Myth and legend
What is the difference between myth and legend?
How do we differentiate myths from legend especially when they both hinge their stories on the past and are both explaining circumstances that are nearly unbelievable to the present day individual, especially in this 21st century where technology and science have made many illogical stories told orally by our fathers unreasonable. That indeed, is one of the beauty of literature especially in Nigeria and therefore we strive to keep our myths and legend in tact, as it sometimes form the basis of creativity for most African writers and short story writers.
In this article, we are therefore aiming to differentiate the terms ‘myth and legend’ as this sometimes pose difficulty to most literature student, they are most times used interchangeably because of their dictionary meaning or their denotative meaning but when it comes to actual literarure both denotative and connotative meanings are of major importance.
Difficulties come from scholars placing these words as synonyms in the dictionary by explaining both as An idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true, a story that was told in ancient culture to explain a practice, belief or natural occurrence. This is very true but in literature we draw the margin between both.
Myths are stories told to explain some unnatural event and give answers to phenomena that can not be logically explained, it also explicate the early history or origin of a people, it is usually in most tribe in Nigeria and some explains how they (the tribe) came to be in existence. Those tribes recognized for strongly believing in myths are the Yorubas the Fulanis, the Edos. Having their myth about the origin of the universe, life and death etc.
While legends are told to laud a particular person, people or community. These legends can be myths (which means they might not be true) but they are about a particular hero or heroine, like the story of particular entities lie Ghandoki, Moremi, Idia, Emotan etc.
The difference between this two terms is that they do not in any case have proof of facts for myths but some legends have proofs of existence like statues made for them in the exact location to which they lived, like in the case of Emotan believed by the Benin people to be a heroine and her image was erected at her death in the same spot where she used to trade and this is still there today standing as a tourist attraction.
This to an extent this is the difference between legend and myth, but in larger pictures both are synonymous in the Nigerian belief and oral literatures.