Shrouded in Myth

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Draschine: Celes’s food is apparently great! They say that before she became a Demon Queen, she used to hunt and cook demon-beasts for sport!
Celes: That’s not true. You know it.
Draschine: Yeah, but that’s what the soldiers say.

You've heard the stories. There's someone out there, someone mysterious and untouchable. Rumors and hearsay seem to surround their every word and deed. And not just the normal sort either, but the utterly ridiculous kind. Like that he's thirty feet tall and shoots lightning bolts out of his arse. Sure, there's a kernel of truth in there somewhere, but who even knows where or what it might be with all the stories surrounding the truth. This all may set up a moment of disappointment when the truth gets revealed.

Commonly The Reveal shows the Miles Gloriosus, Fake Ultimate Hero, or Feet of Clay. On the other hand, it's always wise to remember that the kernel of truth can be pretty dangerous; compare Badass on Paper.

Frequently part of a No Hero to His Valet, No Badass to His Valet, or Warts and All plot. Also, all three plots tend to absolve the idealized character of any responsibility for the misconceptions of anyone else, as he can hardly prevent rumors and stories from arising.

When a parent is Shrouded In Myth, the child's reaction is often Tell Me About My Father. When people don't want him to Turn Out Like His Father, they tend generally to add only the allure of Forbidden Fruit to him. (And often enough result in Anticlimactic Parent.) Not to be confused with The Fog of Ages, which is something else entirely.

Objects, places, pieces of technology, and magic spells can also be Shrouded in Myth, but the effect is less dramatic. Does explain why the Penultimate Weapon can beat out the Ultimate one.

When this happens in the fandom rather than in-universe, it's a Memetic Badass.

Contrast King in the Mountain, Malicious Slander. Anything from The Time of Myths is invariably Shrouded in Myth. Compare Legend Fades to Myth.

Examples of Shrouded in Myth include:


  • This is the theme for Dos Equis beer's "The Most Interesting Man in the World" ads; unlike the Stig's myths, these are accompanied with (unrelated) film footage: (TMIMITW leads a group of people in evening dress with burning torches into a cave) "He once had an awkward moment, just to see what it felt like." (looking at a map filled with "been there" pins) "He can speak French..." (a giant owl flies in and lands on his arm) "in Russian."

Anime and Manga

  • The Irregulars are completely foreign entities that surpass the strength of almost anybody in the Tower of God. Where the came from apart from outside the tower and what they want is a mystery to anybody.
  • This would be pretty much the entire point of Irresponsible Captain Tylor.[context?]
  • The wildly conflicting rumors about Vash from Trigun become an issue in the very first episode. Even at the end of the series, the fact that a dorky, Technical Pacifist is the world's most notorious outlaw is still stunning everyone who learns the truth. He finds it useful on occasion to play into the stories surrounding him. Many of the rumors about Vash in the first episode could just as easily describe the 12-foot tall criminal Descartes.
    • This culminates in a showdown between Descartes, the bounty hunter Loose Ruth, and (sort of) Vash, with Ruth and Descartes believing each other to be the real deal pretty much solely because they both wear red and have blond hair.
    • Later, the conflicting rumors allow a nameless crook to impersonate Vash convincingly because he wears sunglasses and has spiky hair.
  • Cowboy Bebop played with this in the episode introducing Ed. When Jet tried to track Ed down by getting descriptions on the street, the compilation was something along the lines of "He's a seven foot tall ex-basketball pro, hindu guru, drag queen alien." (Ed is actually 13 year old girl who is an excellent Playful Hacker and a Cloudcuckoolander).
    • One of the rumours happened to be true purely by chance; it described her as a whimsical child, a brat who loves horrible pranks.
  • In one Samurai Champloo episode, a couple of bystanders are rapping about the doings of the ghost of Yoshitsune (a legendary 12th century samurai general around whom similar legends grew in real life), and how it supposedly haunted a nearby mountain. As it turns out in the episode, it was all a combination of rumors about Last of His Kind/The Drifter Okuru and Jin, the latter of which were deliberately spread by former rival Yukimaru.
  • Lucy from Fairy Tail is often given credit for things that the rest of the team has done, and it spreads fast so she barely gets the chance to correct those myths. On the flip side, most of the fights she has won are known to only a select few.
  • Fallan of Double Arts has this. He's been seen correcting some of the more outrageous rumors. Later inverted when he reveals that a story where he defeated 50 bandits is was actually a far greater number. Cue asskicking.
  • Lina Inverse of The Slayers has an impressive - and mostly negative - reputation, as demonstrated very nicely in the first episode of Slayers Revolution.
    • And an OVA features a spell Shrouded in Myth that can summon a meteor. And then promptly demonstrates why the spell is only a legend (aiming from space is hard enough that the spell is inaccurate to the point of uselessness).
  • Kitano Seiichirou in Angel Densetsu. To hear the legends, he's a ruthless delinquent maniac and a strung-out heroin addict who will kill you if you cross him and is unbeatable in combat. The truth, however, is that he's an endlessly caring and compassionate boy with the heart of an angel; it's his unsettling appearance, along with a long series of misunderstandings, that caused the rumors to spread about him.
  • Books on Ancient Belka in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha speak of the Dark King Ixpellia, a barbaric, war-mongering, tyrant king that delights in death and destruction as he leads his undead army to conquer any land within his sights. When Subaru eventually tracks her down in StrikerS Sound Stage X, she finds... a weary Mysterious Waif who's really sick of all the fighting she had to do during the Ancient Belkan Wars and thus finds her necromantic ability to create single-minded, battle-lust filled Super Soldiers from corpses to be really sucky.
  • Train Heartnet from Black Cat has a rather legendary status of having been the strongest member of Chronos and being an extremely competent and strong sweeper. Criminals were shown cowering in fear and immediately surrendering to an impostor when said impostor showed them his fake XIII tattoo and claimed he was the Black Cat.
  • The Hitokiri Battousai's reputation is so fearsome and his identity so secret that it's easy for hoodlums to claim his identity. Nobody ever suspects the eccentric pacifist with the blunt sword...
  • Kenichi of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Thanks to Nijima, most of his school believes him to be a Badass of epic proportions, pulling ridiculous stunts like knocking out a bear. While he's a very good fighter, he's a lot more of a wimp personality wise.
    • The same for Seiji from Midori no Hibi thanks to his friend who constantly spreads rumors.
  • Papillon from Busou Renkin becomes an urban legend.
  • Legenday dog Plue, from Rave Master is a huge mystery to most of the world. They've come to assume he's some great beast hybrid of a unicorn and wolf, much to the horror of the cast.
  • In addition to being a Villain with Good Publicity, The Laughing Man also benefits from this, to the point where an entire episode of Stand Alone Complex is dedicated to discussing whether or not he even exists, or is some sort of spontaneous cultural phenomenon, or spontaneous artificial intelligence phenomenon.
  • Keima from The World God Only Knows is a weird guy deserving of the title otaMegane, but his reputation as seen here, while partially true, is a little off.
  • Guts' existence is completely obscure in Berserk, especially when he takes up his Black Swordsman persona after the Eclipse. Before the Eclipse, it was well known that there was a mighty man among the Band of the Hawk who slayed 100 soldiers by himself, thus earning the title "the Hundred Man Slayer." His actual name was more well known then, but after the demise of the first band, he became nothing more than myth, but his legendary feats continued to disperse and became so overblown that now a lot of people believe that he killed a whooping 1000 soldiers by himself.
  • The woman known only by the pseudonym "Raimu (Lime) Kawasaki" in Bakuon!! Believed to be an upperclassman by the members of the Okanoue Girls' School Motorcycle Club, she is in fact a woman in her thirties (at least), who appears to be near-legendary in Japan's motorcycle racing circles (two racers in their forties refer to her as "sempai"). Despite this almost nothing is known about her. This is only exacerbated by the fact that she never takes off her helmet -- at least not on screen.

