Ah! The legend of the leprechaun. There’s not much that’s more synonymously Irish than that, is there? Unless you’ve been living in a hole or a tree trunk (like our small, shoe-cobbling friends), you’ve probably heard that these wee little tricksters happen to be rather lucky.
Whether you’ve seen a leprechaun in online bingo games, a ridiculous human dressed up as one (wait a minute… was that you?), or you’ve stumbled on a small pot plant after too much whiskey and thought it was one – or you’ve actually, erm, seen one in real life – you’re probably wondering how these wily little folks came to exist.
We’re going to delve into the depths of leprechaun lore and give you some fun facts that you might not know about our diminutive bearded friends.
ANCIENT LEPRECHAUN HISTORY
First, you must know that the Irish truly believed leprechauns and other mythical creatures were real at some stage, back in the day. As recently as 1989, a man claimed to have found the remains of one in a wishing well on a mountain called Slieve Foye (which happens to be the highest point in County Louth). Bones, a small suit and coins were what remained – and they can now be seen displayed behind a glass case at the Anchor Bar in Carlingford (known locally as PJ’s).
However, most of us mere mortals will agree that leprechauns might just be a lovely myth, and according to the book, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John and Caitlin Matthews, the legend started all the way back in the eighth century. The water spirits from this time were called luchorpán, meaning “small body”. These stories evolved into the narrative we have about leprechauns today – and in modern folklore, they aren’t exactly fond of water. (They’ve changed so much over the centuries!)
Another take on where leprechauns are believed to come from is that they are descendants of Tuatha Dé Danann, a group of magical beings that served under the Gaelic goddess Danu. They apparently inhabited the green hills of the Emerald Isle long before mankind.
Leprechauns are technically part of the fairy family, but don’t picture a cute little fluttering fairy here. The Irish fairies are quite different from what we’re used to, and most of them are characterised by being quite snarky little things with a propensity for tricks.
HOW DO THEY GET THEIR MONEY?
If there’s one thing that we know about leprechauns, it’s that they always seem to have a whole heap of money. How they got this wealth is widely interpreted. The first and most widely spread belief is that they’re very talented shoemakers and that their name is derived from the Irish phrase leath bhrogan, meaning “shoemaker”. It’s said you can hear them coming from afar by the telltale tapping of their shoes (so listen up!).
Now, we aren’t sure if being a mythical cobbler just comes with a really high salary or whether the profession just isn’t as profitable as it once was, but we agree with others that there’s probably a side hustle along the way.
Some stories claim leprechauns are the protectors of the wealth of the fairy dynasty – which would certainly go some way to explaining the pot of gold we’re always hearing about. Others believe they’re bankers and are there to make sure that the other fairies – known for their frivolous ways – don’t spend all their hard-earned money on silly things.
HOW CAN YOU GET SOME OF THEIR MONEY?
Now, the all-important question that almost everyone wants to know: how exactly can you get your mitts on some leprechaun gold? Well, if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it now, would it?
First things first, you’re going to be horribly disappointed and most likely suffer from hypothermia if you try to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (and anyway, which end were we meant to look for it: the left or the right?). This is just a distraction to keep greedy humans away from their bounty.
One of the ways to get some of the leprechauns’ riches is to catch one! It’s a little easier than it sounds (ahem), and you won’t be surprised to hear the Irish have been perfecting leprechaun traps for years! The trick is that once you catch them, they’ll grant you three wishes for their freedom – just don’t forget to use one to ask for money!
Believe it or not, you can also get some of the leprechauns’ gold through kindness. There’s a notorious, olden-day tale about a nobleman who was down on his luck: he gave a leprechaun a ride on his horse. When he returned to his castle, it was filled with gold. It just goes to show it might be worthwhile to be nice occasionally…
Of course, you could always try your hand at online slots or online bingo – you might find yourself lucky too!
FUN ‘FACTS’ ABOUT LEPRECHAUNS
There are no women
If you think it’s hard to find a single babe somewhere like Leicester (or Dungeness, or wherever), then you’d be horribly disappointed if you were a leprechaun: there are no women leprechauns. Fact. (Let’s not even start thinking about how they reproduce, then!)
They’ve had a wardrobe change
Back in the day, leprechauns used to be dressed in red clothes and a red hat, before green became the colour of choice. Perhaps they worried they were getting confused with another bearded, mythical man of chubby stature who is known for his red outfits?
Leprechauns are protected
There are said to be 236 of our short, bearded brethren still living in the caverns up in Slieve Foye, over in County Leath. That’s why the European Union granted the area heritage status in 2009. Who knows what will happen post-Brexit, but let's hope they’re left undisturbed. Leprechauns now have a lovely little sanctuary to call home, along with all the animals and plants there too.
They have a cousin
Leprechauns have an even more mischievous cousin, known as the clurichaun. Now, these wily little guys are known to be drunk and surly most of the time, as stealing from wine cellars is one of their favourite activities. Some stories suggest they’re just night-time leprechauns letting loose after a hard day’s cobbling. We’ll have to ask the next leprechaun we meet, then, to get to the bottom of this!
TRY YOUR IRISH LUCK WITH LUCKY PANTS BINGO
You don’t have to catch a leprechaun or find a four-leaf clover to get in on some Irish Luck action. At Lucky Pants Bingo, we have a whole heap of online bingo games and other luck-of-the-draw games that could pay out, if it’s your day for good fortune. Register with our bingo site and take advantage of some of our fun and unusual games such as Slingo bingo (it’s a combination of slots and bingo). Stay in the irish ambience with Slingo Rainbow Riches, the slot + bingo combo which features the little fairy friend! Who knows: this might be the day that the leprechauns decide to bless you!
Anonymous / 05 February 2021