These stories have been told for generations, and they often deal with universal themes.
The stories and legends that we transmit orally over a long time, known as “legends”, are one of the richest and most important cultural elements in many societies.
This is because they tell us about the worldview, values, ideals, fears, interests and generational transformations of those who have integrated a particular culture. For this reason, they constitute an important pedagogical and historiographic resource.
Not only that, but since they are stories that are shared between different generations, they can be interesting and fun for children, young people and adults alike. In this article you will find a selection of 10 short legends that are part of different cultures, as well as a brief definition of the legends compared to myths and fables.
Legend, myth and fable: some differences
Legends are narratives that are transmitted orally from generation to generation. Written records transcend, as they are stories that have been spread by word of mouth, generally from older to younger generations . However, its transmission is adapted to the conditions of our societies, with which the legends are also communicated and spread through texts, books and even films.
In any case, these are narratives that refer to facts about human life, which may or may not have historical roots, as well as mixing reality with fantasy. The latter is what makes a legend different from a myth, since the myth mainly tells the story of divine beings, and it is through this story that religious beliefs and moral guidelines are founded .
On the other hand, both legends and myths are different stories from fables. They differ in that the fables have as protagonists talking animals and that through their adventures they leave us a lesson.
In any case, the same story can contain elements of legend as well as myth and fable , and all can provide explanations for natural and supernatural phenomena as well as different social events. In all the legends there are usually different versions, depending on the specific place where they are told.
12 short legends from different cultures
Although legends of terror and heartbreak are very popular, they are not the only themes that exist. Here are 10 short legends that have persisted for many years in different parts of the world.
Better known as “The Loch Ness Monster”, this legend is part of Scottish folklore and tells the story of a giant creature with a prehistoric appearance, which first appeared in the 16th century in Loch Ness, but has even been seen in recent times. The legend regained strength when they claimed to see it in 1933, which has inspired different films and keeps those who visit the lake in suspense .
2. The salt mill
This Norse legend tells that many years ago there was a giant who had a magic mill . The mill was small and could produce salt. One day, the giant gives it to a widowed woman and her little daughter. Both work with the mill and obtain so much salt that they can sell it to the town. Unfortunately a goblin, jealous of the mill, steals it and throws it into the sea. And for this reason the sea water is so salty.
3. Robin Hood
Also known as the “prince of thieves”, Robin Hood is one of the best known English characters in the legends of Western culture. His story has been inspired by different characters, although one of the most mentioned is Ghino di Tacco, an Italian hero from the 13th century. Written records about Robin Hood have been located since the 13th century , although it gained popularity from the 15th century.
It is about a man who stood up to the rich to defend the poor. Without their realizing it, he took belongings from the former to give them to those who needed them most; always in the company of his green suit, his bow and arrows.
4. La Llorona
La Llorona is a legend of Latin American origin, especially popular in Mexico . The most popular version tells the story of a woman who had suffered the rejection of her husband, and she, out of spite, murdered her children. Guilt makes her return at dawn in the form of a ghost that screams “Oh my children!”
Other versions tell that it is a representation of La Malinche, a woman who served as translator and interpreter for Hernán Cortés during “the conquest” of America. In this case, the cry of suffering has to do with the fact that some versions of the colonization process have unfairly attributed the responsibility for what happened to Malinche.
In this Japanese legend, Orihime (which means princess who weaves) was the daughter of de Tentei, the lord of Heaven. The latter loved the clothes Orihime knitted; But she, on the other hand, was discouraged because thanks to her hard work, she had not had the opportunity to fall in love. Tentei, concerned, introduces him to Hikoboshi, with whom he fell madly in love. When they married, both of them stopped fulfilling Tentei’s mandates, with which the Lord of Heaven ends up separating them.
Faced with Orihime’s tears, Tentei allowed them to meet on the seventh day, once their responsibilities were finished (hence the name Tanabata, which means “Night of the seventh”). But for this they had to cross a river where there was no bridge. She cried so much that a flock of magpies came over to act as a bridge with their wings . Currently, there is a festival in Japan called Tanabata, or Star Festival. According to legend, this is the day that the lovers who have been separated meet again.
