Legends and Folk Myths

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Aachen Cathedral According to a legend about the origin of the Cathedral, at a certain point during the construction, the money ran out. The devil announced that he wanted to help, but of course not for free. He demanded the soul of the first person to enter the church upon completion. The devil assumed this would be a bishop. So the deal seemed lucrative to him, but the people of Aachen were smart. Not wanting to lose the bishop's soul, they sent a wolf in first after the cathedral was completed. The devil was furious at this deception and stormed out of the church. He slammed the Cathedral's door so hard that he lost his thumb. The main portal of the cathedral recalls this story. In a statue of a bronze lion on the right door (the Wolf's Door) there is a hole that symbolizes the devil's thumb.
Ahwar of Southern Iraq The Gilgamesh Epic originated from Uruk likely as a "reflection of the city's power and influence" (nom file)
Ancient Nara Tame deer roam through the town, according to the legend, a mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō. Since then the deer were regarded as heavenly animal to protect the city.
Avignon The Legend of Saint Benezet
Baekje Historic Areas Nakhwaam Rock, The Cliff of Falling Flowers “Nakhwaam Cliff and spring sites in Busosanseong Fortress form the background to many legends related to the royal family of Baekje.” - Nomination File
Bahla Fort Legend has it that the wall surrounding the palm groves of Bahla was built in one night, and is said to have been built by women.
Bamiyan Valley Legend has it that the two statues are two runaway lovers who petrified themselves to remain frozen together in eternity.
Belfries Mammelokker (Belfry of Ghent)
Benedictine Convent of St. John Charlemagne is said to have founded the monastery because he survived a snow storm here
Budapest Gellert Hill - St. Gerard (Gellert) was killed by the pagans during the great pagan rebellion in 1046. He was put in a barrel and rolled down into the deep from the top of the hill.
Burgos Cathedral The legend of El Cid
Burgundy The Magic Owl of Dijon
Chief Roi Mata's Domain Legends around death of Roy Mata
City of Luxembourg "The Counts of Luxembourg (...) claimed descent from Melusine through their ancestor Siegfried." Melusine magically made "the Castle of Luxembourg on the Bock rock (...) appear the morning after their wedding. On her terms of marriage, she too required one day of absolute privacy each week. Alas, Sigfrid (...) "could not resist temptation, and on one of the forbidden days he spied on her in her bath and discovered her to be a mermaid. When he let out a surprised cry, Melusina caught sight of him, and her bath immediately sank into the solid rock, carrying her with it. Melusina surfaces briefly every seven years as a beautiful woman or as a serpent, holding a small golden key in her mouth. Whoever takes the key from her will set her free and may claim her as his bride.""
Cordouan Lighthouse According to an ancient legend, the island of Antros floated in suspension on the Garonne, rising to the rhythm of the waves. The Roman geographer Pomponius Mela placed it at the mouth of the Gironde, at the position of the Cordouan plateau. (Nomination file, p. 92)
Costiera Amalfitana A boat transporting an icon of the Ascention of the Lady heard a mysterious voice 'posa, posa' ('put,put'), so they stopped their ship at Positano's shore and left the icon at its central church. This is the origin of Positano's name
Curonian Spit Neringa and the creation of the Spit: "According to Baltic mythology, the Curonian Spit was formed by a strong girl, Neringa, who was playing on the seashore."
Danube Limes Carnuntum (ID No 31): The legend of the Roman treasure at the Heidentor
Djenné The story of the sacrifice of atonement of a young girl, Tepama, who was walled up alive in order to ensure the town's prosperity, must be placed in the religious context of a time when animistic beliefs and fetishism had not yet given way to Islam. (AB ev)
Dolomites King Laurin and his Rose Garden
Ferrara According to a widespread local legend, the devil left his goat footprint in the stone of the side portal because some of his protégés were condemned here, but another story is also told, linked to the magician Chiozzino. The hydraulic engineer Bartolomeo Chiozzi, who actually existed, is said to have made a pact with the devil and that, to break this pact, he asked for the help of the Dominican fathers of the church. Chiozzi, nicknamed the magician Chiozzino, managed to save himself, while the devil, out of anger, left his goat footprint on the side entrance of the church.
