30.11.10

Leprechaun Myths and Legends

Article

The Leprechauns of Ireland are very contrary creatures. Sometimes a friend to humans, performing small helpful tasks, they can also become easily angered. They have been around since ancient times when Ireland was inhabited by fairy folk, before the Celts. Small in statue, they possess red hair, rosy cheeks, pointed ears, garments of green, and shoes with shiny buckles.

They are usually intoxicated and can handle surprising amounts of their favourite alcoholic drinks, such as Guinness and whiskey. They are cobblers who take great pride in their exquisite skill, and after their tasks are done they enjoy feasts and drinking, and become Clurauns. Clurauns are the havoc-causing aspect of the Leprechaun, raiding wine cellars and larders, and acquiring domestic animals to ride through the country.

Legend has it that a Leprechaun can grant three wishes to a mortal who captures it, and the mortal can then claim the Leprechauns treasure. However, once they are caught they somehow manage to trick the mortal to secure their release, and vanish, laughing merrily at their own deceit. Their good side is that they are grateful when a good deed is done, and will reward the deed with gold or wishes.

Leprechauns are known to steal or search for treasure, and hoard it for their entire lives. They always carry two coins. One is a silver shilling that is magically self-replenishing, returning to their purse once spent. The other is a dummy gold coin which is used to bribe their way out of situations, which turns to rock, leaves or ashes if given away. The crock of gold that they amass over their lifetime is traditionally believed to be at the end of the rainbow.

The earliest known reference to the Leprechaun is in the tale of ‘The Death of Fergus Mac Leite’, written around 1100 AD. In this story they are sea-creatures and their name is said to derive from the Irish word ‘preachan’, which when referring to a person meant ‘idle chatter’, or ‘up to no good’. It is also said that their roots go back to the Celtic god, Lugh, the great Sun god, with the name coming from ‘Luch-chromian’, meaning ‘little stooping Lugh’.

Over the years the traditional description of the Leprechaun has changed. He no longer holds the title of a miserly, grumpy fellow of legend. Instead he has become a lovable prankster, a merry little soul with a good heart, and a symbol of the ‘Luck of the Irish’.
He is used as a mascot, in jokes and riddles, and as a token of good fortune, with his crock of gold as a symbol of good luck. He has become the representation of Ireland.

© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.