Saturday, April 14, 2012

Most popular long-running fiction stories and legends

In no particular order...

Robin Hood. With no known origins, just supposed ones, this legend has existed for centuries and likely will continue to exist in various forms for a very long time. Why? Because it is all about the underdog winning out and most people consider themselves on the side of the underdog, or to be one, and would love the underdog, or themselves, to win. In short, this legend pulls on your sympathy, empathy, desire for a better deal and a bit of fairness.

Arthurian Legends. This story has been rewritten with wild variations since before the standard recording of an author's name to their works. Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries and all the stories are written as though the events have already taken place. With that in mind, legends likely began after Arthur's supposed reign (I'm not getting into the did he exist argument or the archeology). Poems, ballads, stories, plays, skits, movies, puppet acts and more. You name it and it has likely been done. Themed parties included. The righteous man is actually a tormented man and one struggling against great odds. Who has never felt like that?

Alice in Wonderland. There are more variations, adaptations and usages of Alice or Wonderland than I can get my head around. Everywhere I look there's a new version. One of the latest I watched was a usage of the Wonderland theme and of Alice to create a rather dark and twisted land full of demons in anime format. So, in short because there's only a short space here, books, plays, TV shows, puppet shows, animes, mangas, comics, porn, pantomimes, on ice, movies, parties, houses, gardens, mazes etc. To name a few. Popular likely for the absolute weirdness (quite creepy at times) of the world and the story's ability to bring out the child in all of us.

Beauty and the Beast. There are many rewrites and usages of the theme/plot devices just in the world of books. But the story of Beauty and the Beast has translated to movie, theatre and other forms of entertainment quite well. It is oddly popular because of two rather unlikable things. Beauty is compassionate enough to give a beast (ugly or immoral man depending on the reading) a chance. The beast feels he can only be saved by a soft-hearted woman. Bleh. Both of them need a slap as far as I'm concerned, but even I don't mind a few of the versions floating about. Goes to show the power of the story.

Dr Who. Of the longest running popular stories in modern times with TV and radio shows, books, magazines, music, Youtube re-edits, comedy skits and more made from it. The story is ever-changing within certain parameters and constantly being added to by producers and the public alike. A modern legend in the making and I hope they don't do such a foolish thing as make him die properly. At the very least they have to sort out the living on issue for him, with or without his permission. To let this legend finally die is to break the hearts of kids and adults alike. (On another note, I'd like to see an older or crankier Dr Who again. Time to change it up again. And don't say older men won't have any appeal to the younger audiences. Who do you think made Dr Who a legend?).

Zatoichi (or the blind swordsman). This picture is by no means from the original TV show or movie but it is of my personal favourite and I couldn't resist. Zatoichi is extremely popular as the story denotes inner strength and righteousness. Power is assigned to those challenged with the loss or lack of sight, or any other physical function. Also, it is a story for those with sight that makes them wish they could hear things so well, be so awesome and so capable. The legend has migrated in various formats throughout the world and has been adapted to all manner of media, even if the name is lost and he becomes just an assassin or vigilante.

Sherlock Holmes. Not only did Sherlock inspire fictional versions of every manner conceivable but, as posted before, there is art on him. He also inspired many to become policemen or detectives even as he was used to represent the various waves of forensic science. He is what we'd all love to be: observant, capable, logical, a genius and a crime solver. I don't think I need to say more really. Sherlock will always be and I'm just thankful he has his quirks or I'd feel pretty pathetic reading or watching his exploits.

Batman. Surprisingly popular for someone who's not quite stable. But then, nor is Sherlock, Dr Who or Frankenstein. The others are arguable too but those are the most unstable characters. I sometimes feel this vigilante is loved more than he should be but who am I to say that a man in leather, toting all sorts of weapons and fighting crime because he and his family were a victim of it shouldn't be a legend. He's quite like Robin Hood in some aspects. I do like some of the movies but mostly for the villains. As for Batman, he's here to stay. Whether in comics, TV shows or movies he's likely to last for quite a long time. As long as they keep updating him as they have been.

Spiderman. This seems arguable, right? But the story has managed to last surprisingly well for the premise of a simple man being a unknown hero. It is supposed to show dignity and humility that he doesn't reveal who he is and receive the accolades but well, he does anyway because he's both. He can feel proud of himself for saving the world and smug over not revealing he did. But that's just my take. Oh, and I do like Spiderman although I rather like Venom and Carnage more. I like my characters a little volatile and unpredictable.
Wolfman (Werewolf). Writings go back as far as ancient Greek literature but the tale that springs to mind as the classic tale is that of The Wolfman. Before I write on that though, people actually believed werewolves existed just as they did vampires, that's how strong this legend is. The werewolf or wolfman has stayed the test of time and will for here on out. As to The Wolfman, I'm referring to the movie made in 1941 starring Lon Chaney Jr. It is the werewolf equivalent of Dracula as far as I'm concerned. It is the basis upon which nearly all werewolf stories are told, whether in line with or openly against it. Without The Wolfman many of the stories you know just wouldn't be as they are.

