Difference Between History and Legend

Key Difference – History vs Legend 


Although both history and legend recall past events, there is a difference between the two. In order to comprehend this difference first let us define the two words. History can be defined as a record of past events. On the other hand, a legend can be defined as a traditional story that may or may not be true. The key difference between the two is that while history is based on actual events and consist of a factual basis, a legend may not. This is not to say that legends are completely false. On the contrary, they contain elements of truth as well as elements of the supernatural or extreme powers. This is the main difference between the two words. Through this article let us examine the differences between the two words through a deeper understanding of history and legend. First, let us pay attention to the word history.

What is History?

History can be understood as a record of past events. In each society, country, or even the world, there is a history. This consists of significant events that took place over the years. History can also be understood as a collection of memories; for example, the life of the proletariat during the industrial revolution, or else the reign of kings.

History is recorded by the people of the era. For example, in Sri Lanka, the entire Sri Lankan history has been recorded in a single book often referred to as the ‘Mahawansaya’. The person who records attempts to capture not only the events, but also the life of the people, collection of memories, special discoveries, invasions that took place at that time as well. This allows us to gain a comprehensive understanding of that particular period of time. However, a common complaint made by historians is that the recorded history cannot be considered as the reality, because it has been written in favor of the ruling classes and does not present a realistic image of the epoch.

In universities, history is a specific degree course that allows the student to gain a better understanding of history and to become a historian. Having an understanding of history can be beneficial to the individual as well as the community so that they become aware of their roots.

Difference Between History and Legend

What is Legend?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a legend is a traditional story that may or may not be true. The main difference between a legend and history is that while history is based on facts, legends do not. They are part of the culture of a group of people that are passed on from one generation to the other by word of mouth. In this sense, they are narratives of people with extraordinary powers and actions.

A special characteristic of legends is that they are often linked to an event or place; this, however, does not denote that the entire tale is accurate. However, by linking it to an event, the narrator can keep the legend alive. Over the years, some legends can change. This mainly occurs so that the legend remains alive over the years. Robin Hood or else William Tell can be considered as two of the best legends. This highlights that between a legend and history, there exists a clear difference. This can be summarized as follows.

 History vs Legend

What is the Difference Between History and Legend?

Definitions of History and Legend:

History: History can be understood as a record of past events

Legend: A legend is a traditional story that may or may not be true.

Characteristics of History and Legend:

Factual information:

History: History is based on factual information.

Legend: Legends are connected to an event or situation.


History: Recorded history is often considered as true although it can contain biases.

Legend: Legends are not entirely true.


Image Courtesy:

1. “Comic History of Rome Table 07 Flaminius restoring Liberty to Greece at the Isthmian Games” by John Leech [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons

2. “Robin shoots with sir Guy by Louis Rhead 1912” by Louis Rhead – Rhead, Louis. “Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band: Their Famous Exploits in Sherwood Forest”. New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1912.. [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons