Legend of the Lost Legend
Series number: 47
Number of pages: 123
Release date: September 1996
Tagline: Finder’s keepers!
Did I Read It as a Child?: No
The Story On the Back
Talk about a horror story… Nobody loves a good story like Justin’s dad. He’s a famous writer and story collector. That’s how Justin and his sister, Marissa, ended up in Brovania. Their dad is searching for an ancient manuscript called ‘The Lost Legend’. Justin and Marissa want to help. But instead of finding ‘The Lost Legend’, they get lost. And the woods of Brovania are filled with the strangest creatures. Like hundreds of squealing mice. Silver-coloured dogs. And terrifying Vikings from long ago…
The Story On the Pages
So… Legend of the Lost Legend… It’s… It’s not a good story. I’m sure you could have guessed this based on how we’re just a few days into this series and here we are talking about this Viking packaged piece of crap. But anyways, I’m clearly just dicking around to avoid walking you through this abomination… *sigh*… okay. Let’s do this.
Legend of the Lost Legend opens with Justin and Marissa Clarke in the South Pole. They’re on a dog sled in the Antarctic looking for both their lost father and a mythical blue sea lion that’s got strange powers. They end up finding the sea, but only to have the ice they’re standing on break off into the ocean.
Things are certainly off to a thrilling start! Except not really. None of this is actually happening. It’s the old bait and switch, everyone. Justin and Marissa are actually safe in a tent, in a Balkans forest, where their father is doing field work. He was simply telling them a story, because that’s what he does, he’s a folklorist that travels the world looking for stories. Which he then packages with his name and makes money.
So the Clarke family has found themselves in the Balkans (technically it’s never really said what area they’re in, but the name of the made up country is Brovania and that sounds like south-east Europe to me) looking for the Lost Legend. That’s literally all the dad knows about it. It’s been lost for so long that people know it’s lost, but don’t know what it’s about. Hence the Legend of the Lost Legend being the title of this ill-fated Goosebumps journey.
While in this Brovanian forest, Justin (who is our first person perspective btw) and Marissa follow a large dog into the woods because it had a note in its collar that said to. Yup, that all adds up. Marissa fights against it at first, because she’s a girl and therefore the sensible one, but then Justin pulls out some reverse psychology and off they go into the woods on the tail of a dog.
After getting lost (because of course they were going to get lost), the dog leads them to a tiny cabin in the woods. This cabin is inhabited by a very large woman in a Valkyrie helmet whose first line, and I’m not exaggerating or lying at all, is: “Now I’ve got you!” Followed by some mad laughter.
After their initial reaction to the nutjob woman who just jumped out at them, the pair seems remarkably calm. They sit down for some chicken noodle soup and learn about the woman, her dark sense of humour (i.e. threatening children), and the treasure they seek. Her name is Ivanna and she tells them that to find the silver chest (which is what the Lost Legend is said to be held in) they must complete a survival test in the Fantasy Forest. They are to begin in the morning and, get this, they need to take a guy named Luka with them. Luka is… a feral man-dog who was raised by wolves.
Oh Lord… it’s one of these kinds of Goosebumps books…
Okay, so… their survival test. They go to sleep in Ivanna’s cabin, because they’re dumbasses and trust this woman enough to sleep around her, and when they wake up, the cabin is gone. Looks like they’re starting the Fantasy Forest challenge. They’ve got Luka though and the instructions to follow him no matter what or they’ll be doomed.
Guess who they immediately lose in Fantasy Forest?
So Justin and Marissa are alone in the Fantasy Forest and shit starts to go down. Except not really because everything in this fucking forest is fake as fuck! Mice attack them but they discover they’re little robots. A tree falls on Marissa but they discover they’re made of plaster. They get stuck in the mud of a stream but discover the stream has a plug in it, like a bathtub. Then, after being attacked by giant black cats who want to eat them, the pair find their way back to Ivanna’s cabin.
Oh happy day! No more giant cats, just a sociopath that makes jokes about poisoning them for fun! I feel safe. Don’t you all feel safe?
Their jubilation lasts about a second, however, because they soon discover that Ivanna is part of the “fantasy” of Fantasy Forest. She’s a giant wind up doll. Luka re-enters here and we discover that he’s not a feral man raised among wolves. He is, in fact, a protector of the forest’s treasures. His family built this wacky Wonderland rip-off to test people and see if they are worthy of the treasure they seek.
Justin and Marissa have passed and are awarded the silver chest of the Lost Legend. Moments later, they find their father. Excitement is bubbling over as the three open the silver chest to discover… an egg. These indignant and entitled Americans don’t like this treasure and literally return it to Luka.
When they ask for the Lost Legend he points them in its direction because it’s a treasure of the woods he doesn’t have. Wait, I don’t understand the rules to this game, can we please back up and explain them again? Why is Luka guarding some, but not all of the treasure? How did he construct giant cats? How many dice are we supposed to roll??
Unfortunately for me (and, by conjunction, you) we’re too deep into the game to cover the rules again (or at all in this story’s case), so here’s the end, let’s just get this over with.
Justin, Marissa, and their father travel further into the forest and come upon a small village of wanderers that are said to possess the Lost Legend. Their father asks about it and they hand it over without complaint. They then pack up their whole village and rush off into the woods.
Seems like they’re only too happy to get rid of the Lost Legend, huh? When the family opens this silver chest, they have the manuscript that they came looking for. Scrawled across the front page of it is the sentence: Whoever owns the lost legend will be lost forever.
