One of the more traditional parts of fantasy are the legends that get talked about or even met in an adventure. Isildur in Lord of the Rings, Aslan in Narnia, and Halt in The Ranger’s Apprentice are examples that all differ from each other. What they have in common is reputation and/or fame, which is why they are called legends more than celebrities within their world. Yes, I might be stretching with Isildur, but I’ll get to why he’s there in a little bit. I think there are different categories that a legendary character can fall into, so let’s look at the ones I thought up:
The Legendary Hero
This is probably the most common. Your noble warriors and casters who saved the world from destruction. More than likely, the current problem stems from a loose end that they were unable to handle. These characters are known for being larger than life and possibly inspirations for the new heroes. You also run into a problem when they’re still alive because people would wonder why these powerful beings don’t step in to thwart the new villain. So, you find these characters either dead, retired with some type of injury, apathetic, or arrogant to the point where you wonder why they have their reputation. A lot of times these legends operate as mentors such as Selenia Hamilton in Legends of Windemere. Mostly, they create a history of heroism in the world that can be a crucial part of world-building.
The Fallen Legend
Here is where Isildur comes in because he’s a legend, but one who is known for failing in the end. These heroes serve a dual purpose. One is that they show that even heroes can fall and this is not a perfect world. With a ‘famous’ character crumbling, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the main heroes have trouble. You open the door for the possibility of anguish and turning dark because it’s happened before. The other is to set up either the main plot or a subplot where the failed quest needs to be completed. This can be a secondary story with a higher risk of failure than the main one, but only if the two aren’t that connected. Characters are evolved more by their subplots than the main one, so a quest that involves finishing what a failed legend starts can give your protagonists a special boost.
The Fake Legend
This one is fairly simple, but it is also predictable. There are those living legends that you hear about throughout a story. Great deeds are talked about and the hero might be a big fan. When this celebrity is finally met, you realize that something is off. It might be extreme arrogance or they’re acting shifty. Inevitably, you discover that they didn’t do a lot of what they are credited for. Some may have even lied to get ahead or killed the real hero to take their fame. This typically ends either with the legend’s death or them finally doing something noble to help the heroes. There really is only one reason for this, which is to have the heroes realize that they must believe in themselves and not those who came before them. Well, it can also be used to give them a magical artifact that was going to waste and I’m sure a few other things.
The Earned Legend
I’m not really sure what else to call this, but it’s the category that Ichabod Brooks begrudgingly falls into. This is his month, so I need to highlight him. These are the legends who never set out to become one and haven’t saved the world during an epic quest. One could call them an ‘Every Man Legend’ because they simply went about their lives and stumbled into fame. For example, Ichabod did his job that involved a lot of exciting adventures because he needed to make a living. Word of his deeds spread and it created a legend that isn’t entirely true. Yet, he’s not a false legend because he has no interest in the title. So there’s a sense of resistance toward the admiration because these legends were only going about their business