-gunned and more heavily armored Allied tanks (such as the M26 Pershing and A41 Centurion) and anti-armor ammunition. Despite the fearsome reputation, it was far from perfect. The over-engineered nature of the tank and the sheer difficulty in transporting such a large fighting vehicle made it a considerable strain on the already-taxed logistics management of the German army, and were produced in too few numbers to impact the overall war effort on their own. In the years following the Second World War, the legend of the Tiger grew to such proportions that it has since gained the reputation as an invincible superweapon, spawning such myths as the "five Shermans to kill one Tiger" fable (just ignore that standard US doctrine was to try to move/assign Shermans in groups of at least five), and often used as the example of the supposed superiority of all German tanks against Allied fighting vehicles, especially the American Sherman tank.
  • Many myths have circulated about Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey in life and continued to do so after his death, such as his supposed Transylvanian Romani ancestry, his alleged affair with a pre-fame Marilyn Monroe, and even the reason he shaved his head.
  • The North Vietnamese fighter ace known as "Colonel Tombs" became a man of legend for his victories during the Vietnam War. Tombs rose to prominence when US pilots encountered with a unique MiG-17 bearing multiple red victory stars piloted by a skilled pilot. Allegedly, Tombs downed 13 American aircraft during the Vietnam War before he was supposedly killed on May 10, 1972 by US Navy pilot Randy "Duke" Cunningham. To this day, the Vietnamese government has never disclosed Tomb's identity or if he even existed.
  • The Mona Lisa: A lot of fiction revolves around theories on who sat for the Mona Lisa painting. Particular theories even argued that it was Leonardo himself in drag, because apparently, some think Lady Lisa looks like a Dude. Of course, these were all debunked in 2005, when the Louvre revealed a letter confirming that the model was Florentine noblewoman Lisa del Giocondo whose husband was a friend of Leonardo’s father, just as Giorgio Vasari wrote in The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (1550). And, of course, this hasn't stopped people suggesting that the marginalia discovered in 2005 only proves Leonardo painted a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, not that this is it.

*cough* *cough* I can't thee a thing in all thith myth!


Video Example(s):


Lt. Speirs

One of Dog Company's platoon leaders, Lt. Speirs is infamous amongst Easy Company's members for his alleged shootings of one of his own men and giving smokes to 20 German prisoners before shooting them all.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShroudedInMyth

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