In Irish mythology, a leprechaun (Modern Irish: leipreachán) is a type of male faerie said to inhabit the island of Ireland before the arrival of the Celts. 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.
Aka : The Gentry, Monaciello, Fir Darrig, Cluricaune, Logherima,
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 Gaelic 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".
An alternative derivation for the name, and the one quoted by the Oxford English Dictionary, is leath bhrógan, "Leith bhroyan" or "Leith phroyan" meaning shoe-maker — the leprechaun is known as the fairy shoemaker of Ireland and is often portrayed working on a single shoe. Originally coined by Thomas Keightley in The Fairy Mythology (1850)
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.
The word leprechaun was first recorded used in the English language in 1604 in Thomas Middleton and Dekker's The Honest Whore as lubrican. The original meaning was of some kind of spirit and not specifically associated with the Irish mythological character.
"As for your Irish Lubrican, that spirit Whom by preposterous charms thy lust has raised."
The cluricaun is often confused with the leprechaun. 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 cluricaun is considered by some to be merely a leprechaun on a spree.
Solitary dwarf male faery wearing an emerald green frock coat and green tri-cornered hats and bestowed with the knowledge of the location of buried treasure, often in a crock of gold. Infamous hoarders, they are loathe to spend a single penny, which probably explains their poor appearance in spite of their great wealth.
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, waistcoat 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 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.
Music, dancing, fox hunting, and drinking Irish whiskey are said to be the Leprechauns' favorite pastimes. Once a leprachaun begins dancing to a human's song, it is said that he cannot stop until the tune ceases. His exhausted state may cause him to make outlandish offers, including his crock of gold, if you will please only allow him to stop dancing. Other means of finding his gold include looking at the end of a rainbow, which may lead him offer 3 wishes in exchange for his treasure. His promises of gold alway proves hollow, as the Leprechaun always employs clever tricks in his granting of wishes, often resulting in the embarrassment or injury to the one who expected a bounteous reward.
According to legend, If caught by a mortal, he will promise great wealth if allowed to go free. He carries two leather pouches. In one there is a silver shilling, a magical coin that returns to the purse each time it is paid out. In the other he carries a gold coin which he uses to try and bribe his way out of difficult situations. This coin usually turns to leaves or ashes once the leprechaun has parted with it. However, you must never take your eye off him, for he can vanish in an instant.
According to legend, if anyone keeps an eye fixed upon one, he cannot escape, but the moment the eye is withdrawn he vanishes.
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 are also said to dwell at springs in wild areas with large grassy hills, sometimes in cellars.
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. Although rarely seen in social situations, leprechauns are supposedly very well spoken and, if ever spoken to, could make good conversation.
They usually take the form of old men who enjoy partaking in mischief. Their trade is that of a cobbler or shoemaker but their clientele is limited to the faery world and they only work on one shoe. They are said to be very rich, having many treasure crocks buried during war-time.
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.
Examples of tales involving leprechauns
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.
The Field of Boliauns
NE fine day in harvest--it was indeed Lady-day in harvest, that everybody knows to be one of the greatest holidays in the year--Tom Fitzpatrick was taking a ramble through the ground, and went along the sunny side of a hedge; when all of a sudden he heard a clacking sort of noise a little before him in the hedge.
"Dear me," said Tom, "but isn't it surprising to hear the stonechatters singing so late in the season?" So Tom stole on, going on the tops of his toes to try if he could get a sight of what was making the noise, to see if he was right in his guess. The noise stopped; but as Tom looked sharply through the bushes, what should he see in a nook of the hedge but a brown pitcher, that might hold about a gallon and a half of liquor; and by-and-by a little wee teeny tiny bit of an old man, with a little motty of a cocked hat stuck upon the top of his head, a deeshy daushy leather apron hanging before him, pulled out a little wooden stool, and stood up upon it, and dipped a little piggin into the pitcher, and took out the full of it, and put it beside the stool, and then sat down under the pitcher, and began to work at putting a heel-piece on a bit of a brogue just fit for himself.
