I am writing a book and I plan to call it "Legend of (name of the protagonist)". But I'm writing in first person (protagonist). Searching the meaning of the word "legend" in google I get: "a traditional story, sometimes popularly regarded as historical, but unauthenticated." So a legend is a story that is unauthenticated, like "the legend of King Arthur". I'm writing a book that's set in fantastic world that doesn't exist.

But is it contradictory to call a story 'legend' when the story is told by the protagonist? (Called legend by the title?)

In order to be called a 'legend', does the story need to be narrated by others, to add this status of 'unauthenticated'?


4 Answers 4


The Word "Legend" Evokes an Expectation

Putting Legend into a title is fine, but it's a promise to your audience of something a bit larger-than-life.

Given a title like "The Legend of [Protagonist]", I would personally expect something medieval, with a light touch of magic - like the Arthurian legends, with knights and quests, etc.

But it would depend on the protagonist's name (and the cover art). "The Legend of Quick-Draw Jim" would lead me to expect a cowboy story of exaggerated flavor; more melodrama than historical realism. Whereas "The Legend of 'Babe' Ruth" would probably be an actual history which focused as much on his exaggerated reputation as on the actual man.

Legend is a fine word for a title, just as long as you recognize the expectations it evokes.

(A first-person story with 'Legend' in the title would also probably make the most sense if the narrator has a very high opinion of himself or herself.)

  • 2
    "The Legend of..." also works well for stories with a strong thematic focus on the reputation of the main character. Like the movie "Easy A", where the story is about a character gaining a reputation that doesn't reflect their actual behavior. Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 14:29
  • Or the narrator has a low opinion of themselves and is using the term ironically.
    – linksassin
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 5:55

Distance is an important element of the design of a story. In some cases you want the story to feel very intimate, as if the reader is right there with the protagonist, in their thoughts, in their immediate present. This is the most fashionable way to write today and it is reflected in the overuse of first person in contemporary narratives.

In some cases, though, you want to establish distance. You want to separate the reader from the protagonist and their experience in time and in space. When Star Wars begins "Long ago, in a galaxy far far away," it is establishing distance.

There are a number of reasons to establish distance in a story. One is to inject a sense of the fabulous into the story (without necessarily straying into outright fantasy). None of the droids in Star Wars perform any useful function. Why, in heaven's name, does Luke's starfighter not have an onboard navigation system, but instead has an R2D2 shaped hole in the back? Imperial walkers make no military sense at all. Why is there a planet inhabited by teddy bears? There are no moments of stunning psychological insight. It is a romp, and the distance established tells the viewer, don't sweat the details, just enjoy the show.

The word "legend" signals distance. The use of first person signals intimacy. They pull in opposite directions. More importantly, perhaps, legends are a literary form that depend on establishing distance. If you have written an intimate story, calling it a legend is perhaps a mistake. If you have written a legend, telling it in first person is perhaps a mistake.


Legends can be told in first person.

Some myths from Ancient Greece, sections of the Christian Bible, Biblical Psalms, The Story of Sinuhe (from Middle Kingdom Egypt), and many others are first person narratives.

But you're asking specifically about a first person narrative by the character who is the one who is legendary. The answer is still yes. Remember, legends are not about one person, they're about a time, a place, and groups of people. For example, the King Arthur stories are of course centered on Arthur but they're also about Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table, the Lady of the Lake, and so forth.

Any involved person can narrate the story, including the central character.

The narrator would not know this was going to turn into a legend (unless s/he is telling the story of events from her/his past); the legendary part comes from how the stories fit into the narrative of the culture they come from (real or fictional).


I don't think the "unauthenticated" part is necessary, but a legend is a story told about somebody else, a traditional story, and it can't be a "tradition" if it is being told for the first time by the MC.

In fiction, an original story titled a "legend" is fine, but the pretense would have to be this was done long ago by the MC and is being told once again.

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