Informant: Ok so , in the Philippines, ah, the way leprechauns show up, is ah, they’re these, like, really dark-skinned, short people, that–that have really bright, like, teeth, right? So when you see them at night, and when they smile, its kind of like the cheshire cat? Yeah, so, umm, basically, whenever you see one you don’t want to mess with them because, if you, uh, hurt them in any way, they’ll most likely attack you in the middle of the night.
Collector: Will they kill you? Will they eat you?
Informant: They won’t eat you, but if like, you could die from it, so for example, the story that happened to my dad’s relative, he saw a leprechaun, and then he smacked it with a shovel. And then, ah, the very next day, my relative’s back just started hurting out of nowhere, and it basically bedrid him, and then, yeah, he died later.
Context: My informant is a close friend of mine, and is a Filipino American young man. His father is an immigrant from the Philippines, and has extended family still living there.
Analysis: At first, when my informant named the entity as a “leprechaun,” I was momentarily confused, and could think only of a stereotypical Irish leprechaun, complete with a red beard and green suit. The image I was thinking of is entirely different from what my informant told me, namely the dark skin and bright teeth. My informant recalled that these entities were found largely in more rural areas of the Philippines, and so it was often smaller towns or villages that experienced leprechauns. Though it is unclear what would have happened if the relative had not hit it with a shovel, what is clear is that because of that, the relative was bedridden, and died shortly afterwards. While searching the USC Online Archive, I found another post regarding Filipino dwarves– could this be another version of the leprechaun?
The following is a story about the origin of leprechauns and fairies. The informant is represented by P and I am represented by K.
P: Have you ever heard about how Leprechauns were born?
P: So, many, many, many years ago, there was a great battle in Heaven. There was the Devil and Michael the Archangel, and it was like at a time, and they were like “you’ve gotta make a choice, you’ve gotta either go with God or you go with the Devil.” So, the Devil, Satan, Beelzebub, whatever you call him, had gathered in his army and Michael the Archangel had gathered his army. God was sitting in the middle, he was up on the throne, just watching the battle unfold. So… people had to take a choice, what were you gonna do? Were you gonna go fight with Satan? And on a battle against God in Heaven. Or were you gonna go with Michael… the Archangel and fight against Satan, and protect what they had. So there was a group of people who didn’t go one way or the other. So, the battle was over, we all know that Michael the Archangel won. Satan was banished from Heaven forever to go to… the fiery pits of Hell and live a life of gnashing of teeth and gnawing and stuff. Then, there was these people in the middle that were left. So God said, “heh, you need to get rid of ’em. They’re gone.” Michael the Archangel pleaded for them. He said, “Look, we know that they didn’t fight for us, but they’re not bad enough to put with Him and leave ’em down in Hell.” And God said, “Okay, just get rid of them and let them fall where they are.” So, the Heavens opened, all of them “angels” that didn’t take a side, all fell and they kept falling and kept falling, they landed in Ireland. They landed in Ireland and they became the leprechauns, they became the fairies, the sheep people… of Ireland. And… they say they have a face, the leprechaun have the face of a shriveled apple. You know? They’re- they’re one… of the… there’s different types of fairies and leprechauns.. and.. and.. sheep people, but the leprechauns are ones that spend time on their own. So they like to be on their own. You hear the tap tap tap when they’re making their shoes, they’re supposed to be the shoemakers of the fairy people, so the fairies come and need new shoes and the leprechaun, but you’d never see two leprechauns together. The fairies, on the other hand, they like to hang out with each other. They like to play, they like to party. They’re really good with the music and the singing and the dancing and the- that whole lot. And… you know, years ago, you’d see a will-o-the-wisp or a speck of dust coming across the street, and you’d be like oh, that’s the fairy people, you know. And then, before we had toilets and running water, we used to just open the window and just… throw our… bits… out onto the street. But the women of the house would always look- they’d always look, in case there was a will-o gone by, and if there was, they’d wait, and if there wasn’t, then they’d just… throw it out, ’cause the chances were if there was a will-o gone by, they’d throw it on the fairies or the leprechauns or the sheep people and you’d be ending up with bad luck because of that.
K: Where’d you hear all this from?
P: These are, you know, they’re all, most of them- most of what we hear are, uh, uh, vocal- oral stories, you know? I mean, there’s a lot written down about it, but you know, you just never know. You’ll just be sitting in the house when we were kids and there’d be, you know, a party going on or there’d just be some neighbors over and somebody would just start talking about that kind of stuff, and then we- we were taught about it in school, and then we’d go to- you know, when I was a teenager, I didn’t live the typical teenage life, you know. I wasn’t out, you know… drinking and chasing girls and going to the discos and stuff like that, I was out traveling around the country with a friend of mine and we’d go into these bars and people would tell us stories and- but it was all handed down by story-telling and oral. But there are a lot of books out there and now with YouTube, there’s a lot of fairy channels and stuff like that, and of course, none of them really tell it the way that I heard it when I was a kid.