"Well, by the powers," said Tom to himself, "I often heard tell of the Lepracauns, and, to tell God's truth, I never rightly believed in them--but here's one of them in real earnest. If I go knowingly to work, I'm a made man. They say a body must never take their eyes off them, or they'll escape.Tom now stole on a little further, with his eye fixed on the little man just as a cat does with a mouse. So when he got up quite close to him, "God bless your work, neighbour," said Tom.The little man raised up his head, and "Thank you kindly," said he.
"I wonder you'd be working on the holiday!" said Tom.
"That's my own business, not yours," was the reply.
"Well, may be you'd be civil enough to tell us what you've got in the pitcher there?" said Tom.
"That I will, with pleasure, said he; it's good beer."
"Beer!" said Tom. "Thunder and fire! where did you get it?"
"Where did I get it, is it? Why, I made it. And what do you think I made it of?"
"Devil a one of me knows, said Tom; but of malt, I suppose, what else?"
"There you're out. I made it of heath."
"Of heath!" said Tom, bursting out laughing; "sure you don't think me to be such a fool as to believe that?"
"Do as you please," said he, "but what I tell you is the truth. Did you never hear tell of the Danes."
"Well, what about them?" said Tom.
"Why, all the about them there is, is that when they were here they taught us to make beer out of the heath, and the secret's in my family ever since."
"Will you give a body a taste of your beer?" said Tom.
"I'll tell you what it is, young man, it would be fitter for you to be looking after your father's property than to be bothering decent quiet people with your foolish questions. There now, while you're idling away your time here, there's the cows have broke into the oats, and are knocking the corn all about."
Tom was taken so by surprise with this that he was just on the very point of turning round when he recollected himself; so, afraid that the like might happen again, he made a grab at the Lepracaun, and caught him up in his hand; but in his hurry he overset the pitcher, and spilt all the beer, so that he could not get a taste of it to tell what sort it was. He then swore that he would kill him if he did not show him where his money was. Tom looked so wicked and so bloody-minded that the little man was quite frightened; so says he, "Come along with me a couple of fields off, and I'll show you a crock of gold."
So they went, and Tom held the Lepracaun fast in his hand, and never took his eyes from off him, though they had to cross hedges and ditches, and a crooked bit of bog, till at last they came to a great field all full of boliauns, and the Lepracaun pointed to a big boliaun, and says he, "Dig under that boliaun, and you'll get the great crock all full of guineas."
Tom in his hurry had never thought of bringing a spade with him, so he made up his mind to run home and fetch one; and that he might know the place again he took off one of his red garters, and tied it round the boliaun.
Then he said to the Lepracaun, "Swear ye'll not take that garter away from that boliaun." And the Lepracaun swore right away not to touch it.
"I suppose," said the Lepracaun, very civilly, "you have no further occasion for me?"
"No," says Tom; "you may go away now, if you please, and God speed you, and may good luck attend you wherever you go."
"Well, good-bye to you, Tom Fitzpatrick," said the Lepracaun; "and much good may it do you when you get it."
So Tom ran for dear life, till he came home and got a spade, and then away with him, as hard as he could go, back to the field of boliauns; but when he got there, lo and behold! not a boliaun in the field but had a red garter, the very model of his own, tied about it; and as to digging up the whole field, that was all nonsense, for there were more than forty good Irish acres in it. So Tom came home again with his spade on his shoulder, a little cooler than he went, and many's the hearty curse he gave the Lepracaun every time he thought of the neat turn he had served him.
The three wishes
- I caught me a Leprechaun,
- and you know what that means!
- I got me three big wishes,
- and I wanted so many things.
- I wanted silver and I wanted gold,
- and riches beyong my place,
- And castles all in clover,
- and love a beautious face.
- "So what it be, your wish number one?"
- asked the Leprechaun all in green.
- "I wish I might have beauty,
- the most bewitching ever seen."
- "Done!" said the green little Leprechaun,
- with a wave of his hand.
- "And I wish," I said, "to have riches,
- the greatest in this land."
- With a flourish and a flutter they did appear,
- great beauty and my gold,
- And then I wished for a lover fair,
- all that my heart could hold.
- Bedazzled I was when I saw him there,
- my knight in armored bob.
- "Thank you, Leprechaun," I gushed with glee,
- "You've done a most splendid job."
- But the Leprechaun stood near me, seeming unanxious to leave.
