Europe is a land steeped in history and mythology. From the ancient Greeks to the modern-day Germans, Europeans have long told stories of gods and mortals, of love and loss, of courage and cowardice. Here are some of the most fascinating European myths and legends.
What are Myths and Legends
Myths and legends are stories that have been passed down through generations. While they may be based on historical events, they often include elements of fiction, such as gods and goddesses.
Myths were often used to explain natural phenomena, such as the changing of the seasons. Legends, on the other hand, were typically stories about famous people or heroic deeds. Both myths and legends often served as moral lessons, teaching people about right and wrong.
Today, these stories are still popular, and many movies, books, and TV shows are based on them. Myths and legends continue to capture our imaginations and provide us with a glimpse into the past.
The Loch Ness Monster, Scotland
One of the most famous legends is that of the Loch Ness Monster. For centuries, people have reported seeing a strange creature in the dark waters of Scotland’s Loch Ness. Some believe that the Loch Ness Monster is a plesiosaur, a prehistoric creature that survived the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs. Others believe that it is a hoax, citing the lack of evidence as proof that the Loch Ness Monster does not exist.
Whatever the truth may be, the legend of the Loch Ness Monster continues to capture the imaginations of people all over the world.
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, England
King Arthur was a legendary British leader who, according to medieval accounts, led the defense of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries. The details of Arthur’s life are largely fictional, but his story has been retold many times in literature and film.
In most versions of the legend, Arthur is the son of King Uther Pendragon and heir to the throne of Britain. However, when Uther dies, the throne is seized by his rival, Lord Lot. Arthur draws the magical sword Excalibur from a stone and defeats Lot, becoming the rightful king. He then gathers a group of noble knights to serve as his personal bodyguard, known as the Knights of the Round Table.
Under Arthur’s leadership, the Knights embark on a series of fantastic adventures, defeating dragons, giants, and sorcerers. Although Arthur is eventually betrayed by one of his knights and mortally wounded in battle, he remains an enduring symbol of chivalry and courage.
You may also be interested in:
The Minotaur, Greece
The Minotaur is a creature from Greek mythology with the head of a bull and the body of a man. According to legend, the Minotaur was born when Queen Pasiphae of Crete fell in love with a white bull. She asked the master craftsman Daedalus to create a wooden cow so she could hide inside it and be closer to her beloved. However, once she had given birth to the Minotaur, Pasiphae became afraid of her own son and locked him away in a labyrinth.
The Minotaur was eventually killed by the hero Theseus, who used a ball of string to find his way out of the labyrinth. Throughout history, the figure of the Minotaur has been used as a symbol of savagery and bestiality. Today, the term “minotaur” is often used to describe anyone who is brutal or monstrous.
Robin Hood, England
Robin Hood is one of the most famous figures in English folklore. According to legend, Robin Hood was a skilled archer who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. He was also known for his compassion and generosity, and many of the stories about him tell of how he helped those in need.
Robin Hood is often portrayed as a symbol of hope and justice, and his legend has inspired many people over the years. Although the details of his life are shrouded in mystery, Robin Hood remains one of the most iconic figures in English history.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin, German
The Pied Piper of Hamelin is one of the most famous myths in history. The story goes that a town in Germany was infested with rats, and the mayor offered a large sum of money to anyone who could get rid of them. A mysterious stranger known as the Pied Piper volunteered, and he played such an enchanting tune on his pipe that the rats followed him out of town.
Once the job was done, the townspeople refused to pay the Piper, and so he took his revenge by leading their children away as well. While there are many variations of the story, it continues to capture the imagination of both adults and children alike.
Though he is one of the most iconic monsters in all of literature, relatively little is actually known about Dracula. He first appeared in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel of the same name, and since then has been the subject of countless adaptions and reimaginings. In many ways, he remains as much a mystery now as he was over a century ago. Part of his appeal lies in the fact that he is steeped in myths and legends.
Tales of vampires have been told for centuries, and Dracula taps into our collective fears about these dark creatures of the night. He also represents our fear of the unknown; a mysterious figure who comes from a faraway land and seems to defy all logic and reason. Whether we love him or fear him, there is no denying that Dracula continues to exert a powerful hold on our imaginations.
Jurate and Kastytis, Lithuania
Jurate and Kastytis, the bringers of peace and prosperity, are two of the most famous characters in Lithuanian mythology. According to legend, Jurate was a beautiful goddess (sometimes described as a mermaid or undine) who lived in a palace beneath the Baltic Sea. Kastytis was a fisherman who fell in love with Jurate and married her.
However, her father, the god of thunder known as Perkūnas, was not happy about this. He struck down Kastytis with lightning and destroyed the undersea amber palace where Jūratė lived. As punishment, he chained Jūratė to the ruins of the palace where she would remain for eternity. This myth is thought to explain the origins of Lithuania’s name, which means “land of chains.” It also teaches a lesson about obeying one’s parents and respecting the gods.
