Living Legend

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Some people become famous. They're well known, even if not very much is known about them. The Living Legend is Famed in Story.

Some famous people are famous for specific things. Some are infamous. Regardless, they actually did, can do, or were present at specific events. The Living Legend is famous because of where he's been, who he's been, who he's been with, and/or what he can do.

The Living Legend is respected for these things. Wherever he goes, people recognize him and buy him drinks. They ask him if he really did all those things. They want to know what it was like being where he was. They ask him to demonstrate his prowess.

This is a person whose reputation makes him larger than life even in his own time. The Living Legend can run the gamut from hero to villain, truth to lie, professional to amateur. The point isn't whether his reputation is deserved, but that he has it.

If the Living Legend doesn't deserve his reputation, he's No Hero to His Valet. If he deliberately plays up his false reputation, he's Miles Gloriosus. If someone else is doing this for him, he's the Fake Ultimate Hero.

If his reputation is based on having just been in the right place at the right time, he's the Accidental Hero. If he's a random guy thrown into it, he might be an Action Survivor.

Sometimes the Living Legend's reputation is non-specific and he's Shrouded in Myth. Sometimes it's very specific and everyone calls him "The Butcher of X".

When a character's deeds are remembered in subsequent works, he's Legendary in the Sequel.

When he shows up to ruin a protagonist's day, The Ace will often be hailed as a Living Legend by his legion of squeeing fans.

Examples of Living Legend include:

Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

  • In One Piece there are several powerful pirates who fit in this category, most notably Silvers Rayleigh, the Number Two of Gold Roger himself.
    • The Marines have Garp and arguably Sengoku. It says something that Garp revealing that he's actually going to take part in a battle is one of the few things that actually made the Whitebeard Pirates hesitate.
    • Luffy's mentor fits the bill. Very little is known about Shanks, but anytime even a small bit of info is discovered, it tends to be groundbreaking.
  • Ricardo Martinez in Hajime no Ippo is the Mexican long-time featherweight world champion who never lost. He's actually called "The only living super-legend" and it's said that there's a higher chance that Mexican citizens know him than their own president.

Comics[edit | hide]

