A to Z Challenge Folklore

Jolly Leprechauns #folklore #AtoZChallenge

J is for Jolly

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the challenge here.

The iconic image of a little man dressed in green, sitting on a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow is just one part of who the leprechaun is.

Leprechaun. Image credit


Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry Edited and Selected by W. B. Yeats [1888]


“The name Lepracaun,” Mr. Douglas Hyde writes to me, “is from the Irish leith brogi.e., the One-shoemaker, since he is generally seen working at a single shoe. It is spelt in Irish leith bhrogan, or leith phrogan, and is in some places pronounced Luchryman, as O’Kearney writes it in that very rare book, the Feis Tigh Chonain.”

The LepracaunCluricaun, and Far Darrig. Are these one spirit in different moods and shapes? Hardly two Irish writers are agreed. In many things these three fairies, if three, resemble each other. They are withered, old, and solitary, in every way unlike the sociable spirits of the first sections. They dress with all unfairy homeliness, and are, indeed, most sluttish, slouching, jeering, mischievous phantoms. They are the great practical jokers among the good people.

The Lepracaun makes shoes continually, and has grown very rich. Many treasure-crocks, buried of old in war-time, has he now for his own. In the early part of this century, according to Croker, in a newspaper office in Tipperary, they used to show a little shoe forgotten by a Lepracaun.

The Cluricaun, (Clobhair-ceann, in O’Kearney) makes himself drunk in gentlemen’s cellars. Some suppose he is merely the Lepracaun on a spree. He is almost unknown in Connaught and the north.

The Far Darrig (fear dearg), which means the Red Man, for he wears a red cap and coat, busies himself with practical joking, especially with gruesome joking. This he does, and nothing else.

Leprechaun. Image credit




Little Cowboy, what have you heard,
  Up on the lonely rath’s green mound?
Only the plaintive yellow bird 1
  Sighing in sultry fields around,
Chary, chary, chary, chee-ee!–
Only the grasshopper and the bee?– p. 82
    “Tip-tap, rip-rap,
  Scarlet leather, sewn together,
    This will make a shoe.
  Left, right, pull it tight;
    Summer days are warm;
  Underground in winter,
    Laughing at the storm!
Lay your ear close to the hill.
Do you not catch the tiny clamour,
Busy click of an elfin hammer,
Voice of the Lepracaun singing shrill
  As he merrily plies his trade?
    He’s a span
      And a quarter in height.
Get him in sight, hold him tight,
      And you’re a made


You watch your cattle the summer day,
Sup on potatoes, sleep in the hay;
  How would you like to roll in your carriage.
  Look for a duchess’s daughter in marriage?
Seize the Shoemaker–then you may!
    “Big boots a-hunting,
    Sandals in the hall,
  White for a wedding-feast,
    Pink for a ball.
  This way, that way,
    So we make a shoe;
  Getting rich every stitch,
Nine-and-ninety treasure-crocks
This keen miser-fairy hath,
Hid in mountains, woods, and rocks,
Ruin and round-tow’r, cave and rath,
  And where the cormorants build; p. 83
    From times of old
    Guarded by him;
    Each of them fill’d
    Full to the brim
      With gold!


I caught him at work one day, myself,
  In the castle-ditch, where foxglove grows,–
A wrinkled, wizen’d and bearded Elf,
  Spectacles stuck on his pointed nose,
  Silver buckles to his hose,
  Leather apron-shot in his lap–
      “Rip-rap, tip-tap,
    (A grasshopper on my cap!
       Away the moth flew!)
    Buskins for a fairy prince,
      Brogues for his son,–
    Pay me well, pay me well,
      When the job is done! “
The rogue was mine, beyond a doubt.
I stared at him; he stared at me;
“Servant, Sir!” “Humph!” says he,
  And pull’d a snuff-box out.
He took a long pinch, look’d better pleased,
  The queer little Lepracaun;
Offer’d the box with a whimsical grace,-
Pouf! he flung the dust in my face,
    And, while I sneezed,
      Was gone!

Leprechaun. Image credit.

The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper


The Irish fairy shoemaker. His name is commonly thought to derive from leith bhrogan, meaning the “one shoemaker”, as he was most often seen working on a single shoe, rather than a pair of shoes. Alternatively, the name may have an older origin – it has been suggested that the leprechaun first appeared in Irish literature in the seventh or eighth century as the luchoirp or luchorpain, literally, “small water sprite”, in “The Adventure of Fergus mac Leti”.

*More can be read in the book.

Leprechaun. Image credit

Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane


Variations: Fir Darrig, Lapracaun, Lubberkin, Lubrican

According to Irish mythology leprechauns are a species of antisocial fairy spending its time cobbling shoes. Although they preferred to avoid human contact these fairies would live in a person’s cellar and assist them in small household task or gifting them with a lucky charm. At the end of the work day, these fairies enjoy celebrating by dancing, drinking and feasting heavily. Typically the leprechaun, a solitary fairy, was depicted wearing a green suit, waistcoat, hat, and stockings. Their shoes are always perfect and sport large buckles. They are also said to be clever troublemakers who love to play practical jokes on humans. Carrying an iron horseshoe will protect a person from the pranks of the leprechaun, as not only iron a natural repellent to their kind but they are said to love horses to the point of distraction.