Devil’s Bridge in Tuscany, Italy
Situated in the heart of Tuscany, the Devil’s Bridge is one of Italy’s most famous landmarks. The bridge dates back to the 12th century, and according to legend, it was built by Saint Julian. Saint Julian was having difficulty completing the bridge, so he asked the Devil for help. In return, the Devil would receive the soul of the first living being to cross the finished bridge.
Once the bridge was completed, Saint Julian tricked the Devil by throwing a piece of bread onto the bridge, luring a dog to cross it. As a result, the Devil didn’t get the soul he was promised, and the bridge has been known as the Devil’s Bridge ever since.
The White Stag, Hungary
Although its exact origins are lost to history, the legend of the White Stag has been a part of Hungarian folklore for centuries. According to one version of the story, the stag appeared to the twin sons of King Nimrod while they were out hunting.
The brothers, Hunor and Magor, followed the stag as it led them westward to a new land where they met and married two local princesses. Hunor’s descendants became known as the Huns, while Magor’s became known as the Magyars. This union is believed by some to be the origin of the Hungarian people. Whether or not the story is true, it speaks to the importance of myths and legends in Hungarian culture.
The White Stag has come to symbolize hope and perseverance, and its image can be found on everything from coins to landmarks. For Hungarians, the legend is a reminder of their unique place in history and a source of pride.
The legend of the Huldra, Norway
According to legend, the Huldra is a beautiful young woman who lives in the forest. She has long, flowing hair and often wears a crown of flowers. However, she also has a tail, which she covers with a skirt or cape. The Huldra is known for her singing voice, and she often attracts men into the forest with her song. Those who follow her are often never seen again.
Some say that the Huldra is simply a kind-hearted forest spirit. Others believe that she is a dangerous temptress who preys on unsuspecting men. Whatever the case may be, the legend of the Huldra is sure to capture your imagination.
Romulus and Remus, Italy
The story of Romulus and Remus, two twin brothers who were abandoned in the wilderness and raised by a She-Wolf, is one of the most famous. According to legend, Romulus killed Remus and went on to found Rome, naming it after himself. While the details of the story may be disputed, there is no doubt that the brothers play an important role in Roman history and myths.
Athens and its name, Greece
The city of Athens has a long and storied history, dating back to the time of the ancient Greeks. The city’s name is derived from one of the most famous myths of Greek mythology. According to legend, the gods of Olympus held a competition to determine who would become the patron of Athens. The two main contenders were Athena, the goddess of wisdom and courage, and Poseidon, the sea god.
Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and caused a freshwater spring to emerge, while Athena planted an olive tree. The people of Athens were so impressed by Athena’s gift that they chose her as their patron goddess. As a result, the city has been associated with wisdom and learning ever since. Today, Athens is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in Greece, such as the Parthenon and the Acropolis.
Phantom of the Opera Garnier in Paris, France
The Garnier Opera House in Paris is one of the most famous buildings in the city, and it is also home to one of the most enduring myths. The legend of the Phantom of the Opera began in 1873, when a fire broke out in the Opera’s music conservatory. Among the many people who died in the blaze was the fiancée of a pianist who had been badly injured in the fire. The pianist survived, but his face was so disfigured that he became a outcast. seeking refuge in the basement of the Opera House.
Over time, strange and inexplicable events began to occur in the building, leading people to believe that it was haunted by the spirit of the pianist. The legend grew, and today the Phantom of the Opera is one of the most famous myths in France.
The Prague Golem, Czech Republic
The Prague Golem is a figure from Jewish myths and legends. According to the legend, the golem was created by Rabbi Loew in the 16th century to protect the Jewish community from anti-Semitic attacks. The legend says that the golem would patrol the ghetto at night, and if any harm came to the Jews, it would exact revenge.
Over time, the golem began to take on a life of its own, and it became increasingly difficult for Rabbi Loew to control it. Eventually, he was forced to destroy his own creation.
The Fighting Billy Goats, Poland
There are many myths and legends associated with the city of Poznan, but one of the most famous is the story of the fighting billy goats. According to legend, after the town hall’s clock was finished in the 16th century, a big feast was held to celebrate the event. One of the cooks had burned some of the food, so he decided to steal two billy goats and roast them instead.
However, the goats escaped and made their way up to the Town Hall Tower. The guests saw the two goats butting heads on the ledge of the tower and were so amused that they decided to leave them there. The fighting billy goats have since become a symbol of the city and are a popular tourist attraction.
There are many famous myths and legends from Europe. Some of these stories are associated with specific locations, while others are more general in nature. However, all of these myths and legends have one thing in common: they have captivated the imaginations of people for centuries.