Fertö/Neusiedlersee The Turk of Purbach
Florence Visitors to Il Porcellino put a coin into the boar's gaping jaws, with the intent to let it fall through the underlying grating for good luck, and they rub the boar's snout to ensure a return to Florence (wiki)
Fortified City of Carcassonne Dame Carcas
Fujisan Aokigahara Forest of Demon
Garajonay The mountain is named after the legend of Gara and Jonay. For the story:
Ghadames Daily raids brought the riders to travel the desert hundreds of miles. One day a thirsty horse refused to move and began to hit the ground until the water burst forth under his hooves. It was called " Source of the mare ." A dispute broke out among the riders and those who parted the group returned to the miraculous spring to erect the city. Every year in November, three days , a festival featuring performances and dances revive the Ksar. (Wiki) The alternative theory for the name, as espoused by the local populace (i.e. a popular etymology), is that the oasis of Ghadames derives from the Arabic words for lunch ("Ghada") and yesterday ("ams"). The words are contracted to form an approximation of "lunch yesterday." By lore, a group that had camped near the oasis left materials from the previous day's campfire cookout. When the steward tasked to retrieve the materials returned to the site, the hoof of his horse broke through to the water of the oasis that now lies at the center of the town. Whether or not this legend is true, the oasis was the reason the town appeared and has remained in this most remote region of the desert. (Wiki)
Giant's Causeway Legend of the Irish giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill
Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa Dolmen "In Hwasun-gun, South Jeolla Province, there is a dolmen known as "Pingmae Rock," which is related to a legend about the Fairy Grandmother. It is said that when the Fairy Grandmother heard that 1,000 images of the Buddha and 1,000 pagodas were being built at the nearby Unjusa Temple, she picked up a huge stone and headed toward the temple. But along the way, she was told that all the images and pagodas had already been completed, so she laid the stone down there and departed." - www.koreaembassyusa.org
Gordion "According to ancient tradition, in 333 BCE Alexander the Great cut (or otherwise unfastened) the Gordian Knot: this intricate knot joined the yoke to the pole of a Phrygian wagon that stood on the acropolis of the city. " (wiki)
Great Smoky Mountains The Cherokee considered the waters of the Oconaluftee sacred. Dora Woodruff Cope, who lived in the Oconaluftee valley near Smokemont around 1900, recalled a legend her Cherokee neighbors told her: ...part of the river was called Ya'nu-u'nata wasti'yi, "Where the bears wash." It was a deeper part of the river, where all the animals came to wash and heal their wounds when they had been hurt by hunters. No white person had ever seen this place because evil had blinded us to its existence. The animals knew how to find it, and diving into it meant instant healing. (wiki)
Great Spa Towns of Europe Spa: "The Sauvenière [source] is well known thanks to the legend of Saint Remacle's foot". (Nomination File, p. 95) According to the legend, the source was discovered by Saint Remacle. The alleged footprint of the saint's sandal still appears in a stone near the spring. According to belief, properties regarding fertility are attributed to the source by drinking the water and placing the foot in the indentation of the sandal.
Gyeongju The legend of Silla's founding. "According to the Samguk Sagi, a 12th-century Korean history, Sirim was the site where the child Kim Alji, founder of the Gyeongju Kim clan, was discovered. Found in a golden box accompanied by a rooster, he was adopted by the royal family. His descendants became the later kings of Silla and the forest where he was found was renamed Gyerim, "rooster forest." - wiki
Ha Long Bay – Cat Ba Archipelago Cat Ba Island means "Women's Island" (Cat meaning sandy and Ba meaning women). Legend has it that many centuries ago, three women of the Tran Dynasty were killed and their bodies floated all the way to Cat Ba Island. Each body washed up on a different beach and all three were found by local fishermen. The residents of Cat Ba built a temple for each woman, and the Island soon became known as Cat Ba
Haeinsa Temple Foundation myth of Haeinsa temple in 802 by two enlightened monks. (see link for the story, click on "Unesco World Heritages" and then Haeinsa Temple. Scroll down to section "Temple of Reflections on a Calm Sea")
Hahoe and Yangdong Held as a divine tree in the center of the village. The spirit shrine is called Samsindang. Residents of the town believe the 600-year-old zelkova tree aids fertility and good luck
Hal Saflieni Hypogeum Dissappearing school parties and a hidden cave featuring Humanoid beings
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump About a young Blackfoot found with his skull crushed by the weight of the buffalo.