  • It would be quicker and easier to list superheroes who are aversions of this trope. So many are famous in their respective universes that it's almost superfluous to list them. A special mention should be made, however, for characters such as Superman, Captain America (comics), Batman, and the Justice Society of America, who are famous even amongst the other heroes.
  • V, from V for Vendetta, deliberately invokes this in order to bring down the Norsefire government.
  • Watchmen deconstructs this and explores both the positive and negative effects of Living Legends, particularly the dehumanizing and demoralizing presence of Doctor Manhattan.
  • Lucky Luke, the man who shoots faster than his own shadow, not only is this himself but also meets nearly all real life legends from the The Wild West across the series: Calamity Jane, Buffalo Bill, Roy Bean, Wyatt Earp and his brothers, Mark Twain, Jesse James and his gang, Billy the Kid... the list is simply endless.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Li Mu Bai is famous throughout China for his prowess with the Green Destiny.
  • Down With Love: Catcher Block - Ladies Man, Man's Man, Man About Town, is a Memetic Sex God in-universe.
  • Hancock is very well known as a less than popular hero.
  • The super heroes of The Incredibles are all well known. This bites them when they start getting sued by an angry populace and they're all forced into hiding.
  • Pai Mei, in Kill Bill, is presented, by Bill, as a figure Shrouded in Myth and incredibly deadly.
  • The Princess Bride: The Dread Pirate Roberts is a mysterious and terrifying pirate who has long terrorized ... some maritime province.
  • The title character of You Don't Mess With the Zohan, at least in Israel and Palestine.
  • The eponymous hero of Zemeckis' Beowulf turns into this in the latter half of the movie. At the same time he has aspects of No Hero to His Valet. And a small touch of Miles Gloriosus, as he likes to exaggerate his prowess.
  • "I am Iron Man."
  • By the end of Army of Darkness, Ash (housewares) has achieved legendary status, so he claims, among the people of Mercia. They wanted to make him king. In his own way, he is king.
  • El Mariachi. "We call him 'El'. It means 'The'."
  • Keyzer Soze of The Usual Suspects is a mysterious devil figure to the criminal underworld.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Galactic President Zaphod Beeblebrox is quite well known. Not necessarily for good things. He is a politician, after all.
  • Kit Carson, of Robert Asprin's Time Scout series. He was one of the very first men to take up the incredibly dangerous profession of stepping through a time portal to find out what's on the other side.
  • The leaders of various factions in C. J. Cherryh's Alliance Union universe are generally presented as famous, larger than life, and incredibly competent.
  • Harry Dresden, who is considered to be The Dreaded by his enemies, has done everything from killing a faerie queen (beings that are beyond any mortal wizard in power) to raising a T-Rex. This is all before he is 40, and he is considered one of the top 20 most powerful wizards on the planet, and probably the top 3 of most dangerous. Bear in mind Dresdenverse wizards don't really come into their full power until they're 100 years old at least.
  • Hunter of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. She's hunted down and killed incredibly deadly, legendary animals all over the world.
  • Richard Cypher, of the Sword of Truth series is a Living Legend first among the people of D'Hara, then the midlands and Westlands, then the old world.
  • Realm of the Elderlings:
    • FitzChivalry Farseer goes through several flavors of Living Legend. First he becomes famous as a warrior defending the shores of the kingdom from the Outisland raiders. Then he becomes infamous as a Wit-user and traitor. Then he becomes a symbol of the wit movement. Finally he becomes The Man Behind the Man, true ruler of the realm, mostly from the shadows.
    • In a similar fashion, Kennet, would-be King of the Pirate Isles, is well known among the isles as a particularly capable and professional pirate. Then he gains more and more fame and love for targeting slavers. His reputation passes to his woman, erstwhile whore Etta and later Queen of the Pirate Isles, and his ward, Wintrow, their philosopher King.
    • Also, Malta and Reyn as the first of the new Elderlings.
  • Several characters in the Wheel of Time series. Rand, Perrin, and Mat are most easily justified, what with being ta'veren.
  • Quite a few from the various Dragonlance books.
    • Raistlin almost became a god.
    • Huma was famed for his exploits and piety even before his Heroic Sacrifice, though he became Shrouded in Myth eons later.
    • Most of the main characters from the original Chronicles trilogy are referred to as "The Heroes of the Lance" in the later books and everyone seems to know their stories.
    • Laurana became famous on both sides as the Golden General due to her miraculous rout of the evil army at the High Clerist's Tower and the repeated victories she won against numerically superior enemy armies during the Vingaard Campaign.
  • Sparrowhawk from A Wizard of Earthsea.
  • Aubrey-Maturin: Both Captain Jack Aubrey and Doctor Stephen Maturin become famous, though for very different things. Jack is famous throughout the navy as Lucky Jack for his martial exploits and later gains some renown for his work in mathematics and astronomy. Stephen is a very admired physician and biologist before he becomes a Magnificent Bastard in the intelligence community.
  • The Discworld, running as it does on the Theory of Narrative Causality, has a number of these.
    • Granny Weatherwax, whose name among the trolls is Aaoograha hoa ("She Who Must Be Avoided") and among the dwarfs is K'ez'rek d'b'duz ("Go Around the Other Side of the Mountain"). She has taught respect to vampires and elves as well.
    • His Grace, His Excellency, The Duke of Ankh, Commander Sir Samuel Vimes is known throughout his city as scrupulously honest and a man who, when upset, tends to spread his discontent around with a big shovel. The criminal element actively tries not to piss him off. So well known for inventing the first capable and honest police force of the city of Ankh-Morpork that cops throughout the plains are known as Sammies.
    • Similarly, Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson, the rightful heir to the throne of Ankh-Morpork (who just happens to like being a guard). His charisma is so strong it warps reality. Also, he has a punch that trolls respect.
    • Rincewind (a Wizzard) is famous among some communities for his ability to run away from anything. And scream in 27 languages. He's also saved the Disc multiple times when running was no longer an option. At one point, when two head wizards almost go nuclear, another realizes that the last time that happened, the Disc was almost destroyed and Rincewind stopped it with a half-brick in a sock. He looks around and sees Rincewind putting his sock back on.
    • Tiffany Aching is rapidly building herself a fearsome reputation.
    • Sergeant Jackrum of the Borogravian army has fought in every single war for forty years. The Sergeant knows everyone. Everyone knows the Sergeant. The Sergeant's reputation is such that generals will leave at the Sergeant's request.
    • Older Than They Think, Cohen the Barbarian to whom Rincewind says "My grandfather used to tell me stories about you when I sat on his kne... Oh."
  • Harry Potter, who had a nickname, the Boy Who Lived, by the time he was one. Also, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, who was gaining a reputation in his youth, even before things like his defeat of the Dark Wizard Grindelwald. In a very negative way, Tom Riddle, AKA Lord Voldemort, has such a fearsome reputation that no one will even say his name.
  • Snow Crash: Raven—He's a one man nation with a nuclear bomb keyed to his heartbeat and an Absurdly Sharp Blade.
  • Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn: Seoman Snowlock begins life as an orphan, adopted into the life of a scullion known only for mischief and day-dreamery. Then he... let's just say that fighting a dragon with an incredibly magic sword is among the least of what he becomes known for. When he learns that he's the descendant of, simultaneously, a king and a saint and thus one of the strongest candidates for the throne in the world (there's a princess available, but her father was kind of a douche), someone says that even if that weren't true, he'd be tempted to make it up. Not only would it be believed, but Seoman's incredibly beloved.
  • Tailchaser's Song: Fritti Tailchaser helped fight off Cat Satan. He's as much a hero as cats can have. Grizraz (Cat Satan) and Lord Firefoot (Crystal Dragon Jesus) are immortal and feared/beloved, and Shrouded in Myth.
  • There's no evidence that Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker is anything but a war hero in the movies, but in the Expanded Universe his reputation is a bit more than that. In The Thrawn Trilogy, he's recognizable such that, when a random fight's about to break out in a bar, everyone looks to him, even the two about to fight, to settle it, based on nothing more than his reputation as a Jedi Knight. He steps up, everyone accepts his judgment, the day is saved.
    • Similarly, to be made a Grand Admiral of the Empire requires that you be above and beyond normal military talents. When people find themselves pitted against a Grand Admiral, the result is usually despair. And then there was that brief time you could learn you were coming up against Grand Admiral Thrawn and know exactly what that meant...
  • Ciaphas Cain, Hero of the Imperium! Much to his regret.
  • Skeeve of Myth Adventures is an Only One Name thief who ran away from his father's farm, only to become a widely renowned magician, somewhat feared across the dimensions.
  • Duke Alaric Morgan in the Deryni works. He helped King Brion Haldane defeat a Festillic Pretender at age 14, and rose to become Lord General of Gwynedd's armies. Although prequels are either published or in process, he was introduced as a Living Legend when he first appeared in Deryni Rising in 1970. Indeed, he is depicted as cultivating a reputation for dangerous power as a means of intimidating potential foes and thereby protecting himself.
  • Kvothe from The King Killer Chronicles books.
    • Also the yet-to-be-seen Oren Velciter from the same books.
  • Heretics of Dune. Miles Teg had such an reputation as a military leader for the Bene Gesserit that he was once able to To Win Without Fighting.