I was at the informant’s house, celebrating Easter. We had finished all of the Easter festivities and the informant was walking around doing housework. A group of us had been sitting around talking about folklore and the informant walked by, so I asked him if he knew any Irish legends, tales, or myths. He told me a lot of those stories are real and then asked if I had heard about where leprechauns came from. I told him I hadn’t, and he leaned against the kitchen counter and proceeded to tell me the story.
I actually thought this piece of folklore was one of the most, if not the most, interesting piece of folklore I collected. I thought it was a super interesting story that I hadn’t heard before, but I really enjoyed hearing. I had never heard of the creation of leprechauns or fairies before because that wasn’t ever part of the culture I was brought up in. This piece, like others, reminded me of the idea that some things that people believe in in our society, other societies don’t believe in at all and vice versa. I also thought the idea that these stories are just constantly told around the country at bars and stuff was super interesting. I feel like here, these stories aren’t really just told all the time, so it seems really cool that this is a natural part of Irish culture. I think one of the interesting parts of this story is how it really incorporates religion and how these creatures just weren’t good enough but also weren’t bad enough. The leprechauns having a shriveled face almost seems like a punishment for not choosing a side during the battle. Overall, I thought this piece of folklore was super interesting.
Primary Informant: “So, there are these things called duendes, which are like gnomes and I guess they’re, like, cousins or something, they’re, like, related to leprechauns, essentially. And they’re popular, or known about, not just in Mexico, but also in, like, Central America, like El Salvador, or, um, in other parts of South America. And, um, apparently, from what I understand is, these, like, leprechaun-like creatures, these gnomes, they can, they like–, they choose a house or something and, um, when they choose a house, um, like, they’ll, like, try and, like, live in the house, but you can’t really see them, I don’t know, like, adults can’t really see them, I guess. But if you do see it, you have to give it food, um, because if you don’t give it food, it will, like, play pranks on you for the rest of your life. Like, it will just, like, mess with your life I guess after that. Um, and so a friend of mine was saying that, like, uh, he was at his other friend’s house and they had, like, a lemon tree or some kind of tree, a fruit tree, and, um, there would be, a, like, a– they would leave fruits on the ground, like the ones that fell. They would pick some, but they would leave others and he would pick ‘em up and he would, like, throw them or whatever. And I don’t know who it was, but it was like, ‘Noah! Don’t do that!’ and he was like, ‘Why? They’re just—they’re on the ground.’ And it was like, ‘Well, those are for the duendes, you know, so they don’t, like, come in and start, like, messing with my life.’ And, like, there are videos on YouTube, like, of duendes. And the same guy, that told me that story, he said that when he was in El Salvador with his parents, he was- he was young or whatever and he said that he saw a duende, like, following him. And he was like, ‘Mom! Mom!’ And she was like, “No, you can’t pay attention to it, don’t pay attention to it and then it will leave you alone, it won’t bother you.” Um, and that was just on the road. I don’t even think they were at the house. But, if it chooses your house and you don’t give it food, you like, you know, tell it to eff off, it will, like, mess with you forever. Um, but apparently, they really like hanging out with children and, like, playing with children I guess, um, that’s all I really know about that… Yeah. It’s, like, weird, the YouTube video, you see the guy, like this guy’s like playing soccer in his house, I don’t know why, and, um—“
Secondary Informant: “Uh, it’s like South America…. That’s like everyday.”
Primary Informant: “But, like in the house?”
Secondary Informant: “That’s like the pastime, dude.”
Primary Informant: “Okay, in the house, for sure. And he’s playing soccer in the house and he, like, kicks the ball over to the wall and ,like, you just see this little thing just like start running across the… and you just see the guy, like, freak out. He’s just like, ‘What the hell?’
Lavelle: “Is it… fake?”
Secondary Informant: “It looks genuine.”
Primary Informant: “I mean, the only thing is, it’s, like, terrible quality, so you can’t really tell. It looks like a cell phone camera.”
Secondary Informant: “Yeah, but do you really think someone would wanna go out of their way to…”
Primary Informant: “To make that up?”
Secondary Informant: “Yeah.”
Primary Informant: “I mean, maybe.”
Both informants who shared information about los duendes are of Mexican descent and heard this story from their families and friends. This story was shared in the primary informant’s apartment. We spent the afternoon sharing stories and combining the information we all had about each legend. These stories are important to the informants because they have been passed on from the older generations in their families. Because they value their older relatives, they value and enjoy the stories they’ve been told.
What I found interesting about this exchange is how it became obvious that my secondary informant was more open to the possibility of these supernatural beings actually existing, while my primary informant was growing more skeptical.