Popular character in Eastern Europe, who has been described as half goat, half demon: it has a pair of giant horns, very large legs and a hairy body. Every Christmas, Krampus comes to punish children who have misbehaved; in contrast to Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus or Papa Noel, who comes to reward those who have been very educated . This is a person whose origin is linked to the religious culture prior to Christianity.
7. The werewolf
The werewolf is probably one of the legends that has most inspired stories and movies in Europe. They say that at the end of the 19th century, a man with lycanthropy murdered 17 people. The explanation that he himself gave is that at night, he inevitably transformed into a wolf whose insatiable need was to kill. In another version, of Guaraní origin, there is a lanky-looking human with an unpleasant smell who transforms into a wolf during the nights of a full moon, and is dedicated to attacking farms and looking for carrion.
8. Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl
Legend has it that in the Aztec empire there was an important warrior named Popocatepetl, who loved the daughter of one of the chiefs: Iztaccihuatl. Before going to war, Popocatépetl said goodbye to Iztaccihuatl, promising him that he would return for her. Unfortunately, another of the soldiers who was also in love with her, spread the false news that Popocatepetl had died in combat .
When Iztaccíhuatl found out, he decided to kill himself. Some time later the warrior returns for her, and when he finds that she was dead; he could not bear the sadness and died too. At this, the gods were moved and transformed them into two of the largest volcanoes in central Mexico, which currently bear their names.
9. The Flying Dutchman
A legend that dates back to the seventeenth century, where a Dutch captain named Hendrik Van Der Decken made a boat trip to India. At that, a strong storm hit his ship, to which the captain resisted with strength and determination. This challenged the authority of God, who condemned the captain to wander, along with his ship, aimlessly throughout the ocean . Since then, legend has it that the ghost of the Flying Dutchman appears at midnight along with other lost souls. His appearance is also synonymous with a bad omen for the captains who spot him.
10. Anahí and the ceibo flower
On the banks of the Paraná, in eastern Argentina, lived a young Guaraní woman who sang in a special way. Upon the arrival of the “conquerors”, Anahí was arrested along with other people from the town. One night she ran away, but was quickly discovered. His sentence was death, tied to a tree to burn. The day the sentence was served, and while her body burned, Anahí began to sing. The next morning, in the place where her body was being consumed, several red flowers appeared, which are now the Argentine National Flower and are called “Ceibo Flower.”
11. The red thread
A short legend from China tells that many years ago, an emperor asked a reputed witch to come to his palace so that, through her magical powers, she could show him which woman he should marry. The witch, thanks to her qualities, was able to see a very long red thread tied to the emperor’s little finger , and whose other end should be the little finger of that person predestined to be the future wife.
Thus, the witch and the emperor began to trace the origin of the thread, until after traveling for several weeks they saw that it carried a poor peasant woman dressed in rags and whose arms she carried a baby covered in dirt. Angry at seeing himself the victim of a joke, the emperor pushed the peasant, the baby falling to the ground and leaving a wound on the head, and returned to the palace after ordering the arrest of the witch.
Many years later, after being advised by the council of wise men, the emperor decided to marry the daughter of a local landowner; As the wedding ceremony began and he lifted the veil that covered his future wife’s face, he saw a familiar scar on her forehead .
12. The Fox and the Camel
In this short legend from Africa, a fox and a camel become friends and decide to cross a river to eat the food available on the other shore. To do this, the fox climbs on the back of the camel, and it crosses taking advantage of its weight to resist the current.
Once they reach the other shore, both animals separate and the camel goes to eat a barley field, while the fox goes to eat insects. But the fox finishes eating sooner, and satisfied by feeling satiated, he begins to sing loudly. These screams attract the attention of the peasants who tend the barley field, who go to examine the area and find the camel.
When the fox goes in search of his friend, he finds him lying on the ground, in pain from the beating that the peasants have just given him. “Why have you made so much noise?” Asks the camel. The fox replies that it has a habit of singing after eating insects. “I see. Well, if that’s all, let’s go back.” When crossing the river back, the camel begins to dance with half its body submerged in the water. “What are you doing? I can’t swim!” says the fox, terrified. “I have the habit of dancing after eating barley,” the camel replies, while the fox falls into the water and is carried away by the current.
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