mythology, a leprechaun (Irish:
leipreachán) is a type of male faerie said to inhabit the island of Ireland. They are a class of
folk" associated in Irish mythology and folklore, as with all faeries, with the
Tuatha Dé Danann and other quasi-historical peoples said to have inhabited Ireland before the arrival of the
Leprechauns and other creatures of Irish mythology are often associated with "faerie forts" or "faerie rings" — often the sites of ancient (Celtic or pre-Celtic) earthworks or drumlins.
They usually take the form of old men who enjoy partaking in mischief. Their trade is that of a cobbler or shoemaker, but this has recently been dismissed as incorrect and their real profession is that of a tinker. They are said to be very rich, having many treasure crocks buried during war-time. According to legend, if anyone keeps an eye fixed upon one, he cannot escape, but the moment the gaze is withdrawn, he vanishes.
A leprechaun counts his gold, in this engraving circa 1900.There are a number of possible etymologies of the name "leprechaun". One of the most widely accepted theories is that the name comes from the Irish word leipreachán, defined by Dinneen as "a pigmy, a sprite, a leprechaun; for luchorpán"; the latter word Dinneen defines as "a pigmy, a leprechaun; 'a kind of aqueous sprite'"; this word has also been identified as meaning "half-bodied", or "small-bodied"
The word which is widely believed to be the root and one of the ones quoted by the Oxford English Dictionary is luchorpán. An alternative derivation for the name and another one quoted by the Oxford English Dictionary, is leath bhrógan, meaning shoe-maker — the leprechaun is known as the fairy shoemaker of Ireland and is often portrayed working on a single shoe. Another derivation has the word "leprechaun" deriving from luch-chromain, meaning "little stooping Lugh", Lugh being the name of a leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Some alternative spellings of the word leprechaun that have been used throughout the ages are; leprechawn, lepracaun and lubberkin. The word leprehaun has also been used.
Leprechauns rarely appear in what would be classed as a folk tale; in almost all cases the interest of these stories centres round a human hero. Stories about leprechauns are generally very brief and generally have local names and scenery attached to them. The tales are usually told conversationally as any other occurrence might be told, whereas there is a certain solemnity about the repetition of a folk-tale proper.
In most tales and stories leprechauns are depicted as generally harmless creatures who enjoy solitude and live in remote locations, although opinion is divided as to if they ever enjoy the company of other spirits. Although rarely seen in social situations, leprechauns are supposedly very well spoken and, if ever spoken to, could make good conversation.
Among the most popular of beliefs about leprechauns is that they are extremely wealthy and like to hide their gold in secret locations, which can only be revealed if a person were to actually capture and interrogate a leprechaun for its money.
By nature, leprechauns are said to be ill-natured and mischievous, with a mind for cunning. Many tales present the leprechaun as outwitting a human, as in the following examples:
A farmer or young lad captures a leprechaun and forces him to reveal the location of his buried treasure. The leprechaun assures him that the treasure is buried in an open field beneath a particular ragwort plant. The farmer ties a red ribbon to the plant, first extracting a promise from the leprechaun not to remove the ribbon. Releasing the leprechaun, he leaves to get a shovel. Upon his return he finds that every weed in the field has been tied with an identical red ribbon, thus making it impossible to find the treasure
In another story, a young girl finds a leprechaun and bids him show her the location of his buried money. She takes him up in her hand and sets out to find the treasure, but all of a sudden she hears a loud buzzing behind her. The leprechaun shouts at her that she is being chased by a swarm of bees, but when she looks around there are no bees and the leprechaun has vanished
In other stories they are told of riding shepherds' dogs through the night, leaving the dogs exhausted and dirty in the morning. It is said that at the end of a rainbow, you may find a leprechaun and his treasured pot of gold.
The leprechaun originally had a different appearance depending on where in Ireland he was found. Prior to the 20th century, it was generally agreed that the leprechaun wore red and not green. Samuel Lover, writing in the 1831 describes the leprechaun as,
... quite a beau in his dress, notwithstanding, for he wears a red square-cut coat, richly laced with gold, and inexpressible of the same, cocked hat, shoes and buckles.
Yeats, in his 1888 book entitled Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry describes the leprechaun as follows:
He is something of a dandy, and dresses in a red coat with seven rows of buttons, seven buttons on each row, and wears a cocked-hat, upon whose pointed end he is wont in the north-eastern counties, according to McAnally, to spin like a top when the fit seizes him.
In a poem entitled The Lepracaun; or, Fairy Shoemaker, the 18th century Irish poet William Allingham describes the appearance of the leprechaun as:
A cluricaun with a jug of wine. The cluricaun is often confused with the leprechaun....A wrinkled, wizen'd, and bearded Elf,
Spectacles stuck on his pointed nose,
Silver buckles to his hose,
Leather apron - shoe in his lap...
Some commentators accuse Allingham of leaving the legacy of the modern image of the leprechaun described below.
The modern image of the leprechaun is almost invariant: he is depicted wearing an emerald green frock coat, and bestowed with the knowledge of the location of buried treasure, often in a crock of gold.
The leprechaun is related to the clurichaun and the far darrig in that he is a solitary creature. Some writers even go as far as to substitute these second two less well-known spirits for the leprechaun in stories or tales to reach a wider audience. The clurichaun is considered by some to be merely a leprechaun on a spree
Contributions to this page are more than welcome - please send us your inclusions for approval.
You may copy this article and place it on your own website, as long as you do not change it and include this resource box including the live link to Walkaboutcrafts.com Copyright © Walkabout Crafts
would like to make a donation towards the upkeep of this web site then
that would be greatly appreciated. Please click below to make a donation.
Spread the Word...
We are a non funded, non profit organisation and we need your help. To help us promote 'Walkabout Crafts'; Please recommend us to your friends or if you have a web site / social network page please add our link (selection of banner and text links can be found at http://www.walkaboutcrafts.com/banners.htm ), or if your feeling really generous please send a donation.
If you have suggestions of how we can improve our service, please let us know. We love to hear from you!
Find the perfect gift; Exquisite hand made gifts, art, crafts and souvenirs...
Sell Crafts online, Craft Courses, Events, Projects and business advice...
Colouring pages, recipes, Celtic fonts, music, competitions, downloads...
Explore the culture, Experience the local cuisine, language, music...
. . . .
Walkabout Crafts is a non funded, non profit web site. 100% of all sales go directly to the members. Please support us by telling your friends about us - thank you. Copyright © Walkabout Crafts All rights reserved. Telephone: +44 (0) 773 328 4443