Comic Books

  • Batman. He is Badass Normal but builds up an aura of being a creature of the night as part of his psychological war on crime.
    • Back in the '70's, they used to have issues devoted to people telling Batman stories that grew more and more disconnected from reality. Often it was revealed that the teller of the scariest story was Batman himself in disguise.
    • The Batman: The Animated Series episode "Legends of the Dark Knight" explored this concept with three kids who tell stories of different versions of Batman that aren't true to life... but are actually based on previous versions of the character from the comics. Also, in "Almost Got Him", some villains briefly discuss various possibilities of who/what Batman is.
      • Something similar happens in Batman: Gotham Knight, where one of the kids encountered Batman and was left with the impression that he was some kind of robot; another thought he was some sort of shadow-creature; and the last thought he was a literal Bat-Man.
      • The comics story "The Batman Nobody Knows" has Bruce Wayne taking a group of inner-city kids on a camping trip. After they trade tall tales about Batman, he makes a real appearance. The kids are unimpressed.
      • In "Legend", a story set in the distant future by Walt Simonson for Batman: Black and White, a mother tells her young son about Batman, describing him as a larger than life figure with powers beyond those of mortal man. He could fly, breathe underwater, his suit was shiny and metal and fired missiles - and he would retreat to a solitary fortress when he needed to rest from his never-ending battle.
    • In more than one story, Superman has had to sub for an ailing Batman (or vice-versa). Because the criminals never see Batman coming and are knocked out, they assume "Superman" just used his speed, while the outlandish things Superman gets up to are accepted by small-time criminals because they're that superstitious about him.
    • Lampshaded in Dark Knight Returns as Carrie Kelly tells off her friend for telling outlandish stories about Batman, then sets the record straight that he's just a man, about twelve feet tall (365 cm). To be fair, it often seems like she isn't too far off, since Bats is almost twice her size in some panels.
    • The entire point of Batman, Inc is to foster a dense network of rumor and suspicion around the identity of Batman—based around the fact that now, Batman is everywhere.
  • A similar event happens in Aquaman, where several kids tell their version of who and what Aquaman is. According to one kid's poorly drawn comic, he's a Nineties Anti-Hero with a long beard and a hook for a hand. Another claims he lives a normal life only underwater, even having his own aquadog, and is also a superhero. Another says Aquaman is a giant made completely of water. Again, the funny thing here is that they're all technically correct; Those have all been different versions of the character in continuity before.
  • In one Groo the Wanderer story the tyrant Pipil Khan keeps hearing stories about all of the battles Groo has won and the carnage he has caused, and imagines that Groo must be a huge, fierce warrior with demonic powers. Then the real Groo finally shows up - a rather short, scruffy, plump guy with a broken nose and stick legs - and Pipil Khan dies from shock.
  • The Phantom. While he in fact doesn't have any superpowers, he relies on and encourages the four hundred years of history surrounding him and the prior Phantoms, (which includes a reputation for being immortal and fearless) in order to fight the bad guys.
  • In Transformers, rumors abound among the Decepticon ranks about the mysterious Autobot who constantly slips through their every security measure to pilfer their supplies and personal effects en masse. The fact of the matter, however, is that they're all being played for chumps by their own comrade, the Insecticon kleptomaniac Chop Shop, who contributes to the rumors and even "steals" from himself to mask his deeds.
  • The Black Tarantula in Spider-Man comics is rumored to be immortal because he has been active for over 700 years. The truth is that the identity is simply passed on from father to son in the LaMuerto family.
  • In Earth X, the identity of Daredevil is the subject of this sort of rumor. Some say he's Johnny Blaze, or Deadpool, or the original Daredevil, or Foggy Nelson, or Mr. Immortal, but nobody knows for sure.
  • Played with Legacy Character Darkdevil, too, in Spider Girl. He's rumored to be Daredevil brought back to life, a demon, or maybe a clone (fanon at the time leaning towards Ben Reilly). Turns out there's a bit of truth in all the rumors. He's Ben's son, turned into a demon and accidentally soulbonded with the deceased Matt Murdock.
  • The very definition of John Constantine's reputation.
  • The true identity of Greyshirt is a mystery, but to the underworld of Indigo City, he might as well be the Boogeyman. His reputation for being impossible to kill (eyewitness reports of surviving multiple gunshots, knife wounds, shrapnel explosions...) led superstitious crooks to worry that he was a ghost come to bring them to justice from beyond the grave. This is supported by the widely held belief that Greyshirt is the long-thought deceased Franklin Lafayette. The wide variety of physical aptitudes he holds, from tremendous brawling ability to dancing that draws comparison to Gene Kelly, and the fact that many experts come to different conclusions when analyzing his romantic history, only heighten his mystique.
  • The Immortal Weapons of Immortal Iron Fist actually are mythic figures, which is all fine and dandy until you have to write an official SHIELD file on any of them but can't tell which stories are true.
  • Max from The Losers is a villainous version that really is that powerful/connected/ruthless, although there turn out to be perfectly good reasons for some of his more outlandish stunts, like somehow leading a special ops team on one side of the world while at the same time recovering from a serious wound somewhere else...
  • In PS238, Tyler's Robin-like persona Moon Shadow is shrouded in myth for the other students. It gets really out of hand.
  • In Diabolik the title character is this, sort of: he hasn't done some of the things attributed to him, but he could very well do them if he saw the necessity. Case in point: in Il Re del Terrore: il Remake (a remake of the first story) people says he had blown up a flying plane to kill an enemy, something he hadn't done at that point in the timeline but that he would do years later to punish a Corrupt Corporate Executive who had murdered a friend of his (bonus points for the victim having taken the plane to try and escape Diabolik's revenge only to receive his radio call informing him of the bomb and that he had stole the parachutes while he placed the bomb).

Fan Works

  • In Aeon Natum Engel this is a reason behind the biggest It Got Worse in the Operation It got worse CATO: The whole reason behind the invasion of Iceland was to capture Moloch, the dormant Herald. The intelligence presumed that it will only be slightly larger than the {EVA}s, but when it finally surfaced, it was at least as big as the city.
  • In the fourth chapter of Pocky in Ramen, a Death Note fanfic, Mello becomes renowned among the Wammy's residents as "the kid who pulled a gun on Mr. Wammy... at age three!" In reality, he was only doing it out of fear, and never actually fires the gun.
  • The Elements of Harmony and the Savior of Worlds: Over the course of the 1500 years that have passed since she helped to found Equestria, this has happened to Megan.
  • "Mr. Black" (in reality a disguised Harry Potter), in Make a Wish. Over the course of a world tour he takes before what he believes is his inevitable death at the hands of Voldemort, "Mr. Black" -- thanks to a series of coincidences, some subtle guidance by a clan of prescient shopkeepers, and far too many people drawing reasonable but wrong conclusions from faulty data -- acquires an entire legend that makes him out to be an unstoppable immortal former Dark Wizard, possibly even an incarnation of Death itself, responsible for the fall of Atlantis, who is seeking to redeem himself by hunting down Dark Wizards in the modern era.
  • "Ms. Aoyama" from Desperately Seeking Ranma, who appears to be the representative of an extraterrestrial intelligence agency that knows just about everything about everybody, and who has demonstrated that she can make any electronic device anywhere in the world dance to her tune. What little the governments of the world actually know about her is supplemented with terrified speculation about her origins, employers, and limitations (if any). (In reality, she's Nabiki Tendo. The persona began as a one-off gag to intimidate her sister Akane and Ryouga, but it kept being useful afterwards. And using a combination of Sufficiently Advanced Magic and Sufficiently Advanced Technology she has slowly started to Become the Mask and by the end of the existing story material has pretty much become what she's pretended to be except for origins and employers.)
  • Alex "Terawatt" Mack in The Secret Return of Alex Mack. Outside of the SRI, her team and her family, almost no one really knows the limits of her powers.


