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. 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.
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Further Folk and Faerie Tales of Ireland
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James Mac Neill was as strapping a young fellow as you could hope to meet, and likely with it. Never did he walk away from a tussle or a drink, and never far from his hand was his shillelagh. He had no fears save the lacking of a pint, no cares except for who would pay for it, and not a thought in his head but how to have fun after it. One cold ... [more]
Maurice Mulreaney was well known for travelling about the countryside without fear of anything living or otherwise, as quick to cross a graveyard or fairy mound as you or I would be to cross the street, for he didn't believe in that which he couldn't see with his own two eyes or touch with his own two hands, and he didn't bother with ol ... [more]
It wasn't a bad life for Fergus O'Hara in Owenmore, for all that himself and his wife Rose had little, the little they had was enough for them. Some goats, pigs and poultry ranged far and wide about their few acres, and a field of oats and potatoes kept them busy for the harvest and brought in a few pennies. It so happened that there lay ... [more]
In many cultures those that used to be called insane held a special place of reverence, and were treated almost as envoys from another place, or as though they could see something nobody else could, or were dancing to music only they could hear and the rest of us were deaf to. From far-off India and China to more familiar shores people would doff t ... [more]
The children of De Danann once ruled the island of Ireland, before they departed back to their own lands in the farthest west or went below the earth in their fairy mounds to dance and sing forevermore, but if you're lucky – or unlucky! – you might still come across them in the wild places and those deep forests yet untouched. An ... [more]
Some of the Sidhe in times of old would take a fondness for one particular family, protecting it and helping it rise in the world, and so it was with the O'Briens, who were known as the Dál gCais, or the Dalcassians. Their fairy guardian was called Aoibhell, whose name means burning ardour or beauty, depending on who you ask. She had ... [more]
Irish legends from time immemorial have a great deal to say about the land of the fairies, the home of the Tuatha De Danann, or the world of the Sidhe. There are those who claim it lies beneath fairy mounds or on the other side of deep caves where Druids once held tryst and shared magical secrets, while other tales tell of heroes and adventurers, e ... [more]
While most people nowadays believe fairies to be gentle creatures, prone to mischief perhaps and capricious by their natures yet well intended for all that, in Ireland they have a more sinister reputation. Some say, and some still believe, that the fairies will take small children and young people, leaving in their place creatures known as changeli ... [more]
It's well known among those who know of such things that fairies love to dance more than anything else, and they take it ill should anything interfere with their merriment. And if someone wanted to spoil a dance, they could come up with few better ways of doing so than to send a herd of cattle wandering through! The hill atop Knockshegowna w ... [more]
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 ... [more]
After the Tuatha De Dannan were defeated in battle by the great race of Milesians, who held sway in Ireland long after, some of the Tuatha decided to leave and go elsewhere while some chose to stay in Ireland. Those that stayed agreed that they must live beneath the earth, and they were led by a great King in the west, Finnbhear son of Dagda, who i ... [more]
The Pooka or Puca is one of the most ancient fairy creatures of Ireland, and is known further abroad as well, called Puck or Pook. In some places he is feared and in others respected. He can take many shapes, most commonly that of a wild horse wrapped in chains with sulfurous or blazing crimson eyes - the night mare - a huge dog, a raging bull, a h ... [more]
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Some might wonder, who or what are the fairy folk? There are stories upon stories of them and their doings in many places, but most of all in Ireland, where it was said they lived longest and if they still walk the earth, where they can yet be found! The country folk claim they are fallen angels lacking the merit to stay in heaven while being kindl ... [more]