Himeji-jo In feudal Japanese folklore, the ghost story of The Dish Mansion at Banch? centered around Okiku's Well, one of the wells at Himeji Castle that remains to this day. According to the legend, Okiku was falsely accused of losing dishes that were valuable family treasures, and then killed and thrown into the well. Her ghost remained to haunt the well at night, counting dishes in a despondent tone. (wiki)
Hollókö Called the Raven Mountain due to the legend telling ravens destroyed the constructions of the village during its erection every night
Island of Patmos Mythology tells of how Patmos existed as an island at the bottom of the sea and how the island emerged from the water by intervention of Zeus.
Jeju There is a crater lake on Hallasan called Baengnokdam, literally "white deer lake." There is a legend attributing the name of the lake to otherworldly men who descend from heaven to play with white deer." - wiki
Kaeng Krachan Forest The "ethnic group Karen believe this is unsuitable place according to the beliefs of Chinese's Feng Shui, similar to [the] Bermuda Triangle."
Karlskrona Putting a five crown coin from the year of your birth on it into the hat of a statue called 'Rosenbom' just before you graduate for future good luck
Kazan Kremlin "As the legend goes, the Kazan queen Söyembikä threw herself down from the highest tier [of Söyembikä tower], hence the name." Wiki
Kinderdijk The name Kinderdijk is Dutch for "Children dike". During the Saint Elizabeth flood of 1421, the Grote Hollandse Waard flooded, but the Alblasserwaard polder stayed unflooded. It is often said that when the horrendous storm had subsided, a villager went to the dike between these two areas to inspect what could be salvaged. In the distance he saw a wooden cradle floating on the water. As it came nearer, some movement was noted, and upon closer investigation, a cat was found, trying to keep it in balance by leaping back and forth in such a manner that water couldn't flood the cradle. As the cradle eventually came close enough to the dike for a bystander to pick up the cradle, he saw that a baby was quietly sleeping inside it, nice and dry. The cat had kept the cradle balanced and afloat. This folktale and legend has been published as "The Cat and the Cradle" in English. (Wiki)
Kraków Wawel Dragon
Kronborg Castle Legendary home of Hamlet
Lake Baikal Natives believe that Burkhan, a modern religious cult figure of the Altai peoples, lives in the cave in the Shaman Rock on Olkhon.
Luang Prabang Luang Prabang's legend of the city spirit guardians - Pu No and Na No
M'Zab Valley According to legend, Ghardaïa, means "Cave of Daïa" (Ghar Daïa); it is said that a young girl named Daïa lived alone in a cave. Sheikh Sidi Bou Gdemma passing by, was seduced by her beauty, they married and then founded Ghardaïa.
Mahabalipuram Legend of Seven Pagodas
Mbanza Kongo Wiki: a popular legend that began in the 1680s that the king had buried his mother alive because she was not willing to give up an "idol" which she wore around her neck
Medina Azahara Popular legend holds that the Caliph named az-Zahra, or Azahara, after his favorite concubine, and that a statue of a woman stood over the entrance. (wiki)
Mount Emei, including Leshan Giant Buddha Legend of Puxian miracles and his elephant
Mount Etna "According to myth, Hephaestus, also called Volcano, lived inside Etna. He was the god of fire and a skilled smith, able to tame Adranos, the demon of fire, which he offered to mankind. Aeolus, the god of the winds, went to visit the erupting mountain and within its caves he trapped the winds of the world. As it often happened for volcanoes and volcanic areas, myths and popular beliefs linked Etna to the mysterious world of afterlife. The Greeks set the world of death, Tartarus, just below Etna." (Nomination file, 2.a)
Mount Taishan Legend of Pan Gu
Mount Wutai Legend of unburnable Tripitaka making Chinese Emperor convert to Buddhism and built Xiantong Temple
Nahanni National Park Deadmen Valley: "the area is long known for having people disappear only to turn up without their heads"
Namhansanseong According to legend, King Onjo appeared to King Injo in a dream during the Manchu Invasion of 1636. The Baekje founder told the Joseon monarch he would be isolated standing alone and urged him to join with subjects who had outstanding reputations. - official website
Nan Madol Nan Madol has been interpreted as the remains of one of the "lost continents" of Lemuria or Mu, although this is today considered falsified by plate tectonics (wiki)
Ohrid Region The existence of the ancient town of Lychnidos is linked to the Greek myth of the Phoenician prince Cadmus who, banished from Thebes, in Boetia, fled to the Enchelei and founded the town of Lychnidos on the shores of Lake Ohrid (Wiki).