  • In Desperado, the hero has a friend going around to bars and telling people tall tales about him.
  • This trope is played with in The Gunfighter, as that film presents the reputation of being "the fastest draw in the West" as a huge burden, to the point where the hero basically curses his killer with it at the end.
  • Hickey, a Psycho for Hire gunman and The Dragon for the Irish Mob in Last Man Standing, has this sort of reputation, and seems to hint in one scene that he encourages it.
  • Tyler Durden from Fight Club draws this sort of reputation. It's particularly noticeable when the narrator tries to track him down and find that Tyler's cult-like legend has been growing every step of the way, with wild stories about him everywhere.
    • Some of them are probably true; for example, according to one rumour he only sleeps three hours a night. That pretty much has to be the case so that he can get anything done, when the narrator hogs his body half the time.
  • The version of Rā's al Ghūl in Batman Begins keeps a Body Double around so he can pretend to have faked his death and build a reputation as an immortal that hides his reputation as a kind of con artist, that hides his true immortality.
  • In 10 Things I Hate About You, this reputation quickly grows around Patrick Verona. Among other things, he's purported to have sold his liver and eaten a live duck.
  • The Dread Pirate Roberts is just such a figure in The Princess Bride.
  • The Sphinx in the movie Mystery Men. In a bit of a subversion, everything that had been said about him was true. Plus, he can, like, cut guns in half with his mind.
  • In Braveheart, William Wallace develops this reputation. When he identifies himself to his fellow Scots before a battle, one man challenges him, saying that the real William Wallace is over 7 feet tall. Without missing a beat Wallace sarcastically replies "Aye, so I've heard. He kills men by the hundreds, and if he were here, he'd consume the English with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse". The last line has become completely associated with this trope both being played straight and being mocked.
    • In the How It Should Have Ended version this is exactly what happens. Also he's a robot.
    • Notably, the real Wallace was very large and tall; though his exact height is undetermined, it was probably not much less than seven feet. Part of the purpose of the scene in the film was to invoke this trope in order to lend credence to his being played by 5' 10" Mel Gibson.
  • Subverted by Roger Moore's character Seymour in Cannonball Run, who insists on using his "surprising" resemblance to Roger Moore to introduce himself to people as James Bond. Nobody is particularly impressed or intimidated by this.
  • Word of God is that Delios is deliberately pulling this on the assembled Spartans during his narration in 300.
  • There are many different versions of the story of Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects. Many, and not without reason; It's a mystery exactly who, if any, of the characters is or is connected to him until the very end, after all. Unlike most characters on here, Söze lives up to the myths.
    • Or does he? After all, most of what we know of him comes from the man himself. Hardly the most trustworthy source.
  • Dalton has a reputation along these lines in Road House. Except that the more ridiculous and out there stories are actually true. Like the time he ripped a man's throat out with his bare hands.
  • Dude, Where's My Car? has the "Continuum Transfunctioner", a very powerful and mysterious device. Its mystery is only exceeded by its power! And its power is only exceeded by its mystery!
  • Maximus in Gladiator. When a little boy asks him if he can really crush a man's skull with one hand he answers "A man? No. But a boy's..."
  • William Munny from Unforgiven.
  • Lots of Clint Eastwood's Western roles, in fact. The Man With No Name is one of the better-known examples.

"I don't believe that story about Josey Wales."
"You don't?"
"No sir, I don't. I don't believe no five pistoleros could do in Josey Wales."
" Maybe it was six. Could have even been ten."
"I think he's still alive."

He's right.
  • It is shown in Star Trek: First Contact that people idolized Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of the warp drive, as some sort of idealistic man who dreamed of bringing the world into the paradise it would become, but the characters discover that the real Cochrane is an alcoholic, and the only reason he invented the warp drive was to make a ton of cash. Although it is implied that he eventually became somewhat like the legend after being the one who made First Contact with the Vulcans because of his invention.
  • The Right Stuff begins shrouded in mist with a voice-over as follows:

Narrator: There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die ... He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass. They called it the sound barrier.

  • Inglourious Basterds: When the Basterds are first introduced, we first see Adolf Hitler and his subordinates talking about how the Bear Jew is a Golem. Hitler is clearly very, very nervous and upset. This is Hitler we're talking about here.
    • Towards the end of the movie we see the opposite end of this spectrum; the only other surviving member of the group besides Aldo is upset to learn that due to his below average height he's been storied of as "the Little Man" and described as a circus midget.
  • The Black Pearl and its crew in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Prisoner: I've heard stories. She's been preying on ships and settlements for near ten years. Never leaves any survivors.
Captain Jack Sparrow: No survivors. Then where do the stories come from, I wonder?

    • Captain Jack Sparrow, especially in On Stranger Tides. Rumors about him are so out of hand that he has to learn from several of his shipmates the things that he's supposedly been doing.
  • Regina George, of all people, in Mean Girls.


  • In Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue, the Christian cross is known as "The Worship Object." The citizens of the community bow to it simply because all they know about it is that it was admired in the past, but the knowledge about it has been lost because of The Ruin. This crosses over with Future Imperfect.
  • In Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, the Myrddraal are pretty wicked monsters, but popular folklore grants them a couple extra levels in badass, depicting them as twenty feet tall and able to disappear whenever they turn sideways. (Real Myrddraal are man-sized and possess a limited ability to teleport through shadows.)
    • This trope also applies to Rand himself, who eventually seems to be treated as some kind of demigod or demon by people from the other end of the continent who have only heard mad rumours about the giant man-eating warrior women who serve as his bodyguards. Although actually that particular rumour was voiced by someone who lived in the same city in which Rand was holding court at the time - Jordan is probably making a point about how myths get created (which ties in which the way the world thinks about the Dragon and the Age of Legends), sometimes ending the main part of the book before the epilogue with a comment about how the cataclysmic event would mutate in the telling, on one such occasion even stating that, most unusually, it was something fairly close to the truth that was most widely believed. This really kicks Rand in the arse down the line as even childhood friends of his believe monstrous tales about him (which are usually unfairly slanted against him even when they contain a grain of truth).
      • Eventually this starts to happened to his other friends. Mat becomes particularly annoyed by this because his fame and reputation destroy his ability to anonymously put his luck to work while drinking and gambling, and it interferes with him whenever he wants to lay low and avoid notice.
    • This trope also applies to the Forsaken. They know a lot of forgotten uses of the One Power that modern Aes Sedai don't have access to, and they are definitely every bit as evil people as their reputations have it, but that's about it. Three thousand years of myths and legends turned them from more-powerful-than-average channelers to Physical Gods in the imaginations of characters in the series. Consider that modern channelers kept in practice with battle magic over all those years, and still managed to preserve a few Dangerous Forbidden Techniques of their own, and some of the Forsaken quickly had to turn tail and run whenever a protagonist showed up.
    • Becoming Shrouded in Myth is the first step to becoming a Hero of the Horn.
  • In Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen, Anomander Rake is widely seen as one of the most über-Badass characters in that entire universe, despite the fact that we haven't seen him do all that much in the books.
  • Discworld:
    • In Terry Pratchett's Interesting Times, Rincewind is surprised to hear the weird and wonderful theories people develop about the Great Wizzard (sic), including being nine feet tall, multiheaded, and breathing fire. Rincewind tends to resent his reputation for always escaping danger not because it is untrue per se, but because people assume he then must be a great hero who defeats his enemies, rather than his deliberate, actual attempts to be a well-planned (but breathing) coward.
    • Similar rumors swirl around Vimes in several books. In The Fifth Elephant, his traveling party's killing seven bandits leads to Gossip Evolution claiming that he did it alone, and it was thirty men—and a dog. In Monstrous Regiment, a foreign country dubs Vimes "The Butcher" for propaganda reasons. Vetinari himself also banks on the unspoken but generalized fear of Vimes both criminals and nobles have, knowing that some insinuations would be true for those not aware of the steps Vimes takes to control them.
    • Also on the Discworld is Lu Tze. His deeds as an agent of the History Monks are so legendary among the few who know of the secret society that no apprentice who hears the tales suspects that Lu Tze is actually one of the temple's janitors. Even when learning the truth, it can be tempting to discount the stories or underestimate him... until you find out why Rule One on Discworld is "Never act incautiously when confronted by a small, old, wrinkly, bald smiling man!"
    • Powerful witches on the Discworld, such as Black Aliss, the ultimate wicked witch, and Granny Weatherwax, the ultimate good witch, tend to get shrouded in myth. Miss Treason from Wintersmith shrouds herself in myth (as part of what she calls "Boffo", the power of becoming what people expect) in order to gain respect as a witch.
    • And in the book Making Money this gets parodied. Multiple times there are myths surrounding Magnificent Bastard Vetinari or personal possessions of his, like that he has a sword made from the iron taken out of the blood of a thousand men, but every time it shows exactly how cheap and tacky these gimmicks would be compared to the pure awesome of Vetinari just being Vetinari.
  • David Gemmell's character Druss the Legend from Legend and various prequels. He's fully aware that he's mortal and fallible and that the bards have exaggerated his prowess, but he also knows the value of his legend to morale.
    • Although the legend isn't all that exaggerated: drugged and ambushed by five assassins, who got in the first blow with a club to his head, sixty-year-old Druss kills three of them, then captures and starts to interrogate the fourth. The fifth assassin, who'd held back, picks that moment to attack, and the captive dies as a human shield. Assassin Five wisely runs away.
  • True of two characters in the Dragaera universe - when she is introduced (via Anachronic Order) in Taltos, Vlad talks about how Sethra Lavode has gained a reputation as almost a fairy tale villain, known as an evil vampire enchantress who likes to change into animals heroes that challenge her. She turns out to be surprisingly nice given this. The series also has Mario Greymist who is supposed to be the greatest assassin ever and when Vlad meets him in Dzur, he is a portly middle-aged man in appearance. Still quite ready and willing to kick ass, though.
  • To some extent, the title character of Mike Resnick's Santiago: A Myth of The Far Future, though the hyperbole surrounding him was that he was an expert in criminal field of endeavor, a polymathic genius, and a master of disguise. It turns out that being Santiago (and the head of Santiago's crime family) is actually a position, handed down much like being the Dread Pirate Roberts was, that no individual Santiago has lasted in the job more than ten years... and each individual Santiago was an expert in different fields and of different physical description, thus creating most of Santiago's reputation as an unkillable omni-talented man of a thousand faces.
    • Santiago's reputation was done no harm by Black Orpheus giving him no less than forty verses in an epic poem where three marks you as one of the biggest badasses in the universe, with lines like:

His father was a comet
His dam a cosmic wind.
God wept when first He saw him
But Satan merely grinned.