When they look up from the Lost Legend, they realize they have no idea where they are. Hey, now this is actually really interesting, where does this go?
Oh. Oh it goes nowhere because this is literally the last page of the book.
No, that’s fine. Great story! Best I’ve ever read! It’s not like you wasted the coolest concept in the piece on the LITERAL last page of the fucking thing, no it was all so great to read! Just tops!
While the Legend of the Lost Legend does have a pretty large cast to talk about compared to other books, there’s not a single important thing we learn about any of them. Marissa has red hair, their father is a heavy sleeper and a folklorist, Luka is pretty much a furry because he likes to dress up as a feral wolf man to throw people off his trail. As far as our main POV character of Justin goes, we don’t even learn his eye or hair colour! We always learn that about Goosebumps protagonists! It’s as sure as the sunrise that somewhere within the first chapter the POV character will comment on their hair and/or eye colour! I feel so betrayed!
I’m shook by this divergent course Legend of the Lost Legend has taken from the standard formula! Christ, I thought it was weird when Stine wrote a few of these in third person instead of first! That’s nothing compared to this!
Okay, so if you couldn’t guess, I don’t really care that much about not knowing what colour hair Justin has. I do, however, care about
his eye colour how little we learn about these people and therefore, how little we end up caring about them. I could care less about what happens to the Clarke family. I’m a little interested in Luka’s backstory, but this isn’t a story about him.
Too bad, I might have been able to care if it was.
Spooks and Scares
Legend of the Lost Legend is not a scary book. This isn’t even really an entertaining book, but that’s a different set of merits, so let’s just look at spookiness. The characters are unlikable to neutral, you will never feel anything for them besides annoyance at their terrible decisions. The location goes from a dark and creepy woods to a poorly constructed Wonderland rip-off. Then there’s the whole reason that they end up in the Fantasy Woods. The Clarkes came to this forest in Brovania to find a treasure, but they’re not the first. Because so many people have apparently tried to find the treasures of the Balkans, there’s a keeper of the treasures that has to test people to see if they’re worthy of the treasures they seek.
Bitch, you filled half an acre with plaster trees and animatronic mice! Who couldn’t survive that with some sweet ass treasure on the line?
Then right at the very end, we get something interesting. The Clarkes find the manuscript that is the Lost Legend. And it’s uber cursed, guys. Just Necronomicon levels of fuck your shit up. On the first page of the manuscript is the phrase “Whoever owns the lost legend will be lost forever”. The book ends with the Clarkes looking around themselves and realizing they have no idea where they are.
You done played yourselves, Clarkes.
And R.L. Stine played us all for having us read 122 pages of this 123 page book before something even remotely interesting happened!
Why didn’t this book begin with them finding the manuscript of the Lost Legend and becoming hopelessly lost because of its curse? Have the first few chapters be them finding this cursed object, build up its power as they slowly realise what’s happening, and spend the rest of the story having them try to break the curse. I’m down for that! I don’t need giant cats chasing kids through the woods with a crazy guy grading them to see if they’re worthy of a treasure. That’s just goddamn nonsense no matter how you spin it.
You know what Legend of the Lost Legend makes me think of? The Blair Witch Project. And, yes, I’m aware I’ve just seriously divided my audience. Half of you immediately became more interested because you liked Blair Witch, and half no doubt groaned out loud and are asking yourselves if you’re ever going to stop hearing about Blair Witch. But like it or not, it’s what I was thinking of as I went through this half-hearted Stine creation.
Why? Because The Blair Witch Project is how you do a psychological horror story in the woods! And the direction that Stine should have taken with Legend of the Lost Legend is definitely a psychological horror story. Take out all the fake shit that “terrorizes” Justin and Marissa and just have two kids lost in the woods. You already did the weirdo woods angle in The Beast from the East, take this story away from the fantastical and ground it in reality.
Reality is scary too, Stine. Have you seen the world recently?!
What’s so appealing about The Blair Witch Project is how ambiguous it is. What’s actually happening in those woods? Is there a witch haunting the unfortunate group of film students or are they just lost in the woods and succumbing to panic? MatPat over on the Film Theory YouTube channel even has a theory that Josh and Michael were purposefully tormenting Heather. It’s left completely up in the air what happens during the movie and even how or why it ends.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the less you give in terms of concrete answers, the scarier a horror story becomes. What the reader imagines is scarier than anything you can ever describe. Especially at a third grade reading level.
So why have these kids nearly torn apart by giant cats? That’s not scary for literally anyone. That’s laughable, that’s a farce, that’s insulting to your audience! An atmosphere can’t be created with that and atmosphere is everything in the world of horror. Atmosphere is something that Blair Witch has in spades. When I recently sat down for my first proper viewing of The Blair Witch Project I couldn’t breathe during those final five minutes. Even after nearly two decades of seeing it spoofed everywhere, it was still suspenseful and tense as hell! All thanks to the atmosphere.
The trend I’m seeing in the Goosebump books on the lower end of the spooky spectrum is that Stine isn’t going out of his way to make the situations scary. He’s simply dropping in one or two things here and there that are meant to shock or scare. Not that I’m saying anything in Legend of the Lost Legend is shocking or scary, but the intent was there. Horror cannot be sustained on jump scares alone. Look at 2016’s The Forest for my indisputable proof of that. Create an atmosphere, build tension, and for the love of god, stop putting in dumb shit like giant cats and feral wolf men!
If all The Blair Witch Project needed was piles of stones and indistinct screaming in the dark, it’s all Legend of the Lost Legend would have needed too. Stine, you could have been three years ahead of the trend!