- "I'm glad you know your mind, lass.
- So many waste wishes, you see."
- So enraptured I was with my bounty
- that I hardly noticed when
- That wee little, green little Leprechaun
- began chattering away again.
- "Tis a bonnie day, is it not, my lass?
- Don't you wish, lass, it would bid
- To stay like this all year long?"
- And I replied ... I did.
- The little Trickster laughed with mirth,
- and then my face did fall.
- "The rules be, lass, if a fourth wish you make,
- then you lose them all!"
"The Three Wishes" by Mark Shapiro
In 2006, there have been alleged sightings of the Crichton Leprechaun in a tree in the Crichton neighborhood of Mobile, Alabama, although according to one local man filmed for a news report on the alleged sightings, it is just a shadow. Supposedly the leprechaun only comes out at night and disappears if one shines a light on it. The local news story about the supposed sightings has circulated on the Internet as a subject of humor. Most recently, the Crichton Leprechaun has created a stir in the United States, although his garb is presently undetermined.
Art / Fiction
Movies, television cartoons and advertising have popularized a specific image of leprechauns which bears scant resemblance to anything found in the cycles of Irish mythology. Many Irish people find the popularised image of a leprechaun to be little more than a series of offensive Irish stereotypes and a trivialisation of Ireland's rich and ancient Irish culture
The stereotypical image of a leprechaun bedecked in green is particularly strong in the United States, where it is widely used for a variety of purposes, both commercial and non-commercial.
- Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer
- American Gods by Neil Gaiman
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
- The books of Herminie Templeton Kavanagh, on which Darby O'Gill and the Little People was based
Films / TV
- Darby O'Gill and the Little People
- Finian's Rainbow
- Treehouse of Horror XII, an episode of The Simpsons. At the bar, Moe suggests Homer use a leprechaun to get rid of a gypsy curse.
Homer: Leprechaun? Don't they live in Ireland?
Moe: Yeah, but they come over here in the wheel wells of Aer Lingus jets.
Carl: You know, I was hexed by a troll, and a leprechaun cured that right up.
Lenny: Hey, you know what's even better is Jesus. He's like six leprechauns.
Carl: Yeah, but a lot harder to catch. Go with a leprechaun.
-- "Treehouse of Horror XII"
- Kabouter Plop (Plop the Leprechaun)
- The Luck of the Irish (Disney Channel Original Movies)
- The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns
- Blarney Buddies, an episode of Johnny Bravo
- College University
- In Charmed, Leprechauns are recurring magical creatures who need help.
- In the WWE, Dave Finlay |Fit Finlay has a leprechaun named Dylan_Postl |Little Bastard that lives underneath the ring.
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force in episode 2 Escape from Leprechaupolis and episode 42 The Last One.
- The LeperKhanz an Irish/Reggae band from California
- former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore often dresses up as a leprechaun for promotional photo shots and when playing live
- a familiar which increases the amount of money received from killing an enemy in the online game Kingdom of Loathing
- a monster which steals gold when attacking in the game Nethack
- a unit that can give other units good luck (increased change to do double damage) in Heroes of Might and Magic IV
- They also can be found in Heroes of Might and Magic III and Heroes of Might and Magic V|V. They give gems or gold to whoever finds them.
- In the Green Lantern graphic novel Ganthet's Tale, a group of aliens related to the Guardians had made a home on Earth and had entered mythology as leprechauns.
- Clever Tom and the Leprechaun
- The Leprechaun in the Garden
- Thomas Crofton Croker (1862) Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland
- William Butler Yeats (1888) Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry — available online here
- McAnally D. R.(1900) The Leprechawn
- Samuel Lover|Lover, S. (1831) Legends and Stories of Ireland — available online here
- Douglas Hyde(1910) Beside The Fire — available online here
- Thomas Keightley (1870) The Fairy Mythology: Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries — available online here
- Jane Wilde (1887) Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland — available online here
- Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry.
- Dinneen, Patrick, Foclóir Gaedhilge agus Béarla, *Dublin: Irish Texts Society, 1927
- Hanks, Patrick, ed. Collins Dictionary of the English Language, London: William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, 1979
- Oxford English Dictionary (full ed.) (1989).