    • And given the events of The Return of Santiago, where several of the galaxy's most talented criminals find out the truth about the original Santiago myth and decide to secretly resume the scam over a hundred years later, the myth cycle of Santiago has expanded to include the ability to return from the dead.

He's back from the dead,
He's back from the grave;
He's clever, he's cunning,
He's ruthless, he's brave.
Fear is unknown to him,
Mercy is too.
His name's Santiago—
And he's coming for you!

    • Penelope Bailey, the Soothsayer (or the Oracle, or the Prophet), in a trilogy of novels by the same author. By the end of the first book, her reputation has grown immensely and only continues to do so throughout the other two books. Subverted in that all of the legends told about her, however fantastical, massively understated the actual truth—which was that her abilities to see the future and manipulate probability bordered on both omniscience and omnipotence.
  • In the Myth Adventures series, Skeeve, the protagonist, gets a reputation as a master wizard. However, he is a novice who barely knows the basics of Magik.
    • Most of his early instruction, both by his original teacher and in the first few books, is composed half in showmanship designed to attain the reputation and rewards of a master, and half in the attitude and conscience which it's stated by the second book is as integral to that rank as the technical skill. This is probably critical to the reputation in that it gives actual professionals reasons to respect him instead of trying to expose him as a fraud.
  • The Wizard of Oz.
  • In a tragic subversion, Elphaba of Wicked is branded the Wicked Witch of the West, when every single one of her "wicked" deeds was done in an attempt to do good.
  • Arthur from the Keys to the Kingdom books is an asthmatic 12-year old. By the third book, someone has taken to writing fictionalised versions of his already fairly impressive accomplishments that portray him as seven-foot tall, and looking something akin to a Greek god. Needless to say, people tend to be somewhat disappointed on meeting him in person.
    • The "someone" being Japheth, commissioned by Dame Primus, who's technically Arthur's servant. It's for propaganda reasons.
  • John Taylor of the Nightside series by Simon R. Green has a reputation of such mythic proportions that he's essentially weaponized it. He defeats many enemies just by introducing himself.
    • This is especially useful for Taylor as he's bluffing at least half of the time. When he isn't, though...
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Admiral Count Aral Vorkosigan does not hesitate use his hated (and false) sobriquet as "The Butcher of Komarr" to intimidate people if necessary, justifying this with "Why not? I paid for it." on at least one occasion. Later in life he admits to his son that he has found his murderous reputation "a "mixed damnation". Ironically, he actually has committed murderous crimes—just not the ones he's accused of.
  • Sandy Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain of the Warhammer 40,000 universe is made of this trope. Despite his cowardly, self-serving tendencies, and his valiant attempts to quell them, he is regarded as a sterling hero with touching modesty. One religious sect has even proclaimed him to be a physical manifestation of the god-emperor's Divine Will.
  • One of the minor incidents in Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel First And Only, involving a shootout with Corbec, Rawne and Feygor against twenty mob enforcers, becomes embellished into an incident where the enforcers unloaded supposed thousands of shots, but were killed with exactly 20 shots from the "off-world gangsters". Of course, exactly how false this is, given the Ghosts' competence - and those three in particular - is not known, as the exacts of the event are not told to us readers.
    • In Armor Of Contempt, Landerson explains that the Gereon Resistance deliberately attributed all sorts of feats—including those performed by others—to Mkvenner to build up his myth in the eyes of the Chaos occupying forces. Consider that in Traitor General it was revealed that he had been taught by the mysterious, deemed legendary Nalsheen on Tanith, only fitting.
  • In Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, as main character Kvothe tells Chronicler about his past he's interrupted by some locals coming into the inn, telling a story about the legendary Kvothe the Kingkiller that is a hilariously exaggerated and embellished retelling of events that Kvothe himself had gone over a few minutes before. They had no clue that the story was really about the unassuming innkeeper who's been serving their beer for the past year. As a youth he'd been the one to deliberately start many of the first rumors about himself.
    • Chronicler had attempted to get him to tell his story by telling him about the stories revolving about him. Only when he told some that were Malicious Slander was Kvothe moved.
    • The villains in the novel—the Chandrian—are also this trope.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 novel Storm of Iron, when trying to verify whether a soldier really had survived an attack, Vauban remembers hearing of Yastobaal, a great and selfless hero who sacrificed himself to save his planet, and how his further researches had discovered the man was a reckless Glory Hound. He wonders how this soldier, a discipline problem, would be remembered in history.
  • Inverted in Gotrek and Felix as Felix's brother has published the journals Felix kept of their adventures. They are on the large true, but everybody believes them to be fairy tales.
  • In Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars Trilogy, many of the First Hundred become mythical figures over their better-than-two-hundred years of life; for example, John Boone's communion with the little red men of Mars, Saxifrage Russel having been injected with the brains of multiple superintelligent lab rats, or the rumored Coyote who stowed away on the colony ship that carried the First Hundred to Mars. In the third book, Nergal refuses to believe that Hiroko Ai died or was captured in the raid during which she disappears, and another character responds that having reported sightings on opposite ends of the planet is a sure sign she's dead. However, she did disappear for a time in the first book, and the character who makes this admonishment is Coyote, about whom the same things have been claimed.
  • In Lee Lightner's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Wolf's Honour, when Ragnar and other Space Wolves on the shadow planet meet up with the Thirteenth Company, while they are waiting to move, the Company regales them with tales of their primarch as a human being, not as "the blessed Primarch". He still impresses the Space Wolves who come from ten millennia after his time -- as does the Company.
    • What makes the Space Wolves so awesome is the fact, even though they try to avoid this sort of thing, their actual deeds of heroism are just as impressive as the religious mythological hyperbole that has been built up around other Space Marine chapters.
  • The hero of Dark Tower, Roland, was advised by his teacher to "Wait. Let the word and the legend go before you." He ends up being the stories, though. In fact, he's a bit more than the legends because he has a tendency to Leave No Survivors, and there's not enough trade in his post-apocalyptic world for people to notice how towns die wherever he goes.
  • In the short story Green Stones, the eponymous greatest assassin of all time (who had a habit of leaving behind green stones with the corpses) turns out to be a stout old lady running a tavern in the middle of nowhere. She actually did earn her reputation in her earlier days, though. The newbie assassin looking for a teacher refuses to believe she's the Green Stone.
  • In Poul Anderson's Virgin Planet, a planet of women, isolated by accident, has legends of these marvelous beings, men. A real, flesh-and-blood man appears, and they conclude he's not marvelous enough and must be an alien. Their realizations of their own unreasonableness take most of the novel.
  • In Ben Counter's Warhammer 40,000 novel Chapter War, the legends of the Black Chalice—apparently based on an earlier visit from the Soul Drinkers—greatly complicate the Soul Drinkers' lives. Especially since the Howling Griffons have sworn Revenge on the Black Chalice. After considerable deaths, and letting the Orks advance while they fought the Soul Drinkers, the Howling Griffons learn that they are not those they swore revenge on -- and they had sworn an oath to protect the planet from orks.
  • The secrecy surrounding the Grey Knights from Warhammer 40,000 is actually used to the advantage of the Big Bad in setting up a Right Hand Versus Left Hand Let's You and Him Fight in Ben Counter's novel Grey Knights.
  • In the Bahzell series quite a few mentions are made of the fall of an ancient civilization called Kontovar, and how Wencit of Rum was the last white mage who helped people survive. Then they meet him, and he proves that yes, being an ancient wyldmage does make him a badass.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files books, Harry reflects on how the stories are inaccurate because while he did everything they said, it was frequently by a hair's breadth. He doesn't seem to realise that other people would think even "only just" doing any one of the things he does on his Crowning Moments Of Awesome list is a nigh-on godly task.
  • In C. S. Goto's Blood Ravens novel Dawn of War: Ascension, an aspirant had heard tales of the "Sky Angels" but thought them overblown—why, they didn't even agree on the color of their armor! When he actually sees Space Marines in battle with Eldar, he is awe-struck. After a time, he realizes that they are fighting a stalemate, but he concludes that means the foe is worthy of their steel—and that he and the other aspirants should help.
  • In Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, while traveling through New York City, Trout gets mugged along with another man. He can't identify the assailants to police afterwards, saying that an intelligent gas from Pluto might have attacked him for all he knows. The headline the next day in the New York Post is "PLUTO BANDITS KIDNAP PAIR". The story spreads and becomes more and more embellished, and it isn't long before everybody in the city is scared to death of a fearsome pack of thugs known as the "Pluto Gang". Even international news is warning people who might travel to NYC that they need to be careful and watch out for the Pluto Gang when they get there. And a group of punks then start up a Pluto Gang...
  • The Emperor in Fred Saberhagen's Books of Swords. He is a clown, or he is the most powerful man in the world. He is immortal, or he is dead. He is the king of beggars, or he is the father of kings. We never get the full story. We meet the Emperor, but we never learn his history. He may have been the Big Bad Emperor from Saberhagen's Empire of the East series, but who knows. Come to think of it, that Emperor is equally Shrouded in Myth.
    • It's pretty clear that the Emperor is, in fact, G-d. Also, Ominor was not particularly shrouded in myth.
  • Pavel Kazakov, Big Bad of the Dale Brown novel Warrior Class, is alternately rumoured to be high in The Mafiya, a powerful drug lord, a spy from a hostile power, and so on. Even those highly-placed in the Russian government do not know for sure.
  • In the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan, the Rangers are, like real-life ninjas, so Shrouded in Myth as to have magical powers attributed to them. At one point, Halt stops a bandit attack simply by appearing to step right out of a tree and ordering them to drop their weapons. He then orders a boy to tie them up, threatening to imprison him in the same tree if he doesn't comply.
  • Camaris, of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, fully earned his reputation as the greatest knight in Osten Ard, as is demonstrated when, even twenty years later and after suffering a Heroic BSOD, he utterly dominates the field of battle.
  • In the Heralds of Valdemar series, the titular kingdom's legendary badass is Vanyel, the last Herald-Mage, who was said to be capable of leveling cities with his power, and whose Heroic Sacrifice destroyed an entire invading army. In the Prequel detailing his life, these myths are seen to be entirely true.
  • Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe series features the Spymaster of the Copper Isles, who is only known as Topabaw (its scarier in the native language). He has controlled the spying organization in the islands for decades and is renown for his ability to stop any rebellious activity before it even starts. Unfortunately his tremendous legend caused him to grow increasingly complacent, confident that his terrifying image was enough to keep people in line. The last we hear of him is that he was executed for gross incompetence after failing to stop multiple sabotage's on royal property.
  • In Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, after the climax, Badger is used to threaten naughty weasel and stoat children—which is unjust since he's fond of children.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny's helping Bigmac after he saw his friends crash gets mutated, by the next morning, into his having pulled him from the wreck.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Black Colossus" Thugra Khotan

