A legend is a short narrative regarded as somehow historical, without an affirmation that the events actually occurred. Legends have a specific set of characteristics that set them apart from other genres of literature. Observing the characterization, themes and certain plot elements will help you determine if the piece is a legend.
Characters and Setting
Characters in a legend are limited to a small cast. They may be inanimate objects, gods, or humans with super traits. The gods are superheroes who may appear in human form, but maintain immortality and supernatural abilities. Legends typically take place in the past, and the setting is somehow relevant to the culture from which it derives.
Plot and Theme
A legend's plot will include a lot of action, suspense and conflict. The characters of a legend are often faced with difficult obstacles to overcome, and struggle with their fate or destiny. Legends often explain natural phenomena, religious practices and human nature. They usually offer a straightforward moral, or a lesson for life.
Point of View and Style
Legends are written from the third person point of view. A legend will reflect upon a society's culture, values and beliefs and the frail nature, or weakness, of human beings. Readers of the legend will believe that the main character is capable of overcoming any obstacles in his path, and root for him to succeed.
Legends are usually passed down through generations. Prior to printing, legends were passed orally to teach the younger generation a certain set of values.