Monday, March 14, 2016

Self Made Legends

Self Proclaimed Folk Legends

Benedict XIII

Folk legends capture the special qualities a person may have. The traits of these self made legends are then used to convey information about a society’s values and morals.  Over time the facts may become exaggerated. Rarely does a story that is passed from person to person stay exactly as it originally was.

Such is human nature, yes. And such is the nature of sharing folk legends. They often do change to fit a specific time and place in order to make them more relevant. For example, someone who walked six miles in the snow each day to get to and from school may not be believable if told in area where snow no longer falls or where snow never existed.

The fluidity and the creativity of this folklore form allows people to contemporize and make it relevant today.

But what about folk legends that are self-made? These stories are spun by the folk legend him or herself in order to preserve a certain folkloric perspective which is usually ‘heroic’ in nature.  In some ways, these anti folk legends have in fact, become folk legends.

Here are a few examples of such people whose stories about themselves helped to preserve their memories and deeds.


Georges-Eugène Haussmann was also known as Baron Haussmann even though he was not a Baron.  He was said to have helped rebuild Paris into the city it is today replete with boulevards and public space.  His title? It was a nickname he had been given.

It is interesting to note that his achievement, under the direction of Napoleion III was considered impressive in light of the fact that he had no training as an architect or urban planner.


When a Roman Catholic Pope has been sanctioned and someone else claims to be the pope as well, that person is referred to as an antipope. There have been more than 35 such cases; rival factions have used the position to gain political power. Such was the case with Benedict XIII who ‘reigned supreme’ from 1394 to 1422. It was at this time that the church had split.

He had been asked repeatedly to surrender his claim but refused. After his death, another antipope was chosen. However, when the two factions reunited there remained only one pope.

Related Information: 

Benedict XIII  

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