Leprechaun
Overview
 
A leprechaun is a type of fairy
Fairy
A fairy is a type of mythical being or legendary creature, a form of spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernatural or preternatural.Fairies resemble various beings of other mythologies, though even folklore that uses the term...

 in Irish folklore
Irish mythology
The mythology of pre-Christian Ireland did not entirely survive the conversion to Christianity, but much of it was preserved, shorn of its religious meanings, in medieval Irish literature, which represents the most extensive and best preserved of all the branch and the Historical Cycle. There are...

, usually taking the form of an old man, clad in a red or green coat, who enjoys partaking in mischief. Like other fairy creatures, leprechauns have been linked to the Tuatha Dé Danann
Tuatha Dé Danann
The Tuatha Dé Danann are a race of people in Irish mythology. In the invasions tradition which begins with the Lebor Gabála Érenn, they are the fifth group to settle Ireland, conquering the island from the Fir Bolg....

 of Irish mythology. The Leprechauns spend all their time busily making shoes, and store away all their coins in a hidden pot of gold
Pot of Gold
"Pot of Gold" is the fifth and final single from Sengalese singer/songwriter Akon's debut studio album, Trouble. Released as a European only single, the song failed to chart significantly anywhere, peaking at #77 in the United Kingdom and at #95 in Germany. The single was not released in the United...

 at the end of the rainbow
Rainbow
A rainbow is an optical and meteorological phenomenon that causes a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the Sun shines on to droplets of moisture in the Earth's atmosphere. It takes the form of a multicoloured arc...

. If ever captured by a human, the Leprechaun has the magical power to grant three wishes in exchange for their release.
Encyclopedia
A leprechaun is a type of fairy
Fairy
A fairy is a type of mythical being or legendary creature, a form of spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernatural or preternatural.Fairies resemble various beings of other mythologies, though even folklore that uses the term...

 in Irish folklore
Irish mythology
The mythology of pre-Christian Ireland did not entirely survive the conversion to Christianity, but much of it was preserved, shorn of its religious meanings, in medieval Irish literature, which represents the most extensive and best preserved of all the branch and the Historical Cycle. There are...

, usually taking the form of an old man, clad in a red or green coat, who enjoys partaking in mischief. Like other fairy creatures, leprechauns have been linked to the Tuatha Dé Danann
Tuatha Dé Danann
The Tuatha Dé Danann are a race of people in Irish mythology. In the invasions tradition which begins with the Lebor Gabála Érenn, they are the fifth group to settle Ireland, conquering the island from the Fir Bolg....

 of Irish mythology. The Leprechauns spend all their time busily making shoes, and store away all their coins in a hidden pot of gold
Pot of Gold
"Pot of Gold" is the fifth and final single from Sengalese singer/songwriter Akon's debut studio album, Trouble. Released as a European only single, the song failed to chart significantly anywhere, peaking at #77 in the United Kingdom and at #95 in Germany. The single was not released in the United...

 at the end of the rainbow
Rainbow
A rainbow is an optical and meteorological phenomenon that causes a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the Sun shines on to droplets of moisture in the Earth's atmosphere. It takes the form of a multicoloured arc...

. If ever captured by a human, the Leprechaun has the magical power to grant three wishes in exchange for their release. Popular depiction shows the Leprechaun as being no taller than a small child, with a beard and hat, although they may originally have been perceived as the tallest of the mound-dwellers (the Tuatha Dé Danann).

Etymology

The name leprechaun is derived from the Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 word , defined by Patrick Dinneen
Patrick S. Dinneen
Patrick Stephen Dinneen was an Irish lexicographer and historian.Dinneen was born near Rathmore, County Kerry. He was educated at Shrone and Meentogues National Schools and at St. Brendan's College in Killarney...

 as "a pigmy, a sprite, or leprechaun". The further derivation is less certain; according to most sources, the word is thought to be a corruption of Middle Irish luchrupán, from the Old Irish , a compound of the roots lú (small) and corp (body). The root corp, which was borrowed from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 corpus, attests to the early influence of Ecclesiastical Latin
Ecclesiastical Latin
Ecclesiastical Latin is the Latin used by the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church in all periods for ecclesiastical purposes...

 on the Irish language. The alternative spelling leithbrágan stems from a folk etymology deriving the word from leith (half) and bróg (brogue), because of the frequent portrayal of the leprechaun as working on a single shoe.

