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Photo Left: A leprechaun counts his gold, in this engraving circa 1900.
This article is about the creature in Irish mythology.
In Irish mythology, a leprechaun (Irish: leipreachán) is a type of male faerie said to inhabit the island of Ireland. They are a class of "faerie folk" associated in Irish mythology and folklore, as with all faeries, with the Tuatha Dé Danann and other quasi-historical peoples said to have inhabited Ireland before the arrival of the Celts.

Leprechauns and other creatures of Irish mythology are often associated with "faerie forts" or "faerie rings" — often the sites of ancient (Celtic or pre-Celtic) earthworks or drumlins.

Leprechauns usually take the form of old men who enjoy partaking in mischief. Their trade is that of a cobbler or shoemaker. They are said to be very rich, having many treasure crocks buried during war-time. According to legend, if anyone keeps an eye fixed upon one, he cannot escape, but the moment the gaze is withdrawn, he vanishes.

There are a number of possible etymologies of the name "leprechaun". One of the most widely accepted theories is that the name comes from the Irish word leipreachán, defined by Dinneen as "a pigmy, a sprite, a leprechaun; for luchorpán"; the latter word Dinneen defines as "a pigmy, a leprechaun; 'a kind of aqueous sprite'"; this word has also been identified as meaning "half-bodied", or "small-bodied". This is the etymology given in the Collins English Dictionary.

The word which is widely believed to be the root and one of the ones quoted by the Oxford English Dictionary is luchorpán. An alternative derivation for the name and another one quoted by the Oxford English Dictionary, is leath bhrógan, meaning shoe-maker — the leprechaun is known as the fairy shoemaker of Ireland and is often portrayed working on a single shoe. Another derivation has the word "leprechaun" deriving from luch-chromain, meaning "little stooping Lugh", Lugh being the name of a leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann.

The word leprechaun was first recorded used in the English language in around 1605 in Dekker's The Honest Whore, Part 2 as lubrican. The original meaning was of some kind of spirit and not specifically associated with the Irish mythological character:

   "As for your Irish Lubrican, that spirit
   Whom by preposterous charms thy lust has raised."

Some alternative spellings of the word leprechaun that have been used throughout the ages are; leprechawn, lepracaun and lubberkin. The word leprehaun has also been used.

Leprechauns rarely appear in what would be classed as a folk tale; in almost all cases the interest of these stories centres around a human hero. Stories about leprechauns are generally very brief and generally have local names and scenery attached to them. The tales are usually told conversationally as any other occurrence might be told, whereas there is a certain solemnity about the repetition of a folk-tale proper.

In most tales and stories leprechauns are depicted as generally harmless creatures who enjoy solitude and live in remote locations, while in others they are depicted as ill-natured and mischievous, with a mind for cunning. Opinion is divided as to if they ever enjoy the company of other spirits. Although rarely seen in social situations, leprechauns are supposedly very well spoken and, if ever spoken to, could make good conversation.
A leprechaun is shown crafting shoes in this Engraving made in 1858. In previous years leprechauns had a less homogenised appearance.

Among the most popular of beliefs about leprechauns is that they are extremely wealthy and like to hide their gold in secret locations, which can only be revealed if a person were to actually capture and interrogate a leprechaun for its money. Another popular belief is that you may find a leprechaun and his pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

Some of the Leprechauns mythical power's include magical control over the intricate workings of the Earth and the materials that reside there i.e. gold, silver... In several Irish myths Leprechauns have a power of hypnotism or trickery that confuses there target either allowing the Leprechaun to escape or just to play tricks on unsuspecting victims.

Many tales present the leprechaun as outwitting a human, as in the following examples.

The leprechaun originally had a different appearance depending on where in Ireland he was found. Prior to the 20th century, it was generally agreed that the leprechaun wore red and not green. Samuel Lover, writing in the 1831 describes the leprechaun as,

   ... quite a beau in his dress, notwithstanding, for he wears a red square-cut coat, richly laced with gold, and inexpressible of the same, cocked hat, shoes and buckles.

Yeats, in his 1888 book entitled Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry describes the leprechaun as follows:

   He is something of a dandy, and dresses in a red coat with seven rows of buttons, seven buttons on each row, and wears a cocked-hat, upon whose pointed end he is wont in the north-eastern counties, according to McAnally, to spin like a top when the fit seizes him.[10]

In a poem entitled The Lepracaun; or, Fairy Shoemaker, the 18th century Irish poet William Allingham describes the appearance of the leprechaun as:
A cluricaun with a jug of wine. The cluricaun is often confused with the leprechaun.

   ...A wrinkled, wizen'd, and bearded Elf,
   Spectacles stuck on his pointed nose,
   Silver buckles to his hose,
   Leather apron - shoe in his lap...

Some commentators accuse Allingham of leaving the legacy of the modern image of the leprechaun described below.

The modern image of the leprechaun is almost invariant: he is depicted as having red hair (often with a beard), wearing an emerald green frock coat, and bestowed with the knowledge of the location of buried treasure, often in a crock of gold.

Related creatures
The leprechaun is related to the clurichaun and the far darrig in that he is a solitary creature. Some writers even go as far as to substitute these second two less well-known spirits for the leprechaun in stories or tales to reach a wider audience. The clurichaun is considered by some to be merely a leprechaun on a drinking spree.

Popular culture
Films, television cartoons and advertising have popularised a specific dim-witted image of leprechauns which bears scant resemblance to anything found in the cycles of Irish mythology. Irish people can find the popularised image of a leprechaun to be little more than a series of offensive Irish stereotypes.

The stereotypical image of a leprechaun bedecked in green is particularly strong in the United States, where it is widely used for a variety of purposes, both commercial and non-commercial. In the novel Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, Leprechaun (Re-spelled LEPrecon) is a fairy police force.

The leprechaun legend has spawned the successful Leprechaun horror film series, which began in 1993 with the Jennifer Aniston-starring Leprechaun. Five sequels have been released, all of them featuring Warwick Davis as the titular character.

See also:
Clurichaun ("cousin" of the Leprechaun) / Far darrig / Kallikantzaros / Menehune /
Sprite (creature) / faerie forts / faerie rings /earthworks  /drumlins /
Major Holidays /International Observ /Nationwide Observ /

External Links:
Yeats, W. B. (1888) Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry
The Leprechaun Companion (an illustrated guide)

Resource Links:
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses some material from Wikipedia/article leprechaun©/and other related pages.  Top Photo: wikipedia /license
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