Paris, Banks of the Seine Notre Dame de Paris (Gargoyle)
Prague The Golem of Prague
Provins Provins recieved its name from the wine belonging to Roman general named Probus (Probi vinum).
Puebla China Poblana (the Templo de la Compañía, in Puebla, is known as La Tumba de la China Poblana)
Pyrénées - Mont Perdu Brèche de Roland, an abrupt gap in the crest associated in legend with the defeat of the warrior Roland at Roncevaux in Charlemagne's campaign against the Saracens (UNEP-WCMC)
Quanzhou Wanshou Pagoda "is nicknamed "the Sisters-in-Law Pagoda" for its association with the legend of a man's wife and his younger sister who turned to stone due to gazing endlessly out at sea longing for his safe return." (Nomination file, p. 255, 259)
Querétaro Chronicles of this event [the battle between the natives and the Spaniards], such as that written by Friar Isidro Félix de Espinoza, state that the natives were at the point of winning when a total eclipse of the sun occurred. This supposedly scared the natives and the Spanish claimed to have seen an image of Saint James (the patron saint of Spain) riding a white horse carrying a rose-colored cross. This event caused the natives to surrender. (Wiki))
Rammelsberg and Goslar "According to legend, the mountain was named after a knight called "Ramm", who was a henchman of Emperor Otto the Great. In 968, whilst out hunting, the knight tied his horse to a tree, in order to pursue some deer through almost impassable terrain. His charger impatiently pawed the ground with its hooves whilst waiting for his master to return and so exposed a vein of silver ore." (wiki)
Rapa Nui Rapa Nui mythology
Ravenna Mausoleum of Theodoric: "A large crack is evident on the southern side of the monolith. According to legend, this was caused by a bolt of lightning that hit the mausoleum while the king was inside. It is said that Theodoric actually had the mausoleum built with a monolithic roof so that he could take shelter during storms, because it had been predicted that a bolt of lightning would strike him to death." (Explanatory text outside the mausoleum)
Rome Romulus & Remus, the Aeneid
Roskilde Cathedral the burial place of a mythical three-legged death omen horse.
Royal Joseon Tombs "The 22nd king, Jeongjo (r. 1776-1800), during a visit to his father's tomb (Yungneung), found the pine grove around the graveyard withering because of pine-eating caterpillars. In lamentation, the king caught one and bit it to death. Strangely, the caterpillars completely disappeared soon afterward." - nomination file
Ruins of León Viejo The murder of Bishop Antonio de Valdivieso in 1550 seemed to mark a turning point in its fortunes: it was widely believed to have put a curse on the town, which suffered from both natural and economic disasters in the years that followed. (AB ev)
San Marino and Mount Titano "According to legend, San Marino was founded in 301 AD when a Christian stonemason Marinus (...), later venerated as Saint Marinus, emigrated in 297 AD from the Dalmatian island of Rab (...); shortly after, he was "recognised" and accused by an insane woman of being her estranged husband, whereupon he quickly fled to Monte Titano to build a chapel and monastery and live as a hermit. Later, the State of San Marino would bud from the centre created by this monastery."
Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca Cuenca is considered a candidate for the mythical city of gold, El Dorado.
Santiago de Compostela "According to legend, this tomb [of Saint James] was rediscovered in AD 814 by Pelagius the Hermit, after he witnessed strange lights in the night sky."