Over all myths of Thugra Khotan hung horror and death like a pall. From where the thief stood he could see the ruins of the great hall wherein chained captives had knelt by the hundreds during festivals to have their heads hacked off by the priest-king in honor of Set, the Serpent-god of Stygia. Somewhere near by had been the pit, dark and awful, wherein screaming victims were fed to a nameless amorphic monstrosity which came up out of a deeper, more hellish cavern. Legend made Thugra Khotan more than human; his worship yet lingered in a mongrel degraded cult, whose votaries stamped his likeness on coins to pay the way of their dead over the great river of darkness of which the Styx was but the material shadow.

  • Gandalf, specifically in The Hobbit: "Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort of remarkable tale. Tales and adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever he went, in the most extraordinary fashion."
  • Harry Potter gets some of this, due to his status as "The Boy Who Lived". As he points out in one of the books, though, he's just a student, with a student's knowledge of magic. And anyway, no one was there when he supposedly "defeated" Voldemort, so all those stories about him have to be nothing but made-up stuff and nonsense.
  • In the Mistborn trilogy, Kelsier was introduced this way - ever since he escaped from the Pits of Hathsin, which nobody had ever done before, all sorts of - rather incredible - rumors began spreading about him. Of course, he encouraged them at every opportunity, and helped start some of them, to give the downtrodden skaa someone to believe in. After Vin killed the Lord Ruler, she got this treatment more than a little as well.
    • The Lord Ruler himself as well, in this case backed up officially by his priesthood. A large part of the plot of the first book concerns the heroes trying to find out where his myth ends and the man begins.
  • Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events and framed fugitive, is shrouded in errors made by the Daily Punctilio rather than myth.
  • This works to the entire world's disadvantage in the Green-Sky Trilogy, after two girls rediscover a long-forgotten telekinetic technique. In a matter of days, they're Holy Children and the story has been elevated into grandiose myth. The kids get so self-conscious they start mind-blocking and lose all their ESP abilities.
  • Hettar in The Belgariad has a somewhat...exaggerated description among the Murgos, who he has dedicated most of his life to killing. As in, enormous height and a habit of biting off heads, exaggerated. At one point Urgit comments that he doesn't quite match the stories, and Hettar remarks "I'm in disguise."
  • Septimus Heap: There are many people who are Shrouded in Myth, including the Last Alchemist Marcellus Pye, the first ExtraOrdinary Wizard Hotep-Ra, the first Queen Eleanor the Wise, and so on.
  • Three Hearts and Three Lions: "And some say he waits in timeless Avalon until France the fair is in danger, and some say he sleeps beneath Kronborg Castle and wakens in the hour of Denmark's need, but none remember that he is and has always been a man, with the humble needs and loves of a man; to all, he is merely the Defender."
  • In The Borribles, Spiff is the subject of apparently hundreds of stories told about how cunning and badass he is. These all seem utterly at odds with his Cool Old Guy image -- until he heads out on an adventure for the first time in decades, and is revealed to be the Retired Monster, everything the stories say and more.
  • Touma in A Certain Magical Index gains this reputation over the course of the series. At one point, someone describes him as capable of knocking out anyone with a single punch and seducing every girl he comes across. This is only a slight exaggeration of the truth.

Live Action TV

  • After Omar's death on The Wire, the story of his end is passed around the hood, growing larger with each telling. When one character tries to tell the true story, no one believes him.
    • For that matter, virtually everything dealers say about Omar Little, is exaggerated; his larger-than-life persona ("Everybody in these projects been knowin' Omar.") leads to a group of kids arguing over whose turn it is to "be Omar" in their games, replicating his more dramatic robberies.
  • In Father Ted, the mysterious Beast of Craggy Island causes some especially odd rumors, such as: It has four ears, two are for listening and two are sort of back-up ears. Some of the ears are on the inside of its head. For some reason it has a tremendous fear of stamps. Its yawn sounds like Liam Neeson chasing a load of hens around inside a barrel. Instead of a face, it has four arses.
  • This is a Running Gag for The Stig in Top Gear.

"Some say that his voice can only be heard by cats, and that he is banned from the city of Chichester. All we know is... he's called The Stig."

  • At least one episode of Burn Notice has Michael pulling a Keyser Soze story to scare the criminal of the week into doing exactly what he wants them to do.
    • Michael doesn't always need to pull a story to do this. He is this for real at least as far as the Russians are concerned, and probably in many other parts of the intelligence/special forces world.

You joke. Everyone in Russian special forces knows the name Weston. He is like the boogeyman. Not real.

  • Early in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, we meet one of the heroes of the Bajoran Resistance movement, whom the new Bajoran government wants to replace Major Kira with as liaison to the Federation. He's competent, but many of his successes are good luck and more are just stories. He soon dies a heroic death.
    • One episode dealt with them stumbling across a hidden colony established by a time-displaced version of the main crew. One group lives in the Klingon way, as hunters and warriors, revering their biological and/or spiritual ancestor Worf, "The Son of Mohg", about whom many legends are told. When a boy who hopes to grow up to join them asks Worf if it's true he can kill a man just by looking at him, after a brief pause Worf responds "Only when I am angry…"
    • Another episode had O'Brien and Bashir debating how Davy Crockett met his end at the Alamo, specifically whether he tried to surrender before being killed. Worf interrupts and invokes the importance of this trope, arguing that if they truly believe in his legend there should be no question he died as a hero, but if they don't, Crockett would be just a man, and the details of his death would be impossible to know for sure.
  • Just check out the following quote to see how people in the NCIS universe see Gibbs.

