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10 Legends That Might Have Basis In Fact

Updated on February 24, 2019
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I am an historical fact fanatic. I love reading goofy little facts about history. All history. For instance, did you know that throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, many of Europe’s nobility had deformities or abnormalities due to years of inbreeding? Or that one of the greatest Chinese pirates in history was a woman? I love that kind of knowledge. I don’t know why, but I love knowing that I know that stuff. I’ll probably never use it. I’m pretty sure I’ll never end up on Jeopardy or Cash Cab, but it’s best to be prepared. Just in case.

Some of my favorite tidbits of information come from the legends of history. We can’t say if they’re true or not, but it’s kind of cool to think that somewhere in those myths and stories, lies a grain of truth just waiting to come out. Some legends only last for a short time, then drift off with the tides of time. But some legends just won’t die. Here is a list of my 10 favorite legends that refuse to be forgotten.

The Power of Gold

The Legend: Gold has always been a prized possession for humans. It seems since time immemorial, people have had an obsession with this soft metal. The Greeks told tales of animals made of gold, such as The Golden Hind and that at the edge of the world there was a ram’s fleece made entirely of gold. Mesoamericans told stories of entire cities made of gold and most people have heard the story of King Midas and his ability to turn anything he touched into gold.

The Facts: We humans have always had a fascination with gold. We find tombs loaded with gold objects, museums are filled with gold jewelry, and even today, we celebrate our love through a golden band.

Worldwide Flood Stories

The Legend: Almost every culture around the world has a story about the great flood. Many of us know the story from the pages of the Bible, but that’s just the tip of the headwaters. Cultures as far apart as the Incan Empire and the shores of the Indian continent, tell stories of the gods coming down and warning the humans of an upcoming flood that will devastate everything in its wake.

The Facts: Most experts agree that sometime around 12,000 years ago, the amount of water dumped into the world’s oceans caused levels to rise to a point of wiping out entire coastal civilizations. It’s known that before this time England was part of the European mainland, but the deluge caused the nation to become an island.

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Atlantis

The Legend: Almost everyone knows the story. A highly advanced island nation is submerged beneath the seas in a single day and night. The inhabitants were thought to be the most advanced civilization the world had ever seen, but their willful pride angered the gods. In the end, an entire culture was erased from the Earth.

The Facts: In line with the flood myths, some experts think that the story of Atlantis is based on events that happened when the world’s oceans covered global coastlines and islands. However, it’s the eruption of the island of Thera, off the coast of Greece, that many believe sparked the legend of Atlantis.

Gods and Goddesses

The Legend: Nearly every culture around the world has believed in a host of gods and goddesses. Each had their own place in the world and ruled over various aspects of human lives. Some may have started out as a family ancestor or tribal leader, but even to this day, many people believe in praying to their God for guidance.

The Facts: Though there is no real scientific proof of God or a god, there are many theories. Some claim that the gods and goddesses were beings from other planets, others believe them to be heroes from a time long forgotten. Whatever the case, most humans feel some form of relief in knowing that there is someone who will step in and resolve their issues.

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The “Others”

The Legend: Ghosts, demons, angels, fairies—call them what you like, but many people believe in an invisible realm within our own. Most cultures told stories of interaction between the living and the world beyond. Things move without being touched, shadows cross the walls when no one is around, something touches you when you’re all alone.

The Facts: There is no absolute proof that there is anything beyond this life, but that has done nothing to stop this belief. Millions of people throughout history have believed in ghosts and spirits that inhabit the same space as ourselves. They believe in demons that try to steal their souls and in angels that work to protect them in their times of need.

Giants

The Legend: Many cultures around the world believe that there once lived a race of enormous human beings. The ancient Greeks told stories about the Titans, the Native Americans recounted stories of a race of white skinned giants who practiced cannibalism, and the Celts believed that giants created most of their ancient monuments and land formations.

The Facts: There is some speculation that humans were smaller in stature in ancient times. Though most giants were said to be 9 to 12 feet tall or taller, even a man of over 6 foot tall would seem to be a giant to a culture who’s average height would be at about 5’4” or 5’5”.

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Dragons

The Legend: Almost all ancient cultures believed in dragons. To some, they were to be feared and many a hero would make his mark by killing them. In other cultures, they were divinities to be revered and worshiped like a god. Some were said to live in caves, some in mountain ranges, and others were thought to live beneath the waves. But they were all thought to be great beings and very dangerous.

The Facts: Though believed to be just another myth, there is a theory that most dragon tales came from the finding of dinosaur bones in ancient times. Not knowing what they had found, an ancient people might come across the fossilized skull of a massive meat eater and believe they’d found the remains of a dragon.

Monsters

The Legend: Monsters have lived in the human imagination since the dawn of time. People have always believed that there is something in the darkness just waiting to eat them alive. Their were monsters all around, from the cyclops of ancient Greece to the Roc of ancient Persia. These stories were more than just a way to keep children complacent, they were believed to be real beings.

The Facts: Like dragons, some experts believe the idea of monsters came from finding the bones of long dead creatures. One theory says that the idea of the cyclops emerged when ancient people found the skull of a mastodon. What they would have seen as a single, large eye socket, would have actually been the beast’s nasal cavity where the trunk would have attached.

AnonymousUnknown author [Public domain]
AnonymousUnknown author [Public domain] | Source

Bigfoot/Yeti

The Legend: Bigfoot has become one of North America’s greatest legends. A giant primitive beast thought to live in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Over the years, those legends have grown and sightings have been reported from the Northwest to the swamps of Florida, and everywhere in between. The Yeti is thought to be the Asian equivalent and is said to live in the Himalayas.

The Facts: No one has ever come forward with hard evidence that such a beast exists, but many people swear they’ve encountered this creature. Hundreds of plaster casts of very large foot prints have come to light over the years and a temple in the Himalayas claims to have both the hand and the cranial cap of an actual Yeti.

The Key to Immortality


The Legend: Throughout history, people have tried to find the Elixir of Life. The magical nectar that would allow the recipient to live forever. The First Emperor of China took a regiment of mercury pills that eventually killed him. Ponce De’Leon drank from just about every lake and stream in Florida, searching for the Fountain of Youth.

The Facts: People have been visiting mineral hot springs for generations. Many cultures believed that submerging themselves in special waters would heal their ailments. In more modern times, we’ve turned to science and technology to find the key to immortality.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Christine Graves

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