Segovia The legend that the devil built the aqueduct for exchange of the soul of a girl who has to carry water to the city
Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple Legend of a Filial Son (see link for the story, click on "Unesco World Heritages" and then Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple. Scroll down)
Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries Legend of Mt. Siguniang, a giant wanted to marry four women, but they ran away and become mountains of four ladies
Siena According to legend, Siena was founded by Senius, son of Remus, who was in turn the brother of Romulus, after whom Rome was named. Statues and other artwork depicting a she-wolf suckling the young twins Romulus and Remus can be seen all over the city of Siena.
Sighisoara Legend of Vlad the Impaler
Silk Roads Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor Burana Tower at Balasagun, "A legend connected with the tower says that a witch warned a local king that his newly-born daughter would die once she reached the age of eighteen. To protect her, he built a tall tower where he sequestered his daughter. No one entered the tower, except the daughter's servant who brought her food. The daughter grew up alone and became a beautiful young lady. One day, however, a poisonous spider was hiding in the food brought by the servant. The spider bit the girl, and she died in the tower, at the age of eighteen."
Sinharaja Forest Means 'Lion-King' and refers to a legendary lion who lives in the forest
South China Karst the girl Ashima that turned into a stone
Srebarna Nature Reserve surrounding its name
Sulaiman-Too Women who ascend to the shrine on top and crawl though an opening across the holy rock will, according to legend, give birth to healthy children. (Wiki)
Syracuse Ear of Dionysius: the tyrant "Dionysius used the cave as a prison for political dissidents, and by means of the perfect acoustics eavesdropped on the plans and secrets of his captives. Another more gruesome legend claims that Dionysius carved the cave in its shape so that it would amplify the screams of prisoners being tortured in it"
Taj Mahal Black Taj Mahal
Takht-e Soleyman Folk legend relates that King Solomon used to imprison monsters inside the 100 m deep crater of the nearby Zendan-e Soleyman "Prison of Solomon"
Telc Within the [castel's] chapel in a white marble sarcophagus lie the remains of Zacharias z Hradec and his wife Katharina Valdstejn. According to legend, the young wife was implicated in her own death. She allowed her portrait to be painted while she was pregnant - despite warnings that this meant she would die within a year of her birth.
Tokaji Wine Region Fears of Turkish raiders delayed the harvest until the graphes had shrivelled and botrytis infection had seit in creating the noble rot for which the wine is renowned
Tower of Hercules "Numerous legends surround the Tower's history, from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. They attempt to explain in mythical and popular terms the Tower's origins and its construction, regardless of any historical or archaeological understanding. There are three main families of legends: the legend of Breogán in the Celtic-Irish tradition, the Greco-Roman legend of Hercules, the demigod of mythical strength who gave the Tower its contemporary name, and the tale of Trecenzonio halfway between the former two legends." (Ab Ev)
Tower of London The Ravens
Town Hall and Roland, Bremen 'Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten'
Troy Trojan Horse
Upper Middle Rhine Valley Lorelei
Val di Noto The Elephant statue of the fountain on Piazza del Duomo in Catania is also called U Liotru. It "owes its appellation to the mispronunciation of the name Heliodorus. The latter, according to popular legends, was a nobleman from Catania who allegedly tried unsuccessfully to become bishop of the diocese. Having fallen from grace, he (...) would oppose Bishop Leo II the Thaumaturge, who would then condemn him to be burned alive in the Forum Achelles. This phantom character was linked to the elephant because a legend said that he was its sculptor and even used to ride it to travel from Catania to Constantinople. Also according to the legend, Bishop Leo allegedly had the statue taken outside the walls so that it would be forgotten, but the people would still give it divine honors." (wiki)
Virgin Komi Forests There are numerous legends associated with Man'punpuner, before he was the object of the Mansi cult. (Wiki)
Walled City of Baku legend of a maiden (said to be the daughter of the Khan of Baku) who threw herself off its top to her death in the waves below (wiki)
Xinjiang Tianshan In Daoism, Xi Wangmu, the Queen Mother of the West, is believed to guard the peach trees of immortality in the Tian Shan


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