The history and origin of leprechauns and the Irish
There are plenty of legends, myths, and folklores that permeate our culture and become linked with a certain nation or community. For example, leprechauns are symbolically linked with Ireland and have been for a good many years. The reasons for this link are complex, and we need to look back through history to find them out. Leprechauns are similar to fairies in Irish folklore, except they are not the fairies we know and love today.
Like a lot of semi-supernatural beings, leprechauns are known for being mischievous, nasty creatures who could curse people or use their magic to harm humans. Of course, we know leprechauns aren’t real, and neither is the pot of gold that folklore always has them guarding. So, how and why has it come to pass that they are such a huge part of Irish culture? We look back at the history and origins of the leprechaun myth.
One of the most common tales attributed to the leprechaun myth is that they can be traced back to 8th-century tales of water sprites know as luchorpan – meaning small body. The myth goes that they merged with regular fairies, and developed a penchant for drinking. Yet another myth suggests that the name comes from the Irish term ‘leath brogan’ which means shoemaker. Some tales even suggest that leprechauns were once elves who worked with Santa before finding their way to the Emerald Isle!
Leprechauns have a lot of associations in Irish culture and folklore and are considered to be nefarious and mischievous. Among the main associations with leprechauns is the idea of wealth and fortune. And, there are many tales about them guarding pots of gold and huge amounts of wealth. This is curious because in folklore their jobs were considered to be shoemakers, which isn’t exactly a profession one associates with wealth! According to legend, it is possible to capture a leprechaun, and he will then grant you three wishes to secure his release. What would you choose?!
Leprechauns have also developed a reputation for being untrustworthy tricksters who cause havoc and chaos wherever they roam. They are thought to be deceptive, and their trickery has been immortalised in pop culture. In fact, William Allingham even wrote a poem about them entitled The Leprechaun; Or, Fairy Shoemaker. Leprechauns have even made their way into books and movies, where they are almost always seen as tricksters. They are also synonymous with St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Ireland. Also, despite how popular culture depicts them, leprechauns are actually thought to have traditionally worn red, not green.
It’s clear that leprechauns play a huge role in Irish culture and folklore, and their myth continues to endure today. They have become a beloved figure of legend, and a symbol of the promise of wealth and fortune. Though there is no proof to support the existence of leprechauns, they are still a frequent staple in Ireland, and we love telling tales about them!