Leprechauns

 

Name: Leprechaun Leprecaun Leipreachán Luchorpán Luprachán Lochramán Loimreachán Loragádán Lubrican Luchragán Luchramán Luprecan Lúracán Lurgadán Lurikeen

 

 

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Leprechauns are the famed fairy creatures who own a crock of gold which they usually bury beneath the end of a rainbow, or some equally ephemeral and difficult to find spot.  They are shoe-makers by trade and are usually found out of doors in rural areas.  They are described as being no more than two feet tall.  It is said that if you can keep your gaze fixed on them long enough that they are compelled to lead you to their crock of gold.  Although they always manage to wrangle out of such compromising positions.  Even if you do succeed in gaining the crock of gold it usually turns to nothing more than dried up old leaves the following day.

Original Drawing by John D. Batten, colourised by Hilary Tully.

They are noted for their fondness for alcohol which is usually made from heather or gorse or other unusual herbs or cereals, the making of which is a lost art, to ordinary mortals.  They also have a great capacity to consume large amounts of ale and other intoxicating beverages.

The following is the account given by Lady Morgan of the Cluricaune or Leprechaun, in her novel of O'Dommell (Vol.11. p. 246.) 

"It would he extremely difficult," says her lady ship;  "to class this supernatural agent, who holds a distinguished place in the Irish fairies." 

His appearance, however, is supposed to be that of a shrivelled little old man, whose presence marks a spot where hidden treasures lie concealed, which were buried there in 'the troubles.' 

He is therefore generally seen in lone and dismal places, out of the common haunts of man and though the night wanderer may endeavour to mark the place where he beheld the guardian of the treasures perched, yet when he returns in the morning with proper
implements to turn up the earth, the thistle, stone, or branch he had placed as a mark is so
multiplied, that it is no longer a distinction and the disappointments occasioned by the malignity of the little Leprechaun render him a very unpopular fairy: his name is never applied but as a term of contempt."

The Gaelic word Préachán which forms part of the word Leprechaun means a Crow or a Rook; a noisy, chattering bird that caused distress to farmers.  Préachán when used to describe a person signified an idle chatterer up to no good.  The earliest reference to leprechauns is in the tale 'The Death of Fergus Mac Leite' composed about 1100 ad. which refers to diminutive sea-beings, and this tale it was supposed gave Swift his inspiration for his novel 'Gulliver's Travels'.

In the Irish tales of the Leprechaun he is unanimously perceived as sly and malicious and definitely not to be trusted by a mortal.  The 'Hollywood' notion of the good-tempered innocuous 'wee-man' as portrayed in films such as 'Darby O' Gill and the Little People' is NOT how the Leprechaun is perceived traditionally.

Other related solitary fairies are the Cluricaune and the Fir Darrig who have similarities to the Leprechaun.

Further Reading: MacKillop, James - Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, Oxford 1998.

O'Hanlon, rev. John (Lageniensis), Irish Folklore: Traditions and Superstitions of the country. first published 1870, republished E.P publishing Ltd., 1973.

Stories, Myths and Legends associated with Leprechauns

Echtra Fergusa maic Léti / The Adventure of Fergus son of Léte

The Leprechaun and Jack Fox

The Field of Boliauns

 

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