*Read more in the book.

Leprechaun. Image credit

Further Reading:

Leprechaun. Image credit

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

Of all the Irish fairies, the Leprechaun is the most well-known of them all. This fairy drinks beer, is seen with a four-leaf clover, wears green clothes and a top hat. Oh, and he has a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

But that might just be a modern interpretation. Some feel the leprechaun to be the fascinating frontman for Irish folklore while others feel that he is an appropriated symbol plundered of all character and truth in Ireland and abroad. Maybe the truth lies somewhere in between.

Leprechauns are antisocial fae who prefer celebrating the end of the work day by drinking, dancing and feasting. This is when they like to play practical jokes on humans. The only way to protect yourself against them, is to carry an iron horseshoe. Not only does iron repel fairies, leprechauns love horses to distraction so just the idea of a horse will draw attention away from you. Maybe I’m a leprechaun: I love horses to the point of distraction, too.

This fairy trickster is also a cobbler. You’ll find that leprechauns always wear awesome shoes. Even its name can be traced back to meaning “half brogue” meaning he has one shoe, probably meaning you can always see him working on a shoe. His name in an alternate spelling, means “sprite”. Between his occupation and his size, the tale of The Elves and the Shoemaker by the Brothers Grimm feels like it might actually be about leprechauns.

Though it is sometimes believed that there is only one leprechaun, usually guarding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, there are in fact several. In the medieval tale of Adventure of Fergus, Son of Léti three leprechauns attempt to drag Fergus onto the ocean to drown him. A practical joke, of course. He then captures them and they agree to grant him three wishes if he were to release them.

As for always wearing green: that is something invented in the 20th century. Before that, leprechauns preferred red. W.B. Yeats supports this by saying that solitary fairies wore red as green was reserved for the nobility of their kind.

Leprechauns are quick-witted and very smart. They will do anything to evade capture. Humans are always after them for either the wishes or the gold.

For the most part, they are seen as old, wrinkled and short.

There’s a museum in Dublin about mythical Ireland called the Leprechaun Museum. Add that to my wish list of places to visit!

Leprechaun. Image credit

Leprechaun in Modern Culture

There are, of course, many Leprechauns in movies, books and TV shows, but these are the ones I like.

Legends of Tomorrow TV series

Red is a leprechaun and a magical fugitive from Mallus’s realm. After Mallus was freed and his escape opened the door for other banished mystical beings, he escaped. Leprechauns have the appearance of an Irishman,[2] including an Irish accent.[1] As a leprechaun, Red is able to bestow yellow glimmers of light, which are invisible to the human eye, to an individual and grant them luck.

Learn more here.
Red the Leprechaun. Image credit

Harry Potter books/films

The leprechaun, sometimes known as the clauricorn, was a mischievous magicalbeast, although it was not malicious. They had a reputation as pranksters, but never inflicted lasting damage on a human with their pranks. Native only to Ireland, they were fully sentient and capable of speech, but never requested the British Ministry of Magic to reclassify them as beings.[1]

The leprechaun had green-coloured skin and usually reached a height of around six inches, and they normally wore clothing made out of leaves.

Learn more here.
Leprechaun. Image credit

Leprechaun in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Leprechaun

Leprechauns have luck magic, meaning they can change the luck of someone by just being there. They can change their size and appearance at will. They are obsessed with gold and keep it buried in crocks inside hollow trees. They also live in hollow trees. Leprechauns prefer to live down to expectations, running around drunk in miniature size in green outfits playing pranks on anyone unfortunate enough to cross their path.
In secret, they run the fashion footwear business. Yes, they control what is designed, made and wore by humans and fae alike. That is why they are so rich: selling shoes is a lucrative business.
Red is their favourite colour, besides gold.
These solitary fae prefer to stay out of Court business. They live in the mortal realm wherever they can – they are in the shoe business, after all, and living in basements of shoe factories, closets of fashion designers, or storage rooms of shoe shops is a small price to pay to run the footwear world. Though getting out into nature is part of their vacation plans. Leprechauns believe in working hard and taking well-deserved vacations.
They love horses, though unlike what folklore suggests, they aren’t distracted by them in the least. Except when they wear shoes…

Translation of leprechaun into Afrikaans: Ierse Aardmannetjie

See them in action:

Solitary Fae (Origin of the Fae #6)

What do you think of the leprechaun? Where did you hear about leprechauns for the first time? Any folklore about dwarfs you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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image credit https://pixabay.com/illustrations/ai-generated-fairy-wings-magic-8121013/

No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

5 thoughts on “Jolly Leprechauns #folklore #AtoZChallenge”

  1. G’day Ronel,
    I never realised leprechauns were shoemakers. Just thought they were little Irish people who left gold at the end of the rainbow. Maybe that gold is really shoes!

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