Teg's reputation was an almost universal thing throughout human society of this age. At the Battle of Markon, it had been enough for the enemy to know that Teg was there opposite them in person. They sued for terms.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Burn Notice: Michael Westen is an Urban Legend throughout Russia. So much so that people protest he can't possibly be real, and that "There are only four of us, we can't possibly beat him!"
  • By the third season of Chuck, Charles Carmichael has become famous enough that he's taken on a life of his own.
  • In Heroes, Hiro Nakamura goes to medieval Japan to meet his hero, Takezo Kensei. Hiro then does everything he can to make Takezo live up to the legends about him, making him into the legend Hiro willen haven onen learned about.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor. Some love him. Some hate him. All are justified in fearing him. Also, Rory. And River Song, who can make implacable Daleks beg for mercy just by introducing herself.
  • Firefly: Jaaayne, the man they call Jaaayne.

Jayne: Eggs! The Living Legend needs eggs!

  • Battlestar Galactica Classic: In the episode "The Living Legend", the Galactica encounters the battlestar Pegasus, whose captain is the Colonial military legend Commander Cain.
  • Parodied in The Rutles - the band are supposedly a living legend that will live long after other living legends have died.
  • White Collar:
    • Neal Caffrey is such a capable thief and Con Man that there's an entire unit on his alleged crimes in a college criminology class. When he shows up in person, the students and professor all squee, just a bit.
    • Mozzie became an Urban Legend by accident. He was so smart that, as a kid, he hired a man to be the face of his book-making operation, the Doctor of Detroit. The operation got pushed out by The Mafia, but the Doctor lived on.
  • There are hints that the crew of the Enterprise, and the ship herself, are considered this in Star Trek: The Original Series. Kirk is certainly a notorious figure among the Klingons, as demonstrated in "The Trouble with Tribbles"; and Spock, despite being only half-Vulcan, is explicitly described in the episode "Amok Time" as "a legend among our people" by his mate T'Pring. This is very prominent in the movies as well, particularly Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.


Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • Bruno Sammartino was called "The Living Legend." Larry Zbyszko appropriated the name as "The New Living Legend" during a feud.
    • Zbyszko would later attempt to sue Chris Jericho, who had also appropriated the nickname. This did not go well for him.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]


Toys[edit | hide]

  • In virtually every universe, Optimus Prime and Megatron are the living legends. There are sometimes others—Overlord, Arcee, Starscream, Grimlock—but they're more often notorious. Only Optimus and Megatron are universally respected and/or feared.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Snake from Metal Gear Solid, although he doesn't think himself as one.
  • By the end of any of the Fallout games, the hero will have altered the face of whatever wasteland he/she happens to inhabit, for better or for worse.
  • Many of the Bhaalspawn of Baldur's Gate toil in anonymity, unaware of their divine parentage. Sarevok and the PC are among the few who truly stand out.
  • The many incarnations of Planescape: Torment's the Nameless One have had and deserved every kind of reputation.
  • Half Life: The Free Man, Gordon Freeman. Started a revolution just by showing up.
  • Many characters of the Star Wars video games have reputations.
  • StarCraft has a number of war heroes, most (in)famously Jim Raynor, one of the few to be known by all three races.
  • Diablo: The hero of the first game was only really known in the one very small town. Of the second, much more widely known and thus deserving of the title Living Legend.
  • Halo has the Master Chief. Possibly the Arbiter, introduced in volume 2.
    • Spartans as a whole can be considered this (if they're alive that is). The Halo Wars manual describes them as "A walking legend"
  • Each Fable game introduces a Hero who becomes very famous. Or infamous.
  • Grand Theft Auto Vice City: Tommy Vercetti was sent to Vice City because, as "The Harwood Butcher", he was too hot for Liberty City.
  • The Prince of Persia toils in obscurity [1] during "Sands of Time" and "Warrior Within", but he returns to his home and becomes beloved by the people as a liberating hero in "The Two Thrones".
  • Assassin's Creed: Altair is famous only among the Assassins, and then only for his skill at the start of the first game. By the end, he's earned the enmity of everyone involved in the Crusades, and also the loyalty of every Assassin outside of their citadel.
    • Ezio Auditore likewise earns the love of the Assassins and the fear of the Templars, though he's anonymous to the general public.
  • Mass Effect: Commander Shepard, depending on your choices at the start of the game, can start the game somewhat famous. By the end of the first game, s/he is ridiculously famous. And again by the end of the second. And those who serve with Shepard tend to become legends as well. Some also start that way.
    • Urdnot Wrex, who killed a Thresher Maw on foot, was the youngest war leader ever and one of the rare, powerful Krogan battle masters and a mercenary with centuries of experience even before teaming up with Shepard and killing a Reaper.
    • Samara is a Justicar of the Asari, basically a living Avatar of Law.
    • After the events of the first game, Garrus Vakarian goes to Omega and takes on the persona of Archangel. That is to say, he goes to Space Gotham and becomes Space Batman.
  • Final Fantasy X: Yuna starts out known as the daughter of the last summoner to defeat Sin. She's famous as the one to permanently defeat it after that.
  • Duke Nukem is famous as of Duke Nukem Forever.
  • As a group, the Fifth Street Saints, in the third game.
  • By the end of their respective games, the Warden in Dragon Age: Origins and the Champion in Dragon Age II are internationally famous, in a quasi-medieval society that can't use magic for fast communications. That's impressive just for its difficulty.
  • After you've played a few missions in City of Heroes, NPCs start recognizing you and calling you by name. A passing civilian will say "Nice costume, (your name here)!" or an opponent will say "Cheezit, it's (your name here)!" when you approach.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Doctor Horribles Sing Along Blog: Country Mourns Whatshername. Both the Doctor and Captain Hammer are widely known, with squeeing fans. Likewise the Evil League of Evil, and maybe other heroes.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Girl Genius:
    • Othar Trygvassen, GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER is well known.
    • Baron Klaus Von Wulfenbach also has a reputation, somewhat more negative.
    • Agatha Heterodyne, Gilgamesh Von Wulfenbach, and Tarvek Sturmvoraus are all rapidly earning reputations.
    • The Heterodyne Boys were beloved, in no small part because their family was not.
  • Sluggy Freelance: Torg earned a reputation in the Dimension of Lame during "That Which Redeems".


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • As is often the case, think long and hard before adding a Real Life example to this trope. My Che Guevara is your Osama Bin Laden...
  • Most Living Legends are people who have risen to a celebrity status that is so enormous that it literally become Larger Than Life. They are either living legends because of one or more hugely famous deeds or events that have given them their iconic/heroic/infamous/cult/mystique status or due to their longevity where they have never ever been out of publicity or praise during their lives. Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Bruce Lee, Michael Jackson are examples of people who were already living legends during their lifetime. Examples of actual living legends at this time of writing are Muhammad Ali, Pele, Diego Maradona, Eddy Merckx, Nelson Mandela, Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan.
  • While many try to exemplify this trope, Salvador Dali is one of the few artists to use it. Many artists become popular only after their death, but Dali lived to see his work appreciated extensively and even a museum erected in his honour. Even outside of the art world, he was a well-known personality and socialite in his time, sure to be recognized wherever he went (although his iconic appearance probably helped with that).


  1. Well, as much obscurity as any prince can achieve.