mythology 7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Leprechauns  

Kristen Baker
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In honor of St. Patrick's day, here's a list of 7 things any Irish-respecting person should know about leprechauns, their legends, and why the Irish know we're all wrong about them. Despite the movie of the same name, leprechauns are known mostly for bringing good luck and prosperity to those who run into them. Everyone loves the romantic notion of seeing the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

What are some things you probably don't know about leprechauns? Take a look at this list and hopefully you'll learn a thing or two about these little fellas that you may not have known before. Then go have a Guinness, in honor of the Irish.

The Irish Find Them Offensive And It Is Probably Disney's Fault

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Although we love leprechauns in America and quite often feature them in commercials, cartoons, horror movies and breakfast cereals, the Irish find them to be brute, bastardized versions of a Celtic legend ruined (like a lot of old, amazing stories) by Walt Disney.

A film called Darby O'Gill and The Little People received great critical reception after Walt Disney had the idea following a trip to Ireland, and it was seen as a great fantasy of Gaelic tall stories (pun intended).

Unfortunately, it reinvented the leprechaun and actually changed its colors in popular culture forever (see item 5 on this list). This movie has been attributed to part of what has forever connected the leprechaun to St. Patrick's Day, even though the creatures had absolutely nothing to do with the patron saint of Ireland or his esteemed day.

It's kind of like if they made Satan, or some random demon, part of Christmas just because they're part of Christian lore. Although fans of anagrams will say that it has happened.

Speed up to the 01:55 mark for a singing, Disney-fied, really young Sean Connery... you're welcome, ladies.

They Are Trickster Deities

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Arguably the most popular trickster deity in popular culture, the leprechaun rivals Norse trickster Loki in its mischief.

The first recorded reference to leprechauns appears in a medieval tale called The Adventure of Fergus, Son of Leti. In one of the stories, Fergus mac Leti, a King, ends up passing out on a beach and wakes up to find himself being dragged to sea by three "luchorpain". He then subdues his captors and they grant him three wishes in exchange for their freedom.

Its entire existence is a cruel joke on humanity. A leprechaun's pot of gold is held at the end of a rainbow, a place that's literally impossible to reach because a rainbow is an optical effect that moves farther away the closer you get to it.

Since they are mythical descendants of gods that were fabled to have inhabited Ireland in a Pre-Christian period, they, along with their cousins the Clurichauns (see number 4 below), are the closest that Irish mythology comes to a trickster deity (in Christianity, it would be compared to a kind of demon).

They Are The Remnants of Awesome Super Powered Gods

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The Tuatha Dé Danann are a race of Pre-Christian gods who, in later Christian periods, were revered as mortal kings and heroes. They hailed from the 4 northern ancient cities of Falias, Finias, Gorias and Murias, which is where they got their awesome superpowers.

They could accomplish awesome feats, like replacing severed arms with working, silver-plated arms (take THAT Star Wars and X-Men) and poison people with their eyes.

But when they ran into the Milesians (read: peaceful enemies), they tried to drown them because the Milesians were closing in on their turf. This didn't work, and the awesome, superpowered Tuatha Dé Danann were finally defeated.

After their defeat, the Milesians were supposed to divide the land between themselves and the awesome former-superheroes. So what they did, cleverly, was keep the above-ground part of the land and gave the Tuatha Dé Danann the underground.

Over time, leprechauns were seen popping up from secret, magical entrances to the underground world all over Ireland, said to be remnant ancestors of the Tuatha Dé Danann.

Leprechauns can, therefore, pop in and out of these magical entrances in the blink of an eye, and are said to be seen mostly at night... which might explain why the community in this classic viral video in Mobile, Alabama says that their local nocturnal leprechaun disappears when you shine a light on it.

They're just that quick.

Speaking of nocturnal...
They Are The COOLER Of Two Sma... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Leprechauns
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They Are The COOLER Of Two Small Irish Mythical Creatures

You know that friend you have that you hang out with all the time, but never bring to parties because he/she always gets a little too drunk and embarrasses you?

That's what the Clurichaun is to the leprechaun.

The Clurichaun, often considered the leprechaun's "cousin" and even confused with the leprechaun himself, is an Irish fairy who is said to be an alcoholic who finishes his daily work and then goes out and gets OBLITERATED on a nightly basis.

He's a nocturnal creature who is supposedly always drunk and often rides sheep and dogs for sport.

If you treat a Clurichaun with the respect and courtesy he doesn't deserve, he will protect your wine cellar. If you don't, he'll royally screw up your wine and generally wreak havoc and chaos on your home and loved ones.

They Used To Look Like Santa!

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Originally, the leprechaun wore colors of red, not green. Another reason that the American/World/Breakfast Cereal view of leprechauns is so offensive to some traditional and purist Irish people.

Up until the early 20th century the leprechaun looked like a little more like a Santa Claus Mini-Me, wearing a "red square-cut coat, richly laced with gold [and a] crooked hat, shoes and buckles" (Samuel Lover, 1831)

According to Irish literary figure Yeats, there were two kinds of leprechauns. The ones you usually saw hanging out alone wore red and the ones who hung out in troops wore green.

So, either way, unless Lucky here has a huge family or posse that these children keep kidnapping him from (and stealing food from the mouths of), he should be wearing red.

They Are Talented Musicians

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Leprechauns have flutes. Obviously. They are also skilled in other musical instruments because of their lineage. According to scholars (and a life321 article we read):

The Fenian Cycle, "a legendary Irish poem that depicts Ireland’s past, has a verse in which a harp-playing dwarf named Cnu Deireoil claimed that Lugh the Long-Armed Warrior [A member of the Tuatha Dé Danann] was his father."

This has made some people believe, since they are so small in stature, that leprechauns are direct descendants of the musical dwarf Cnu Deireoil. "Dancing Leprechauns" play mostly Irish instruments like the tin whistle and the Irish harp.

Now, watch this girl play the tin whistle (you're welcome, fellas).
Dateline NBC How To Catch A Le... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Leprechauns
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Dateline NBC How To Catch A Leprechaun

Leprechauns are skilled shoemakers, tinkerers and artisans. It is often good luck if they are around because you will notice your appliances start working better. A leprechaun can fix anything and is a general sign of good luck in the household.

So how do you get all his money and cease his happiness/existence?

Stare him in the eye. A leprechaun's one weakness is the steady, unmoving stare of a human. If you were to catch him with his pot of gold in-hand he would freeze. If you're able to make eye contact with him (it is very difficult to make eye contact with a leprechaun since they are always dancing, playing music or pulling practical jokes), and approach him for long enough to grab him (while not removing your gaze in the LEAST), you would have a leprechaun.

The gold would then be yours and he would no longer be able to spend his gold on new buckles, jackets, and whistles, because in this economy, who really has disposable income for that silly stuff?