Emerald Isle

The Leprechaun

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales tales of Ireland

The Leprechaun, red capped and jolly

The cheerful Leprechaun is about as well known an emblem of Ireland as you could want, but what truth lies behind the stories? Well the truth is nobody really knows the truth, for leprechauns are are a cagey bunch at the best of times, not prone to gossip or holding forth on the important events of the day or the local hurling results, even after a few drops of whiskey.

Some say they wear green coats with red buckles, and others that they wear red coats with green buckles, but everyone agrees that their shoes are always of the finest leather and polished to a nicety, so much that you can see your reflection in them even on a moonless night. For the leprechaun is the the fairy cobbler, and they have great need of his services for they dance every day and all day.

The leprechaun is paid in fairy gold, although stories tell that they chased around after the Vikings when they were up to mischief as well, collecting dropped gold and hiding it in their treasure troves. And well they might chase the Dane, for the whole idea of the little man in the red is rooted in Scandinavian folklore rather than Irish.

They watch over any gold left laying about and are mighty slow to spend any of it!

And even when they do, beware, for a leprechaun's pockets hold two coins, one of silver and the other of gold. The silver one always returns to his pocket and the gold, well it turns to damp leaves and dust when the moon rises, even after they get their change.

For all that they have a reputation for being tight lipped, when they do speak their wit and wisdom are famed, although be sure not to allow the conversation to stray into matters of stature, for they have a tendency towards being on the diminutive side and sensitive with it. Indeed, their shoes are often high-heeled and they wear tall hats, the better to seem taller!

If you do happen to stop and chat with a leprechaun though, see if you can't catch a hold of him, for he might well lead you to where his treasure is buried, in exchange for his freedom. But never take your eyes off him for he'll be gone in a flash, up to trickery.

A man once caught a leprechaun and was led to a tree in a forest under which the leprechaun swore his treasure was buried, but having no shovel with him he took off his red coat and hung it there to mark the spot. Upon his return his mouth fell open, for every tree in the forest had a red coat hung on it!

Cousins to the leprechauns are the cluricauns, who live in cellars and attics. Not being of an industrious nature they tend to borrow or steal whatever they need, and if they can't find it they cause mayhem in the place they're living. They have been known to harness sheep, chickens and dogs and take them on wild rides throughout the countryside.

So should you hear a tapping hammer and a wee voice singing, keep a sharp eye out, for there may be a leprechaun about!

"Lay your ear close to the hill.
Do you not catch the tiny clamour,
Busy click of an elfin hammer,
Voice of the Leprechaun singing shrill
As he merrily plies his trade?"

Below can be found the National Leprechaun Museum of Ireland.

Further Folk and Faerie Tales of Ireland

If you'd like to leave a tip, just click here!

Archaeological information is licensed for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence from the National Monuments Service - Archaeological Survey of Ireland.

Note that this license DOES NOT EXTEND to folkloric, mythological and related information on the site. That data remains under full private copyright protection