"What have you heard? That bad guys would rather confess than be interrogated by him? That his steely gaze can cool a room by five degrees? That he can only be killed by a silver bullet, like a werewolf? They're all true, except for the silver bullet part. Might give him indigestion or heartburn, but I don't think it'd kill him. Any other questions?"

    • Henrietta "Hetty" Lang in the spinoff also receives this treatment among the intel community, even having enough favor to summon a pair of fighter jets just to scare a militia group in one episode. "G" Callen also gets this due to his covert work, and the fact that nobody, not even Callen himself, knows his first name. A villain actually uses the latter to coerce G into obeying his phone instructions by saying "I know what the 'G' stands for."
  • Highlander the Series: Methos, the oldest Immortal still alive.
  • Part of the appeal of the character Ronnie Gardocki, on The Shield, was his mystery shrouded past.
  • Doctor Who: the Doctor's name and knowledge of his various incarnations is sprinkled liberally throughout history. There are groups dedicated to seeking him out, but for the most part, especially in Nine's initial portrayal during the first episode Rose, he is seen as a strange enigma whose true identity is known only to a few and who seems to appear all over the place in totally unconnected ways (well, unconnected except for the fact that there's always trouble wherever he goes: from the Titanic, to Pompeii, to a 51st Century weapons factory.) This is one instance where his reputation is well deserved.

The Doctor: "You're in the biggest library in the universe. Look me up." (The aliens in question do so, and promptly run for their lives.)

    • Famously seen in the Eleventh Doctor's introductory episode when the aliens who want to destroy Earth have an Oh Crap moment as they realize who he is.

The Doctor: Hello, I'm the Doctor. Basically... run.

    • Also The Centurion from "The Big Bang".
    • And River Song definitely counts in "The Big Bang" when a Dalek informs her that as an associate of the Doctor, she'll show him mercy. She tells him her name and tells him to check again. The Dalek proceeds to beg for its life, which she encourages. When Amy and Rory ask what happened to the Dalek, she just says, "It died."
  • An in-universe example on Firefly: In "Jaynestown", Jayne is regarded as a folk hero shrouded in myth by the working-class mudders of Canton, and even given a statue and a song in his honor. (The song is apparently sung nightly at the bar). Of course, they think he dropped a bunch of money in their town square because he was a Robin Hood type in reality, he was just trying to escape and had to push the money out of the ship. He even pushed his partner out first.
    • It actually goes farther than that, in the Serenity comic Better Days, the crew gains an absolute shitload of money. Now having enough cash to be able to waste some, Jayne gives a handful of bills to a monk, who then remarks: "The Hero of Canton... he's real!" This is happening on a completely different planet.
  • This happens to John in Farscape as time goes on and he racks up more and more Crazy Awesome adventures.
    • First in "Suns and Lovers" while pretending not to know who "John Crichton" is. The act is ruined pretty quickly by John's need to set the record straight:

Borlik: You know, I heard he destroyed a Peacekeeper Gammak Base, murdered an entire Nebari battalion, even laid waste to a Shadow Depository. The guy was a devil: he raped and pillaged, he popped eyeballs-
Crichton: Whoa-whoa! Where do they get these stories? Let's set the facts straight. First off, there was no raping, very little pillaging, and Frau Blucher popped all the eyeballs.

    • Happens again in "Scratch and Sniff" when an alien who has been playing Crichton and D'Argo from the start reveals her game when she realizes they have Feet of Clay:

Raxil: 2 guns? I mean - I thought you were the Great Crichton & D'Argo! I mean - you blew up a shadow depository! I thought you'd bring pelshfer charges! And a plasma bomb! And a really big gunship! BUT NO! YOU BRING NOTHING! YOU BRING 2 LITTLE WEAPONS THAT WOULDN'T KILL A NIKNIK!
D'Argo: (hesitantly) You - have heard of us?
Raxil: Yeah - I've heard stories. But obviously they aren't worth a bucket of dren!

    • You know, for escaping prisoners who don't want to be caught, they do call an awful lot of attention to themselves.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Giles makes this claim about Dracula, saying fighting him would likely require distinguishing the myth from the reality. Spike, however, claims there is far more "reality" to him than "myth", and is not impressed by the "cheap gypsy tricks" that make him exceptional. Also claiming that "the bugger owes me £11."
  • Catalina from My Name Is Earl had quit stripping because she got a guy so excited that he died. Turned out he was a rich but cruel to his workers so they see Catalina as their savior.
  • Jude Hays' conflicting death stories on Life. He didn't.
  • Abed's film "ABED" in Community got this treatment even before it was even revealed.

"I heard it's the same film backwards and forwards."
"I heard the deleted scenes are the real scenes and the scenes are the deleted scenes".

  • Monroe tells Nick in the pilot episode of Grimm that Grimms are this to Wesen: "You're the monster under the bed! [...] You're not real! You're a scary story we tell our kids! Be good or a Grimm will come and cut your head off..."


  • This has been applicable to Bob Dylan for a certain degree throughout his career, right up to the present day. While a good amount of details about his private life have always been known, Dylan has always done his best to mystify fans and press. At the start of his career he often gave wildly varying accounts of his origins, and he's known for verbally sparing with interviewers in the mid-60's, answering their questions in confusing and enigmatic ways. After his motorcycle crash in 1966 he spent years running away from the limelight, and has never fully stopped doing so. These days, though still on his so-called Neverending Tour, he rarely gives any interviews, and his uncharacteristic release of a completely traditional Christmas album in 2009 shows he hasn't lost his knack for doing what people least expect him to.
    • Part of his mystique is the varying public images he's taken on throughout his career. The aloof, sneering rock star in shades of the mid-60's might be hard to reconcile with the shy, humble folk singer he started out as, or the Feliniesque vagrant in white clown-makeup of the '75 Rolling Thunder Revue, the preachy Born Again Christian of the early 80's or the old, disheveled bluesman with the silly hat and pencil moustache he's become during the past ten years.
  • The Protomen are this, with the band insisting on wearing codenames and facepaint; the member K.I.L.R.O.Y. is even a robot. Nothing is known of them for certain except that they are truly awesome.
  • Robert Johnson was this for most fans through the sixties and into the nineties. Stories abounded—and were likely believed—about his mysterious techniques and the Faustian ways he acquired them, as well as the ephemeral details of the bluesman's life. Subsequent research has demystified him somewhat. Details of his birth and death are now widely agreed upon, as well as facts about his career and development as a musician.
    • Which is too bad.
  • The Frank Zappa song "Billy The Mountain" has Studebaker Hoch, of which little is known. Aside from some interesting rumors that he was born next to the beef pies at a supermarket.

New Media

  • In Descendant of a Demon Lord, Draschine told Celes that Celes’s own soldiers say thing(s) about Celes that Celes and Draschine know aren't true. Before that, in 7.2, Sigdyx tells Celes some things merchants said about Celes, most of which isn't true. It's easy to see where those rumors came from though.

Tabletop Games

  • Jim Darkmagic (of the New Hampshire Darkmagics), who is supposedly eight-feet tall with flaming hair and a muscular physique.
  • The Space Marines from Warhammer 40,000 are seen as legends by most of the Imperium's citizens. Seeing that the legends are true generally means something bad's going down.
    • The Space Marine Primarchs and the Immortal God-Emperor of Mankind receive this so much that most of the information about them is from stories, generally about how super duper awesome they were, told millenia after they were still active. Due to the general nature of 40K continuity, it's difficult to determine what is true.
  • The Comte de Saint-Germain and, to a lesser extent, any Godwalker in Unknown Armies.
  • The nature of the Sea Hags in Fifty Fathoms. A problem for any party who wants to save the world.
  • While Mage: The Ascension canon has introduced players to some Traditions Archmages like Senex, it has always been vague about the true nature and motivations of Control and the other top leadership of the Technocracy.

