Many great and courageous figures from the past have been recorded in history. From Moses and Mulan to Shakespeare and Sun Tzu, these historical figures lived long and fruitful lives, leaving lasting legacies in their wake. However, many historians and researchers have recently questioned the legitimacy of these historical figures, questioning whether they ever existed at all. Due to a lack of evidence, it appears that many of these figures were based on folklore or were made up. In the following slides, you’ll see some historical figures who may or may not have existed.
Mulan was already a legend in China before Disney brought her to the big screen. Mulan fighting in her father’s place, on the other hand, may not be true. Mulan was created and based on a female warrior named Wei Huahu, according to the book Chinese Shadow Theatre: History, Popular Religion, and Women Warriors. Even though the two stories are similar, there is no proof that Mulan was real.
Everyone seems to be familiar with King Arthur’s story, from Monty Python and the Holy Grail to the numerous remakes. On the other hand, historians have questioned the story and agree that many of the facts are suspect. The story appears to be based on Lucius Artorius Castus, a Roman military commander. Other historians believe the story was inspired by Riothamus, the fifth-century king of the Britons.
Many people are skeptical of William Shakespeare’s legacy and the validity of his work. Although some researchers believe Shakespeare wrote under a pen name, others still doubt his existence due to a lack of information about his background. Shakespeare was actually a man named Edward de Vere, according to a theory discovered by schoolteacher J. Thomas Looney. According to this theory, de Vere’s work was published under William Shakespeare after his death.
During the 13th and 14th centuries, Robin Hood’s story grew in popularity, but it was never proven to be true. Many English outlaws referred to themselves as “Robin Hood” during that time period because of their nefarious activities. Others believe Fulk FitzWarin, a nobleman inspired Robin Hood. FitzWarin’s story was later reprinted in the medieval tale Fouke le Fitz Waryn, which revealed many parallels.
Confucius was regarded as one of China’s wisest and most thoughtful philosophers. Many scholars, however, believe the philosopher to be nothing more than a fictional character due to a lack of evidence. According to Lionel M. Jensen, director of Chinese studies at the University of Colorado at Denver, the philosopher was created in the 16th century by Jesuit missionaries.
William Tell was a troublemaker who lived in Switzerland during the 14th century. According to legend, an Austrian official placed a hat on top of a pole in Altdorf and made it mandatory for everyone passing by to remove their hats. Tell refused to obey the order and was ordered to shoot an apple off his son’s head from a distance of 120 yards. Tell would be executed if he failed to complete the task. Tell decided to shoot the apple and was fortunately successful.
The ancient Chinese military leader is frequently credited with writing the war manual. However, there is little evidence that his book, The Art of War, was actually written by him. Many people believe the book was a collection of military lessons compiled by Sun Tzu over several generations.
Homer was a brilliant scholar, poet, and writer. Many people, however, believe that the Greek poet did not write the Iliad and The Odyssey. Homer was simply the first to record the stories, and he claimed credit for it. There are several theories that Homer was actually a blind woman. Others believe Homer was composed of a group of Greek scholars rather than a single person.
Depending on who you ask, the answer to whether or not Jesus existed is different. Many historians believe that the man who founded the world’s largest religion was a real person, while others argue that he was just a legend. The lack of eyewitness accounts, the New Testament’s ambiguous writings, and the lack of secular evidence are all reasons for attempting to discredit Jesus. On the other hand, Jesus teaches us to live by faith, which is the substance of things we can’t see.
There is little evidence that Moses was a real person outside of the Bible. Historians have questioned his existence due to a hazy timeframe and the scope of his actions. On the other hand, many scientists have linked the biblical figures’ actions, such as parting the Red Sea, to naturally occurring forces in nature.
Nicholas Cage portrayed Donald Kaufman in the film Adaptation, who is thought to be Charlie Kaufman’s brother. The movie persuaded the audience that Charlie, the screenwriter, had a brother named Donald. Later, the truth was revealed: he was a figment of Charlie’s imagination, not real.
Jim Crow is a well-known character from the theater. This persona depicts a black male who would appear in scenarios that mock discrimination. Thomas D. Rice, who was actually a Caucasian, was the mastermind behind this monstrosity.
John Doe and Jane Doe
John Doe is frequently mentioned, particularly during a criminal investigation. On the other hand, John Doe is merely a code name for unidentified bodies used during an investigation. On the other hand, Jane Doe is a pseudonym for a female victim who has yet to be identified.
Betty Crocker’s name became well-known after her delectable recipes became household favorites in the United States. Many people had idolized her as the queen of the kitchen, but she was only a fictional character. Even though this “First Lady of the Kitchen” is fictitious, she has inspired millions of aspiring chefs to serve exquisite cuisine.
Alfred Bull top Stormalong
Alfred Stormalong is another fictional character whose story is based on an American legend. Stormalong was said to be a hero in Massachusetts, and he grew to be nearly nineteen feet tall. He is said to be a sailor and is associated with nautical folklore.
James S.A. Corey
It’s critical to evenly distribute credit for the work when authors collaborate on a novel. It’s not always possible to do everyone justice by listing all of the contributors’ names. For example, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck had inadvertently created the pseudonym James S.A Corey, author of Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves, Leviathan Wakes, and other works.
