“The stuff of legend.” It’s a commonly used phrase, and one that all-too-often is bestowed upon the most mundane and undeserving of only slightly astonishing feats. But what exactly is this “stuff” that makes legends so…legendary? What exactly are we talking about when we use that phrase? To answer this question, one’s instinctual reaction might be to look in the dictionary, as “legend” is—after all—generally regarded as a “word.” And like all other “words,” no matter how convoluted, academic, or redundant they may be, even “legend” has a well-established and objectively derived definition. Unfortunately, this line of investigation will only get you so far, which isn’t actually very far at all.
For the dictionaries like to say that legends are merely stories or popular beliefs passed down from times long ago, and that possibly they recount something of actual history, albeit a fantastical and unverifiable piece thereof. But as simple and practical an explanation as that may be, it doesn’t even begin to touch upon possibly the most important question of all; the only question that matters, really: how does one become a legend? In order to truly understand what a legend is, knowing how they come into being seems like a non-negotiable must, but therein lies the problem as well.
It’s at this point that another common saying becomes annoyingly relevant: “It takes one to know one.” How better to discover the secret origins of a legend than to seek the knowledge of the one who it is based upon? But then, how is one to know if and when one has become a legend? Legends are supposed to hold their true origins in reality, yet have been told and retold through so many generations and countless iterations, that they have come to be considered as no longer believable.
What at one time may have been only a minorly superhuman feat—witnessed by many and believed by all—could quickly change hands with one storyteller to the next, each time leaving a bit of its original self behind and replacing it—either through intention or inattention—with the novel mark of the narrator who passed it on. Starting with an onlooker who witnessed the original story firsthand, a tale might then traverse the entire globe, hopping along from one mouth to the next, picking up this detail or that, adding embellishment or imagery for entertainment’s sake all along the way. Eventually it might even happen to make its way back to the original teller, though now in a form almost unrecognizable from the first. Two tales, telling the same story, but with several dozen/hundred/thousand degrees of separation between them. Now, perhaps, it has become legend.
The point of all this? One does not seek to become a legend. One can never know that their feats will go down as legendary, rather than—say—as another dull entry in a boring old textbook, or a forgotten footnote in someone’s private journal. One does not set out, saying to themselves “What I do on this day shall with time put my name among the legends of ancient,” for there is no certainty what a story may become over the course of its life: a life which far outlasts that of the subject it details. And even if it should by chance be counted among other legends, there is no telling what it will say in its final form, for heroes of one time may be the villains of another.
There is, however, in all of rerecorded history, one sole and singular instance of a being so righteous, so radical, so bodaciously rock ’n roll, that she knew precisely from the moment she set forth to instill her name in the annals of time, that it would become legendary throughout the known universe. Whether it was remembered fondly or fiendishly, though, mattered little.
On an eve like any other, this recklessly hubristic being breathed deep the 27% oxygen atmosphere of her home planet and pronounced to the world that one day they would know her name; one day they would speak her story, and it would indeed be the stuff of legend. She would make sure of this, even if she had to make it all up herself.
Let the record show: she didn’t have to.