Alternative spellings in English have included lubrican, leprehaun, and lepreehawn. Some modern Irish books use the spelling lioprachán. The first recorded instance of the word in the English language was in Dekker's comedy The Honest Whore, Part 2
The Honest Whore
The Honest Whore is an early Jacobean city comedy, written in two parts; Part 1 is a collaboration between Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton, while Part 2 is the work of Dekker alone...

(1604): "As for your Irish lubrican, that spirit / Whom by preposterous charms thy lust hath rais'd / In a wrong circle."

Folklore

The earliest known reference to the leprechaun appears in the medieval tale known as the Echtra Fergus mac Léti
Fergus mac Léti
Fergus mac Léti was, according to Irish legend and traditional history, a king of Ulster...

(Adventure of Fergus son of Léti). The text contains an episode in which Fergus mac Léti
Fergus mac Léti
Fergus mac Léti was, according to Irish legend and traditional history, a king of Ulster...

, King of Ulster
Ulster
Ulster is one of the four provinces of Ireland, located in the north of the island. In ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial...

, falls asleep on the beach and wakes to find himself being dragged into the sea by three lúchorpáin. He captures his abductors, who grant him three wishes in exchange for release.

The leprechaun is said to be a solitary creature, whose principal occupation is making and mending shoes, and who enjoys practical jokes. According to William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

, the great wealth of these fairies comes from the "treasure-crocks, buried of old in war-time", which they have uncovered and appropriated. According to McAnally the leprechaun is the son of an "evil spirit" and a "degenerate fairy" and is "not wholly good nor wholly evil".

Appearance

The leprechaun originally had a different appearance depending on where in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 he was found. Prior to the 20th century, it was generally held that the leprechaun wore red, not green. Samuel Lover
Samuel Lover
Samuel Lover was an Anglo-Irish songwriter, novelist, as well as a painter of portraits, chiefly miniatures. He was the grandfather of Victor Herbert....

, writing in 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.


According to Yeats
Yeats
W. B. Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright.Yeats may also refer to:* Yeats ,* Yeats , an impact crater on Mercury* Yeats , an Irish thoroughbred racehorse-See also:...

, the solitary fairies, like the leprechaun, wear red jackets, whereas the "trooping fairies" wear green. The leprechaun's jacket has seven rows of buttons with seven buttons to each row. On the western coast, he writes, the red jacket is covered by a frieze one, and in Ulster the creature wears a cocked hat, and when he is up to anything unusually mischievous, he leaps on to a wall and spins, balancing himself on the point of the hat with his heels in the air."

According to McAnally,
"He is about three feet high, and is dressed in a little red jacket or roundabout, with red breeches buckled at the knee, gray or black stockings, and a hat, cocked in the style of a century ago, over a little, old, withered face. Round his neck is an Elizabethan ruff, and frills of lace are at his wrists. On the wild west coast, where the Atlantic winds bring almost constant rains, he dispenses with ruff and frills and wears a frieze overcoat over his pretty red suit, so that, unless on the lookout for the cocked hat, ye might pass a Leprechawn on the road and never know it's himself that's in it at all."


This dress could vary by region, however. In McAnally's account there were differences between leprechauns or Logherymans from different regions:
  • The Northern Leprechaun or Logheryman wore a "military red coat and white breeches, with a broad-brimmed, high, pointed hat, on which he would sometimes stand upside down".
  • The Lurigadawne of Tipperary wore an "antique slashed jacket of red, with peaks all round and a jockey cap, also sporting a sword, which he uses as a magic wand".
  • The Luricawne of Kerry was a "fat, pursy little fellow whose jolly round face rivals in redness the cut-a-way jacket he wears, that always has seven rows of seven buttons in each row".
  • The Cluricawne of Monaghan wore "a swallow-tailed evening coat of red with green vest, white breeches, black stockings," shiny shoes, and a "long cone hat without a brim," sometimes used as a weapon.


In a poem entitled The Lepracaun; or, Fairy Shoemaker, 19th century Irish poet William Allingham
William Allingham
William Allingham was an Irish man of letters and a poet.-Biography:He was born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Ireland and was the son of the manager of a local bank who was of English descent...

 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...


The modern image of the leprechaun sitting on a toadstool, red beard, green hat, etc., are clearly inventions or borrowed from European folklore.