You might wonder if James Cameron’s masterpiece Titanic is based on true events if you’ve seen it. Sadly, however, the character of Jack Dawson is a work of fiction. We’ll never let go, Jack, unlike Rose.
Readers love Sherlock Holmes because they believe he was once a real-life detective. According to author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the stories and identity of Sherlock Holmes were based on a British surgeon named Joseph Bell. What an unexpected turn of events!
Another well-known hero who turned out to be entirely fictional is Zorro, the legendary swordsman who wears a black mask and rides a black horse. Zorro may tell of historical legends, but he was also a legend, one created by Johnston McCulley. Zorro was, however, inspired by Joaquin Murrieta, a real-life thief from the 19th century.
The character Washington Irving from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is well-known. Ichabod Crane’s story would also be told in this short story. Along with Irving, he was thought to be a hero in the past. But, like Irving, Ichabod was only a fictional character.
Sybil Ludington, a 16-year-old girl, is one of the heroes of the American Revolution. Her story exemplifies the bravery of a woman who was instrumental in the American Revolutionary War’s fight against the British Empire. The Daughters of the American Revolutionary, a women’s organization, later discovered that Sybil’s heroism stories were false.
Who’d have guessed that the well-known female clothing line was founded by a man named Richard Liebeskind? Ann Taylor is just a name for a clothing line. It’s also a fancy way of expressing the traditional New England look.
Uncle Ben is best known as the face of Uncle Bens’, a well-known American food company. However, as much as we hate to say it, the man on the packaging is Frank Brown, a well-known rice grower and restaurant manager. You might be wondering how he came to be the brand’s face. It just so happens that he is a friend of Gordon L. Harwell, the food company’s president.
Another name associated with a popular coffee brand is Juan Valdez. Everyone assumes this well-known figure is the owner. In reality, Doyle Dane Bernbach’s illustration is all there is to it. On the other hand, the name refers to Colombia, the country where the coffee beans are grown.
In 1961, the BBC Third Programme was a popular channel that aired classical music compositions. Piotr Zak, a Polish composer, was thought to have composed one of the most popular musical pieces. Many people liked it because it had a funny tune. The pieces, however, were created by BBC producers Susan Bradshaw and Hans Keller.
In this book co-authored by Laura Albert, a fake author named JT Leroy of The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, a 1990 semi-autobiography, was supposed to tell her story. Later on, it was revealed that Leroy is a fictitious character created by Laura. Savannah Knoop, Laura’s sister-in-law, was the one who pretended to be Leroy.
Mavis Beacon was the voice-over for a popular educational material in the 1980s that taught typing skills. She appeared to be a personable teacher. In reality, she was nothing more than a computer-generated lecturer.
William Boyd is a Scottish author who published a Nat Tate biography in 1998. It talked about his experiences and struggles as an artist and his art, which he left behind after committing suicide. Famous artists were invited to a party hosted by David Bowie to celebrate the publication of the book. Later that day, the entire book was revealed to be a ruse only to say April Fools to everyone!
Many people are skeptical of King Solomon’s existence because there is little evidence from his lifetime. During King Solomon’s reign, he was said to be the wealthiest man on the planet, but no artifacts from his fortune have ever been discovered.
Lycurgus is regarded as a remarkable man who transformed the Greek city-state of Sparta into one of the world’s most terrifying military powers. This famous icon has instituted a series of tenacious reforms ranging from marriage to wealth and childbearing sometime between the 7th and 9th centuries B.C. However, some recent scholars have concluded that Lycurgus was simply a generic name used when referring to Sparta’s legal system.
Isn’t it true that almost everyone on the planet has seen this icon image? The patriarchal, grey-haired man who appears on every “I want you” recruiting poster. To set the record straight, this figure was based on a real person, a businessman who provided army supplies and was named Uncle Sam. Soldiers used to joke that their food came from Uncle Sam during the War of 1812. They were, however, referring to the army as a whole. He never really existed, no matter how well-known he was.
Mary Magdalene, also known as Mary of Magdala, is a woman who is thought to have traveled with Jesus as one of his followers. She is also said to have been a witness to his crucifixion and the events that followed. However, many people believe that she got to know men well because she was paid to do so. There has been no proven evidence of her dealings or even if she ever existed until recently. On the other hand, some people are convinced that the woman in the Bible was not a sinner but rather great…
If the idea of a female pop band sounds a little fabricated, it’s because it most likely is. Pope Joan is said to have become Pope in 855 AD when most women were forbidden from doing anything. Even though she was the head of the Catholic Church, many scholars have cast doubt on her existence. What’s more fascinating is that she became pregnant two years after becoming Pope and was either banished or murdered, depending on the source.
One of those multi-talented saints is said to be St. Christopher. He is also revered as the protector saint of travelers and fruit merchants. His followers worship him, and his talisman is a popular item among tourists and believers alike. However, there is one major flaw: the chances of St. Christopher not being a genuine saint are extremely high. For decades, his existence has been a source of debate; whether he truly roamed the earth, we may never know.
