The Legend of the Leprechaun:
While I’d have loved to quote my friend’s story verbatim, I wasn’t at this point of my life in the habit of carrying a voice recorder on me and was somewhat feeling the effects of all the beer, rendering me incapable of remembering this conversation word to word, so I’ll try and paint this picture for you with my own amateurish brush!
Imagine you’re an unassuming Irish peasant walking back home to your woman and wee-lad after a tough day in the fields; but you have to pass through a woody patch which isn’t exactly a big deal usually, but for once you hear the mild incessant hammering of iron from just beyond the foliage on your right. Curiosity gets the better of your apprehensions and you venture off your path to stumble upon the most amusing sight ever – a tiny little elven-man dressed in green from top to bottom working away at mending what looks like his own shoe! One look at this little red-haired man and you know he’s mischief-managed! If in line with this story, the leprechaun is indeed working on his own shoe, then you’d better have a worn out shoe or two to give him to mend – if not, I’d be very surprised to find out your life didn’t befall a series of misfortune!
Frequently described as being no taller than a human child, the leprechaun is a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann (people/tribe of the goddess Danu) of Irish mythology. The little green men are cobblers by occupation, frequently hired by the fairies. As described quite delightfully here by Hannah Logan, [Read: Traditional Irish Folklore Part 2: The Fairies] fairies love to dance, and oftentimes dance all night long, in the process ruining their lovely fairy shoes. In the abundance of fairy shoes to mend, the infamous leprechaun is a devoted worker, and will cobble away to glory! But you see, the leprechaun has but one weakness – his never-ending thirst for gold and…well gold! For every shoe mended, the leprechaun will charge a gold coin and rush away to the end of a rainbow to stash it away in his secret pot of treasure!
When fairy shoes become scarce to mend and the leprechaun lusts for more gold, he ventures into human lives. Knocking on oaken doors he goes, asking for shoes to mend in lieu of a gold coin! Lucky be you if you have a pair that requires mending at right about this moment – because if you don’t, you’ll find out exactly why the leprechauns are widely perceived as mischief-makers! You see the leprechauns do not know how to take no for an answer. Combine that with their goldy-lust and you know there’s trouble on the cards! They will…and I say this with certainty…WILL curse you and your household! Much of their fabled curses are directed at children – you might be left with a child that can not speak but backwards, a child that is suddenly cranky and impossible to appease, one that will have all sorts of ailments jumping up all of a sudden and the least you can perhaps hope to get away with is spoilt milk in the house!
The leprechaun is also known to take severe liking to the Irish ale and with little work, he will spend more and more time drinking, and true to his billing as a naughty little prankster with a sharp appetite for mischief, this will result in nothing but absolute pandemonium for everybody around.
There’s also another part of the legend that Mr. Clooney-ishman explained, which describes how humans eventually started realizing the worth of the little green man’s hidden treasure. At this point he became quite agitated as he went on to explain how people started trying to catch the tiny men in a bid to wrestle the three wishes that he was obliged to grant if captured and thereby steal away the poor mischief-monger’s treasure. Clooney-ishman quickly lightened up as he proceeded to tell me the fate that befell those that tried & failed to capture a leprechaun, who by account of being tiny people, were rather slippery by nature and rather difficult to catch!
Present Day Interpretation:
At this point, we laughed heartily – a combined effect of the inappropriate volumes of mouth-smacking beer we’d consumed together and the sheer joy of reliving the kind of stories that made our respective childhoods such an absolutely joyful phase of life! While I was still smiling, imagining a fat Irish woman trying & failing to hold on to an angry leprechaun, Mr. Clooney-ishman seemed to somber down!
Now to answer your original question son – do we believe in leprechauns? At the risk of sounding stupid and perhaps alarmingly old-fashioned, I must confess I do! Not perhaps in the same manner as you’d imagine, but I do! Let me explain…
He proceeded to explain how he believed the legend of a leprechaun could so easily be applied to the average Irish countryman over the years! “We by nature, are a hard-working folk, dedicated to our professions”, he said, “but take that away from us…and all hell breaks loose!” He pointed out how the Irish, armed with their deadly wit and appetite for mischief were the perfect example of “an empty mind is a devil’s workshop.”
With no work to get to and enough beer inside us, we get into trouble left, right and center. This is why he explained crime & unemployment has always gone hand in hand all along Ireland’s rich and varied history. Mr. Clooney-ishman rounded off by saying he believed most myths or legends in every part of the world were built around a human element and there’s always something or some lesson you could take home from them – hence he didn’t particularly believe in dismissing legends or myths as old-fashioned superstition. To this wise counsel I vigorously nodded my approval and we spent the rest of the evening trying to workout potential locations that a leprechaun might have used to hide away his stash – certainly the ‘end of a rainbow’ bit was stretching it too far? No? What do you think?
Uncovering legends, understanding local perspective on some of their most widely known beliefs and making such great friends in the process is easily my favorite part about travel! Which is the greatest story around local myths/legends you’ve experienced? I’d love to know it all!
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