Vampire. Like the above I simply named this vampire as there are so many stories and legends surrounding the vampire that the format of the story has become rather lost in time, except for Dracula. So should I name this Dracula instead? I'm not sure. Suffice it to say that Dracula was just one of the first times vampires had gone to print and by print I mean mass market print. Before Bram Stoker's Dracula there was John Polidori's The Vampyre (based on an Lord Byron's unfinished work The Burial) and James Malcolm Rymer's Varney the Vampire etc. But the legend of vampires extends far back into human history where it was told as folklore. No one knows how long the legend has been about. 

Star Wars. There are enthusiasts who insist on only the 'true' versions and there were those who love to change the stories, add back stories, alter for different audiences, rip off sections and just generally play around with the original material. The story is still new so there is a way to go before it becomes a legend but it looks like this story is here to stay and the space saga/space drama format along with it. Loved for the wide scope of imagination involved, the enormous flood of details and the potential for so many more stories. Not to mention the characters or the plot etc.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. This is a relatively new story that has had several rewrites and variations made available already. It has been adopted into mass popular culture through the successive exposures it has had and will continue to do so simply because it revolves around such basic things as a cup of tea, a towel, a planet computer and the meaning of life. Who wouldn't be interested no matter when they're exposed to the story?

Red Riding Hood. She is everywhere throughout our entertainment industry just as Alice is. From theatre to TV to movies to porn to comics to anime to on ice and much more you really couldn't say she wasn't a legend. Why do we like her? Because she's oddly good and bad at the same time. A figure of temptation, rebellion and quick wit and she is a survivor of a dark and gruesome world. Much can be read into the story allowing variation upon variation to be made.

Cinderella. Personally, annoying. Don't wait for someone to rescue you. Act on your own and if others help accept it. Don't wait, pray and beg. Not so personally, I can see why people would like the idea of their fortunes being changed, especially if they could get out from under the thumb  (singular or collective) of a bad mother, sister, family member, boss or bully. Also, the story is adaptable enough to so many formats and the theme eternal so I can see why the story has stayed with us.

Snow White. There are two main reasons why this story is loved. One is for Snow White surviving the Queen's wrath. The other is for the seven dwarves. Me? Dwarves. I do like my characters doing something more than sleeping. What is it with the need to send the female protagonist to sleep? Sleeping Beauty got conked out too. I find these stories to be the epitome of relying on someone else to save you and I'm not too fond of that. Still, the dwarves are a hit so I don't mind so much.  Back to the point, this, like Alice and Red Riding Hood has been adopted to all sorts of entertainment, including porn.

Sleeping Beauty. Not as fair as Snow White though. Again the victim needing saving but this story isn't as popular as Snow White even though they have much in common. It has become a legend though, appearing either alongside or opposing Snow White. As with the latest trend, the fairytale stories are starting to be blended together along with stories like Alice In Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz (almost a legend - getting there).

Transformers. Seem like an odd choice? It is a little but don't say that to a Transformers fan. Especially a fan of the original comics or cartoons. Like Dr Who it is a modern legend for the modern generations and if the stories continue to be adapted then it should last for a long time to come. The only conceivable problem is with the Transformers not keeping up with technology but the option to upgrade is already written in through a plot device so failure to do so would fall on the writers' heads.

The Mummy. Thinking of the original movie or the book? Have you heard of the author Jane C Loudon? Read the story she wrote in 1827? I only have due to a thesis I wrote and I had to dig into a library basement to find it. Almost no one else I know has. Yet The Mummy is a legendary story because its power comes from thousands of years of folklore rather than the original books or movies. Why do we like it? Fear, a peek into another side of life and death, my possibilities of revenge even after death. Probably for the creepiness of a dead man wrapped in bandages walking about. We do love a good scare.

Frankenstein's Monster. Mary Shelley wrote a winner and again the idea of the dead coming back to life was revisited. Except this particular dead man walking wasn't ever alive in his current assemblage, let alone state. He's a mix of parts and has the mind of a child (not literally). There is no revenge for a death or old injustice here leaving the story all about identity, love, loss, betrayal, relations, culture, social acceptance etc. Frankenstein's monster has become a legend because he reveals two main sides of ourselves, the innocent and the brutal. Frankenstein's monster is here to stay.

I'm leaving it here as it took me 3 hours to construct this. If there's another that must be added then let me know. I'll do some adding.

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