An introduction to the leprechaun


With St Patrick’s Day on the horizon, it is a good time to look at some of the folklore surrounding the mythical leprechaun associated with Ireland and its patron saint.

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What kind of creature is the leprechaun?

The leprechaun is an evil fairy. It is often portrayed as a nasty, gnarled old man dressed in green. It is quite possible that the evil nature of this fairy is related to the fact that leprechaunism is a disease. It is a genetic disorder which means that those affected have a resistance to insulin and are born unusually small. They also have distorted faces with large ears and nostrils and eyes which protrude. Organs, breasts and genitals can also be affected. Although this disorder is happily extremely rare, with only 50 cases recorded, it seems evident that its name directly relates to the ugly, evil creature of mythology. Shocking as this may seem to modern thinking, the disorder has another name, which is Donohue syndrome.

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The habits of the leprechaun include drinking heavily and haunting cellars. Other sources say that the word is derived from the Irish word leath bhrogan, meaning shoemaker. Leprechauns are portrayed as male loners. Mysterious sounds are associated with mythical creatures, but the leprechaun is associated with the tapping sound that a cobbler would make in carrying out his trade. Leprechauns are reputed to all have a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Their freedom could be bought by someone capturing the creature and giving his freedom in exchange for the treasure. For even more information on Irish folklore and traditions, seek out:

Modern culture

For popular taste, evil fairies are often made into happier creatures suitable for appearing in Disney films. One example was the 1959 film, Darby O’Gill and the little people. For the American audience, it is not a coincidence that leprechauns only appear around St Patrick’s Day. If you are thinking of celebrating and need some ideas for St Patricks Day gifts, look no further than

It is entirely possible that the leprechaun is more popular outside Ireland, as many Irish people object to the stereotypical ethnic nature of the way that he is usually portrayed. For them, the homicidal leprechaun called Lubden, played by Warwick Davis in the comedy/horror film series, was probably a step too far.