Video Games

  • Master Chief, the main protagonist of the Halo trilogy, became something of a "demon" in the eyes of the highly religious aliens of the Covenant after he destroyed Installation 04 (Halo).
    • Spartans have always been feared by the Covenant as demons, because what else besides a supernatural evil could possibly stand up to the might of the Sangheili? Glasslands reveals that some of the more superstitious of Sangheili believe that they were dead humans brought back to life. The sangheili focus-character dismissed this until he actually met (read: was beaten to a pulp by) one.
  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, Lloyd Irving of all people seems like a character Shrouded in Myth to new protagonist Emil, especially since he's described as The Messiah by all his former allies, but has seemingly turned into a Rogue Protagonist at the start of the game, and had murdered Emil's parents before his very eyes. The truth? A Decus did it.
  • In Baldur's Gate 2, Renal the "Bloodscalp", head of the Shadow Thieves in Athkatla (but not really; he's a front man) is disappointed when he first meet you, having expected something more impressive. One of the possible dialogue options is to tell him that you expected more from such a high-ranking Shadow Thief.
    • In the first game, after clearing out the mines, the players can see the start of the rumors of the "Eight Feet Tall, Incredibly Handsome/Beautiful Spell-slinging badasses" rumors that you could either try to dispel, or help spread it. There's even a sequence where you can convince a particularly stupid bounty-hunter ogre to leave you alone:

"Larze, my poor confused ogre. There is only one thing for you to do. You have to go back and take a closer look at the picture. I'm sure once you've had a second look, you'll know what a big mistake you've made. Now run along, we'll be waiting right here."

  • In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time the rumour mill talks about a fierce swordsman and a hideous giant with neck tattoos - they're actually Fayt, a fairly unassuming kid in his late teens, and Cliff, a handsome, muscular, tall man with green lines around his neck being the only way to distinguish him as an alien.
  • This actually happens to you in Skies of Arcadia as a part of the Swashbuckling Rating mechanic. When you start out, nobody knows you. Late in the game, people say you are a twelve-foot-tall demon who spits flames (you are a 17-year-old pirate wearing what looks like the preferred outfit of a J-Pop-singing Boy Scout with a strap fetish) and that you opened the Grand Fortress with your bare hands (when you actually had a little help from a Wave Motion Gun).
  • Guybrush Threepwood in the fourth Monkey Island game.
    • As well as the titular Monkey Island, and Big Whoop in the second game.
    • Morgan LeFlay gets this treatment in Tales of Monkey Island: The Launch of the Screaming Narwhal.
  • In Golden Sun, Isaac is selected to compete in the Inevitable Tournament of Colosso. When speaking with one of the other competitors, it's mentioned that rumor had it that Isaac was an intimidatingly large and muscular man, rather than the young teen he actually is.
    • Of course, if you've played the series you know exactly the reason why he's managed to get this far.
  • Metal Gear Solid: Solid Snake gets this treatment by almost everyone else who doesn't know him, and his daddy Big Boss is given an even bigger Myth-Shroud by the military and civilians. Unlike most examples of this trope, most of their reputation is well-earned - including Big Boss's ability to convert anyone to his side. Notably, Snake does - at least in the first game, seem rather irritated at being given this treatment.
    • Snake specifically tells Meryl not to hold on to her idealized version of him as told to her as a child by Colonel Campbell who shared stories of FOXHOUND and Snake's exploits. He emphasizes that often times the man doesn't live up to the legend and all the expectations that come with it, and that Snake is no hero but rather a professional, career killer.
  • The events of Half-Life 1 have made Gordon Freeman (the player) into the stuff of legend among NPCs. When you meet them in Half-Life 2, they are awed by your presence, and a short glimpse of you in City 17 is enough to start a revolution.
  • The Dinosaur King DS game features three creatures-the Forest Dweller, the Lake Dragon, and the Great Bird, which are revered as supernatural beings, and blamed for some events in the levels in which they appear. As it turns out, they are actually prehistoric reptiles-Leallynasaura, Futabasaurus, and Pteranodon.
  • There are a few special Random Encounters in Final Fantasy Tactics that simply rock your party if you are caught unaware. One of them involves fighting 11 monks. First timers are so amazed they go to forums and start talking about how they were stomped by a "million monk march."
  • Neverwinter Nights 2. If you choose to help the City Watch clean up the docks you can take an assignment where you have to pose as a weapon buyer. When you protest that surely you'd be recognized, you are told the descriptions that are circulating of you. There are several different ones (depending on your starting character class) but they're all of this variety. One particularly amusing description paints you as a seven foot iron giant, yet it's possible to get this one even if you're playing a halfling.
  • This is the reason your player character can wander around the Imperial City freely in Jade Empire. None of the Imperial soldiers or Lotus Assassins who have seen you in person have lived to tell the tale, so the Empire is hunting for "The Scourge of the South", who is ten feet tall and wreathed in demonic fire.
  • In Dragon Age 2, Varric intentionally spreads stories about Hawke to create a mythic shroud. By the end of the game, people are cowering in awe from the man/woman who slew a dragon with a rusty spoon.
    • Or subverted when some antagonists in the game actually don't believe the stories they've heard about Hawke, only to realise that those are the ones that are actually true.
  • In the very first game's instruction manual, Metroid‍'‍s Samus Aran is described as being "shrouded in mystery", supernaturally skilled and Nigh Invulnerable thanks to a plethora of cybernetic upgrades, encased in a suit of Powered Armor that's the terror of every law-breaker in the galaxy, and with his, her or its true form known to no one. Of course, when the armor finally comes off at the end of the game, the galaxy's most famous Badass turns out to be a rather attractive blonde woman.
    • The legend also winds up oddly inverted, according to the logs of Metroid Prime 2. Some of the Federation Marines apparently consider the various exploits of Samus Aran, and even her very existence, to be only slightly more credible than fairy tales:

PFC Crany: Last night at chow, Angseth starts talking about some bounty hunter and how she blew up a planet full of Space Pirates. I told her I didn't believe in fairy tales like that, and she took it personal. I just find it hard to believe that one person took out an entire Space Pirate base, that's all. But if she wants to believe in this Samus, or Bigfoot, or Santa Claus, she can.

    • The inversion is that Samus really did do those things.
    • The Space Pirates, not to be outdone, have grown Samus into their cultural mythology as a one-woman demonic grim reaper. Every game in the Prime series features an Apocalyptic Log sequence in which the Space Pirates describe the impending horror of a raid by "The Hunter."
      • To clarify this the prime series shows other bounty hunters and implies there are a lot more of them and yet among them Samus is called "The Hunter" is a sign of how much they fear her.
  • In the world of Spira in Final Fantasy X, the city of Zanarkand has the Shrouded in Myth effect, and for good reason. The people of Spira also seem to regard Auron as a minor case of this, but in a small inversion Auron is actually much more Badass and has done more mind-blowing things than the average citizen of Spira would believe.
  • Agent 47 in the Hitman games, sort of. He's considered nothing but a legend by most, because of ridiculous rumors that describe him as a giant bald perfect clone with a Bar Code Tattoo. I mean, who could believe that nonsense? Except it's all, uh, true.
  • Subverted in Fire Emblem (first one for the US), with regards to Karel, as his conversations with Dart reveals. True, Karel has killed a LOT of ridiculously strong people, that even Karel gives credence to, but the idea that he collects the swords of the fallen and enjoys killing people by the thousands? Eh, not so much.
  • Some of the player characters receive this treatment in the Ace Combat games, such as Wardog Squadron from Unsung War who are seen as an incarnation of a legendary demon, as well as Galm One "Demon Lord of the Round Table" Cipher from Belkan War, whose existence the narrator initially doubts. It receives some Lampshade Hanging in Skies of Deception, where two Leasath chairforcers disparage current player character Gryphus One while he's in a Left Handed situation for seemingly not living up to the rumours.
  • In BioShock 2, the Splicers aren't sure of the exact fate of Jack as part of the Multiple Ending nature of the first game. Because of such they argue exactly which ending is canon with a sect even praising him as a Messianic Archetype.
  • A similar case to the BioShock example occurs with Revan in Star Wars: The Old Republic; an Empire-side character can encounter a cult that reveres Revan as a prophet, and the events of Revan's life (and even his/her gender) are uncertain due to three hundred years of myths and warfare clouding the stories.
  • La Volpe from Assassin's Creed II. Among others, it is said that he can see through things and be in multiple places at once.
    • Eventually in II and then in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Ezio Auditore himself is this as well among some circles in Rome.
    • By Embers, Ezio is known as far as China. And don't forget Altaïr, who Mario says his life is a mystery.
  • In Fallout, every game becomes this to its sequel. In Fallout 2, the events of the first game are legend, and in Fallout 3, subtle hints are dropped regarding the events of the second game. This even carries over to the canceled Fallout: Van Buren, which remained canon, and many references are made to it by Fallout: New Vegas, which takes place in the same area.
  • According to the in-game Legend of Mana character encyclopedia, Mr. Moti (the dancing turban man who saves your game) is described thusly: "He is everywhere, doing everything."

