Of all Irish and Celtic symbols, shamrocks / four leaf clovers, pots of gold and rainbows, pints of Guinness – and leprechauns – top the list.
As St. Patrick’s Day rolls around for another year, we take a look at the legend behind leprechauns.
“Small Bodied Fellows”
The name given to these little folk comes from the meaning “small bodied fellow” from ancient Celtic folktales and mythology. The original image of leprechauns was that of a male faerie that inhabited Ireland, even before the arrival of Celts. It is said that an oral tradition that reached back hundreds of years told of leprechauns but it wasn’t until the 19th century that they were depicted in literature.
The Traditional Leprechaun
Tradition tells of leprechauns as tiny men and women faeries with magical powers. Later, leprechauns took the form of small old men who were often the cobblers or shoe makers for other faeries.
This form of leprechaun gained the reputation of being evil, cranky, thrifty and crafty. Later, he would develop into a generally good-natured, honest and harmless little faerie.
Hidden Treasure, Pots of Gold and Rainbows
A leprechaun is also known for having lots of hidden treasure. If you catch a leprechaun, it is said that you can ask him to take you to his treasure and he cannot lie about its whereabouts. However, since he’s a crafty little guy, he often finds loopholes and ways to avoid handing over his precious gold!
The Modern Leprechaun
In the mid 1900’s, there was a shift from the traditional forest-hiding leprechaun wearing red and gold, a hat and shoes with buckles – to today’s green-clad leprechaun often with a pot of gold and shamrock.
It was Walt Disney’s film, Darby O’Gill & the Little People that introduced this green-and-gold-clad version of the leprechaun. From this film, leprechauns were thereafter depicted as a friendly, cheerful little folk. Today, leprechauns are used as a symbol for Ireland’s culture and St. Patrick’s Day.
From us at tripatlas.com/new to you: Have a Happy and Safe St. Patrick’s Day
Ah, the drink of St. Patty’s, read our article: For The Love Of Guinness!
Find out about The Story of St. Patrick: Snakes On a Plain.