Origins

Some folk traditions hold that the leprechauns are descended from the Tuatha de Danann. When the Milesians came to Ireland (according to the Book of Invasions
Lebor Gabála Érenn
Lebor Gabála Érenn is the Middle Irish title of a loose collection of poems and prose narratives recounting the mythical origins and history of the Irish from the creation of the world down to the Middle Ages...

) they conquered the Tuatha de Danann and forced them to live under ground (this connects them to the aes-sidhe
Aos Sí
The aos sí are a supernatural race in Irish mythology and Scottish mythology are comparable to the fairies or elves. They are said to live underground in the fairy mounds, across the western sea, or in an invisible world that coexists with the world of humans...

).

When Christianity took religious precedence, the importance (and thus, the size) of the leprechauns decreased.

Related creatures

The leprechaun is related to the clurichaun
Clurichaun
The clurichaun , or clobhair in O'Kearney, is an Irish fairy which resembles the leprechaun. Some folklorists describe the clurichaun as a night "form" of the leprechaun, who goes out to drink after finishing his daily chores. Others regard them as regional variations on the same...

and the far darrig
Far darrig
A far darrig or fear dearg is a faerie of Irish mythology. The name far darrig is an Anglophone pronunciation of the Irish words fear dearg, meaning Red Man, as the far darrig is said to wear a red coat and cap...

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 drinking spree.

In politics

In the politics of the Republic of Ireland
Politics of the Republic of Ireland
Ireland is a parliamentary, representative democratic republic and a member state of the European Union. While the head of state is the popularly elected President of Ireland, this is a largely ceremonial position with real political power being vested in the indirectly elected Taoiseach who is...

, leprechauns have been used to refer to the twee aspects of the tourist industry in Ireland. This can be seen from this example of John A. Costello
John A. Costello
John Aloysius Costello , a successful barrister, was one of the main legal advisors to the government of the Irish Free State after independence, Attorney General of Ireland from 1926–1932 and Taoiseach from 1948–1951 and 1954–1957....

 addressing the Oireachtas
Oireachtas
The Oireachtas , sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the "national parliament" or legislature of Ireland. The Oireachtas consists of:*The President of Ireland*The two Houses of the Oireachtas :**Dáil Éireann...

 in 1963: "For many years, we were afflicted with the miserable trivialities of our tourist advertising. Sometimes it descended to the lowest depths, to the caubeen
Caubeen
The caubeen is an Irish beret. It was formerly worn by peasants; however, it has since been adopted as the headdress of the Irish regiments of the British and Commonwealth armies, where its formal name is the "Bonnet, Irish, Green".-Name:...

 and the shillelagh, not to speak of the leprechaun.

Popular culture

‎Films, television cartoons and advertising have popularised a specific image of leprechauns which bears scant resemblance to anything found in the cycles of Irish folklore. Irish people can find the popularised image of a leprechaun to be little more than a series of Irish stereotype
Stereotype
A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice" are often confused with many other different meanings...

s.

See also

  • Crichton Leprechaun
    Crichton Leprechaun
    The Crichton Leprechaun is a leprechaun purported to have been sighted in March 2006 by the residents of the Crichton neighborhood in Mobile, Alabama...

  • Dvorovoi
    Dvorovoi
    The Dvorovoi is a Slavic spirit of the courtyard. It was associated with a farmstead's grounds, cattle shed, and stable. The dvorovoi is similar to the house spirit domovoi, though it was less benevolent. A dvorovoi was considered more dangerous than a domovoi as it could pose a threat to...

  • Ethereal being
    Ethereal being
    Ethereal beings, according to some belief systems and occult theories, are mystic entities that usually are not made of ordinary matter. Despite the fact that they are believed to be essentially incorporeal, they do interact in physical shapes with the material universe and travel between the...

  • Irish mythology in popular culture
    Irish mythology in popular culture
    - Badb :*Badb, along with Nemain, and Macha, appear as the Morrigan in Christopher Moore's book A Dirty Job.*Badb, Morrigan, Macha and Nemain are mentioned by Conan the Barbarian in Robert E...

  • Nat (spirit)
    Nat (spirit)
    The nats are spirits worshipped in Burma in conjunction with Buddhism. They are divided between the 37 Great Nats and all the rest . Almost all of the 37 Great Nats were human beings who met violent deaths . They may thus also be called nat sein...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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