Web Comics

Antossa: I don't want rumors. I want an actual threat assessment.
Tess: Their marketing manager would be a truly formidable opponent.

Western Animation

  • This happens to Z, the main character of Antz. His reputation alone leads a people's revolution while the ant himself is entirely absent and unaware of what's happening back at the colony. One rumor says he caused a soldier ant to burst into flames by looking at him, when said spontaneous combustion was actually caused by an insect-scale Kill Sat: a kid with a magnifying glass.
  • Horst, one of the chefs in Ratatouille, tells varying stories about why he served time in prison, alternating between having defrauded a corporation, robbed a bank armed with nothing but a ballpoint pen, put a hole in the ozone layer, and having killed a man with his thumb. The net effect of these rumors is that when he catches the deposed Skinner snooping around the restaurant, all he has to do to send him running and screaming is show him that thumb.
    • He didn't rob the bank. He ran it, and it wasn't just a bank. It was the largest (or second largest) bank in all of Paris.
  • Beowulf of Beowulf has this aura about him, and although he does this deliberately the truth can be just as fantastic.
  • One episode of The Boondocks features this about a historical figure, Catcher Freeman. One of the slaves in the background describes Freeman like this: "14 feet tall... And he can fly! Underwater!". Characters in the present continue this by telling several wildly conflicting stories about him until Huey searches him up on the internet and finds what is presumably the true (at the least more believable) version.
  • Though the episode "The Ember Island Players" most conspicuously does not feature this for most of the main characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender, it is true that Toph, a twelve-year-old blind girl whose Earthbending is so powerful she can "see" with it, morphs into a seven-foot tall muscleman who sees by emitting sonic blasts out of his mouth. Toph is amused.
  • In Futurama, the robots of Chapek 9 are distracted from their real problems by a constant fear of human invasion spread by their Robot Elders. (Among other things, humans are said to "suck your transmission fluid and turn you into a human, too.") When the Planet Express crew confronts the elders and gets in a tight spot, Fry manages to use their campaign of misinformation against them by threatening to breathe fire on them, and the no-longer-sure whether that's true or not elders are cowed long enough for the heroes to escape.
  • After his exile, Megatron of Transformers Animated grew to near-boogeyman status among the Autobots made after the Great War ended. Among other things, it's said that he eats protoforms (a stand-in for children or babies) for breakfast.

Truth In Television

  • Ninjas and a number of other martial arts groups purposely cultivated this in order to discourage attacks.
    • Ninjas have also been considered a straight example by some, coming from a combination of insular hill clans acting as mercenaries and authors' desire to avoid implicating real soldiers in anything "dishonorable."
  • Otto Skorzeny, a German officer during WWII, certainly had larger-than-life rumors about his deadliness. He may have deliberately cultivated them. During the Allied advance, the rumor that Skorzeny (and/or a unit he led) had infiltrated the American forces led to the entire advance being held up while people questioned each other to prove they weren't the infiltrator(s), leading to a trope about soldiers asking each other questions about the World Series and so on to prove their bona fides as Americans.
  • Ask around, see how long various people say that it took Rasputin, the Mad Monk, to die.
  • Any saint, Satan, Jesus, or even God Himself is a very popular subject of this sort of treatment. Think about it!
    • Consider especially the number of books claiming to uncover the "historical" Jesus of Nazareth, as contrasted with the theological Jesus Christ. Depending on whom you read, the historical Jesus emerges as either a proto-rabbi, a "fire and brimstone" monastic, a militant anti-Roman revolutionary, a magician, a radical socialist, or a mystic. And then there's the theories on just what his relationship was with Mary Magdalene, the circumstances of his death... best stop there.
  • Similarly, there is some pretty good evidence that there was a king in the Levantine named David, but it's not clear whether he really was the big important guy the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament) makes him out to be, or if he was just a minor leader in the Jerusalem-area who had good publicists and/or had his achievements exaggerated by future generations.
  • King Arthur. Most people who've researched it agree that there is a kernel of truth about a real person in there somewhere, but no one knows exactly what it is after more than 1400 years (the first written accounts of Arthur date to about AD 600) of adding onto the legend.
    • King Arthur isn't an English hero anyway. He's a British hero. There's no doubt that he's not English (he fought against the invading Anglo-Saxons, the ancestors of the modern English), but the issue here probably comes from the fact that many people outside of Europethe British Isles don't understand the distinction between "English" and "British". The only known landmark which is generally linked to Arthur himself is in Cornwall (Tintagel), which is now part of England, but is originally descended from the same Celtic roots as Wales is.
  • Robin Hood may also have a kernel of truth - but some of the "Merry Men" appear to have been taken from other groups of legendary brigands over the years -- and Maid Marian was added in centuries later.
  • Kilroy, a legendary Allied agent. No matter what front, no matter what foe, no matter the resistance, he has been there and left his calling card, a strange little graffito announcing "Kilroy Was Here." Rumor has it that Hitler became quite concerned about the enigmatic warrior's ability to infiltrate Nazi installations, and German officers ordered their men to secure any opponents named Kilroy for a thorough interrogation.
    • Other rumor has it that he was just an Army grunt sick of the Air Force bragging that they got there first, no matter where "there" was. So he started leaving "Kilroy was here" scrawled everywhere he could think of so that when the Air Force got there, oops! Kilroy got there first.
    • Conversely, according to Snopes, Kilroy was an inspector who got tired of his supervisors not believing that he had inspected some out of the way place on a ship or vehicle, so he started putting "Kilroy was Here" in places that could be seen easily, but to write it there would require actually worming your way into place. That way he'd only have do to the inspection once. Other GIs, stumped by Kilroy's ability to be there first (get a new tank, "Kilroy was here" was written on it) began scrawling it themselves, and the various resistance movements picked it up from them.
      • The truth: James Kilroy was indeed a construction inspector, only he worked at the shipyard in Fall River, Massachusetts. His "Kilroy was here" marks were an attempt to cut down on fraud by riveters paid piecework rates. Many soldiers traveled to war on Fall River-built ships and it wouldn't have taken all that many of them to pick up on "Kilroy was here" and spread it all over Europe.
  • The Yellow Emperor. Whilst there might have been an actual historical figure that made the basis for him, the numerous legends surrounding his tale and the many achievements accredited to him (and his servants) makes it hard to tell where the historical figure ends and where the myths begin. And some historians believe it was the other way around, and he was a mythological figure who was later merged into a historical one.
    • And let's not even get started on Prester John.
      • Lev Gumilev tracked it from obvious and crude propaganda to the tiny grain of truth hidden far behind it. It was so ludicrously embellished, mixed and distorted that this legend would be less worthy of a facepalm if it was merely made up.
  • See the massive examples section on the Memetic Badass page. Humans like doing this.
  • ESPN the Magazine's original "Player X" was an anonymous NFL star whose identity is supposedly only known by four people (himself included). The guesses regarding his identity started once his first column was published and haven't ceased, but in all likelihood it will never be revealed. Adding to the mystery are MLB Player X, NBA Player X, and NASCAR Driver X. Gah, who are they? The world will probably never know. But I totally bet they sit on thrones made of the skulls of their enemies and drink the nectar of the gods.
    • The Mag also notes that Kyle Farnsworth, voted by MLB players to be the baddest ass in the league, has this reputation around him. "I know he knows some shit. He's... he's some kind of blackbelt." It neither confirms nor denies whether he actually karate chopped a bear, though.
    • NBA Player X clued many readers in to the existence of William Wesley, alias "World Wide Wes", often thought of as the most powerful man in the sports world... despite literally no one having a single clue what his actual job is or how he got so connected. Nobody knows who he works for or where he gets his money or what he really does at all - they just know that he's there at every finals/championship/bowl game, he's advising draft hopefuls, he's counselling players on the bench, and he's got custom Nikes - and even the people closest to him can do nothing but speculate.
    • And now there's a second NFL Player X, who mentions in his inaugural column that even he doesn't know the identity of the original.
  • Virtually every major personage in recorded history has this to a certain extent with the myth-to-reality quotient increasingly tilting to reality the more recent the person is.

*cough* *cough* I can't see a thing in all this myth!