What is the meaning of the word "Fall" in the movie title Legends of the Fall (1994)? Does it mean "autumn" or does it mean "downfall"?

I am native German speaker and I cannot currently figure which one is meant here. Both meanings would make sense to me.

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    As a British English speaker living in the USA ... it doesn't feel right that it would mean Autumn, but is more likely a reference to the Biblical Fall. IMDB trivia says that it refers to the biblical fall, but notes that the translation of the title into other languages translated it into Autumn. It would be interesting if someone has a definitive sourced answer.
    – iandotkelly
    Feb 16, 2018 at 17:45
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    Well, the movie is based on the 1979 novella of the same title by Jim Harrison. So, the meaning of "Fall" in the movie title should be the same as in the novella title. Feb 16, 2018 at 18:44
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    @iandotkelly Heh, oddly I always thought it does mean the season fall. Speaks for how interesting the question is, I guess. (In my local translation it's simply called "legends of passion", though).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Feb 16, 2018 at 19:06
  • @NapoleonWilson.... that may be British bias. I think its the full title "Legends of ...." that makes it sound to me like its unlikely to be about a season. Need to find someone that has read the book.
    – iandotkelly
    Feb 16, 2018 at 20:04
  • In French it is indeed translated as "Légendes d'Automne", as in the season. It never occured to me the original title could be about another kind of "Fall".
    – kikirex
    Feb 17, 2018 at 0:11

3 Answers 3


According to IMDb trivia:

The title refers to the biblical fall from innocence. In Sweden, however, the title was translated as "Höstlegender" meaning Legends of the Fall (the season, as in autumn). Similarly, in South Korea, the title was "Gaeul-ui jeonseol" interpreting "the fall" as the autumn season. The same in France, where it was named "Légendes d'automne" also in Romania, named "Legendele toamnei".

Perhaps it refers to autumn, since the story, is told through the eyes of an old Cree scout who remembers time in terms of seasons.

In my opinion, Jim Harrison, the author of the novel with the same name, meant the title to serve both interpretations.

  • When quoting external sources wholesale, please make sure to put them in proper quote formatting and mention the source it's from, preferably with a link thereto.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Feb 18, 2018 at 17:08
  • Besides that, though, that IMDb statement doesn't really seem to provide any backing to its claim either.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Feb 18, 2018 at 17:10
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    I think intentional ambiguity on the part of the author is the most likely explanation. Intentional ambiguity is a widely used and powerful literary device. There is at least one entire book on the subject. Feb 18, 2018 at 19:04

Simple lingual logic: As the Ludlows are of Cornish decent (and proud of it, all though Anthony Hopkins mostly speaks with the sound of his native Welsh), they most likely will NOT use American English for the season - that is, if the title suggests a season, it would most likely have been "autumn". So. Along with the plot, it can only mean the downfall or falling (apart) of a family, values, moral, civilization (contunue the list at your liking as you choose an interpretation among the many possibilities). A modern version/theme of the Buddenbrooks or any other family saga-novels.

  • The (mostly dead) Cornish language is the nearest relative to Welsh and Breton, by the way. Apr 12 at 19:58

I believe myself that the "Fall" in the title, while not only vaguely referencing other themes, is connected to the period of history when the horse is replaced by the automobile, and the subtle implications of that which reflect on society as a whole. Considering the Native character, we have a picture where it is clear we have strayed from natural ways, and the moral implications continue to spiral outwards and elsewards. It is a movie about change, and also what doesn't change. And those other things people said.

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