Irish fairies: the evil leprechaun
Is he just a misunderstood cheeky chappie with a penchant for practical jokes?
And then there's another group who will set a lephrechaun trap to steal his pot of gold. Even the meekest little chap would turn into a spiteful evil leprechaun in the face of such harrassment.
Not only is there much disagreement about his character, there is not even a concensus about where his name comes from.
The folklore writer W B Yeats believed that it derived from 'leith broghan' meaning the shoemaker. This might explain why the leprechaun has often been seen mending a brogue (always just the one shoe never a pair!)
Others say the name comes from the Irish word 'luchorpan' meaning 'small bodied'.
Some basic facts about the leprechaun
Although the majority of leprechauns still live in the Emerald Isle, some hid themselves in the scant belongings of Irish emigrants and turned up in Australia and the USA.
Those that arrived in America have been rehabilitated over the last century or so, and the evil leprechaun has become a lot less cranky and more sociable.
It could be argued that he's become a lot more stupid in the process, having lost his sharp wit and inclination to mendacity.
Could be he also spends too much time in the pub these days. He's always been a bit keen on a drink, that's true, but while it's frothy beer in the States, his preference on this side of the pond remains whiskey or poteen, both of which he likes to brew up himself.
Types of leprechaun in Ireland
There are five 'clans' of leprechaun and they don't mix much. Which one you need to be on the lookout for depends on where you are in the island.
How to catch a leprechaun
I can't imagine any good, healthy or legal reason for wanting to catch a leprechaun. Why would it bring you luck to deny these little people their freedom?
They're a minority group, you know, and we shouldn't bully them. They are, in effect, an endangered species, and we should leave them in peace, even when their incessant tin-whistling is causing us a headache.
Of course, it's possible (indeed, probable) that if I tell you how to catch a leprechaun, word will get out and one or more of them will set up a cobbling workshop right outside my bedroom window and I'll never again enjoy another undisturbed night's sleep.
Either way, you'll not be learning how to set a leprechaun trap from me.
Irish fairy folk
In most cultures, fairies are sweet, good, beautiful creatures who grant unselfish wishes and cast spells to bring goodness and defeat badness.
Not so in Ireland.
Irish fairies are generally a pretty unattractive, nasty bunch. They are quick to anger, they drown humans, they steal babies (and eat them!), they spit on fruit and turn milk sour, and they play rotten tricks on the unsuspecting.
At one time, even the word 'fairy' was feared, in case it was overheard by one of the creatures and caused offence. Instead, a raft of alternative and more complimentary terms were used, such as The Little People, The Good People or The Gentry.
Among the most scary of the Irish fairies are the Sheerie who cause madness and confusion in humans, the headless Dullahan who rides a horse and shouts the name of a mortal who will die, and the capricious Pooka who are especially common at Halloween.
Compared with some of his pals from the Otherworld, the supposedly evil leprechaun is quite meek. Sure he might play a trick on you, or simply ignore you, but he's just as likely to be friendly, tell you a joke or even offer some top-rate advice about the state of your shoes. You just never can tell.
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