Surprisingly, Aunt Jemima did not exist. Her story is very similar to Betty Crockers. In the late 1800s, R.T Davis created the character of Aunt Jemima. It was originally used to promote a pancake mix, syrup, and other breakfast foods before being sold to Quaker Oats. The character drew a lot of criticism because it depicted Africans being exported. More recently, the character has been played by various actresses for advertising campaigns.
Paul Bunyan, also known as our favorite giant lumberjack, is a fictional character. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but he’s just a mash-up of various real men. Bon Jean and Fabian Fournier, two French-Canadian lumberjacks. In both American and Canadian folklore, Paul Bunyan is a folk hero. His adventures are often accompanied by Babe the Blue Ox, who is also not real and revolves around tall tales of his superhuman laborers.
Socrates was one of the most powerful and controversial philosophers of all time. He did not appear to speak a word about any of his philosophies. All of his famous quotes are taken directly from his disciples’ writings, particularly Plato’s. There is a good chance that an intelligent man named Socrates existed once upon a time and inspired this writing, but we don’t know if he was the man depicted by his followers.
Buddhism is one of the world’s oldest and largest religions, which few people are aware of. Regardless, there are numerous unanswered questions about its founder, Siddhartha Gautama (aka the Buddha). The first historical records about the Buddha did not appear until many centuries after his presumed death. And, because we’re talking about ancient history, no hard evidence of his existence has yet been discovered. Others, on the other hand, claim that it has been completely lost.
Lao Tzu was a Chinese philosopher and writer who lived in the first millennium BC. He is also the creator of philosophical Taoism and the author of the Tao Te Ching. Despite this, modern philosophers have begun to doubt his existence due to numerous conflicting accounts of his life. They believe that Taoist writings came from a variety of sources rather than from a single man. Those who firmly believe in him, on the other hand, revere him.
Rosie The Riveter
Rosie the Riveter was a well-known woman. During World War II, she became famous for portraying an American woman who helped promote ammunition and other supplies. Even though one of the factory workers, Veronica Foster, also known as “Ronnie,” may have been the inspiration for J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It” image was not a portrait of a single woman or a real person. Despite never having existed, she is now a huge cultural icon.
During World War II, the associated troops coined the term “Tokyo Rose.” But what was the point of it all? It was, after all, created for all the female English-speaking radio hosts who were spreading Japanese propaganda. Tokyo Rose was a well-known figure at the time, but she was actually a woman rather than a single person.
The Marlboro Man
The first Marlboro man appeared in the early 1950s. It was a cowboy character who appeared in Marlboro cigarette ad campaigns. He was created to persuade people to smoke this particular brand of cigarettes, and whether good or bad, it worked. According to the Los Angeles Times, several actors and models were paid to portray “The Marlboro Man,” but four of them died of smoking-related diseases just a few years after the campaign was released.
The song “Ballad of John Henry” tells the story of John Henry’s legend. An ex-slave challenged a steam drill to see who could work faster, according to the story. Henry defeated the steam drill, but he died soon after from exhaustion. While Henry’s story is intriguing, the race may be fictitious. Workers were dissatisfied with the steam drill invention, which helped the story gain a lot of publicity.
Helen of Troy
Helen of Troy was the Greek King Menelaus’s wife in Homer’s The Iliad and was known as the world’s most beautiful woman. However, due to a lack of evidence, historians have questioned Helen’s existence. Many people believe she was merely a mythological figure added to the story.
The term “the Midas touch” has a long history, dating back to King Midas, a Greek mythological king who had the ability to turn anything into gold with a single touch. While the story is well-known in Greek mythology, there is no proof that Midas ever existed. Historians discovered an ornate burial site that dates back to when Midas was alive, but there is no evidence that Midas lived during that time period in the gravesite.
Jack the Ripper
Since the 19th century, the legend of Jack the Ripper has terrorized people’s minds. The London-based serial killer was known for ripping out prostitutes’ throats and stomachs in the East End of London. The identity of Jack the Ripper, on the other hand, was never established. Many journalists claimed to have obtained a confession from the perpetrator, but the stories were never verified and were always proven to be a hoax. Jack the Ripper was never apprehended by the police, making him a true enigma.
In Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, Odysseus is the main character. After Troy’s fall, Odysseus, also known as Ulysses, took 10 years to return home. Many doubt his adventures’ authenticity, but a recent archaeological find suggests that his story may be true. The archeologist discovered the remains of a three-story building and a well dating from the 8th century BC, which correspond to Odysseus and his epic tale, implying that his exploits are true.
Alex Haley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Roots and its subsequent TV miniseries of the same name popularized Kunta Kinte’s story. Kinte’s story became so well-known that a Gambia island was named after him. While Kinte’s story has left an indelible mark on history, not all of the details appear to be precise. Haley’s sources don’t match up with history, so the story is riddled with inaccuracies.
The Pythagorean Theorem is named after Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician. Even though Pythagoras is a well-known figure in mathematics, many people doubt his existence. Historians cannot give Pythagoras credit for his work because there is no evidence that he wrote anything down. Historians also doubt his existence because of the time period in which he allegedly worked; a few people worked with celestial spheres until much later in the era.