The following is a description and story about Leprechauns in Ireland. My friend first heard the story from his parents, specifically his dad who is Irish. I have known this friend since elementary school. I knew that he had heard many stories about where his parents are from so I asked him to tell me about a few of them. I recorded this over the phone as he was very busy and couldn’t find a time to meet up (also COVID). This is a direct transcribed script of what was said in the story, with the various “umm’s” and “uhh’s” omitted.
“Leprechauns are, they’re like, think of them as like fairies. And you know, a lot of them are like Central European and Northern European, not considering the UK or Norway or Sweden. They have fairies and that’s kinda where you get your traditional Lord of the Rings, type fairies, like D&D and that kind of stuff. But basically Leprechauns are Irish fairies. Traditionally they’re shoemakers or distillers, so they make shoes or they make drinks. And the Leprechaun, at least from my knowledge, it started, at least the folklore and myths of them used to come up more and more during the Irish famine. The reason for that is because during that time the middle class and Ireland was really heavily affected because that was their whole thing. They were just potato farmers. And the great Irish famine happened with the potatoes so they had this idealistic thing that represents in my way of seeing it, the famine. And it’s kind of because, I don’t know what you know about Leprechauns, but it’s basically how they’re inherently evil creatures. They try to trick you and it’s kinda like a Rumplestiltskin type thing. So basically what happens is… the whole tradition of finding the pot at the end of the rainbow, that type meme, that’s where Leprechauns keep all their gold, keep all their wealth. They come out during nighttime, and typically they are like, more known with kids. And kids were told this story because during this time it was really really hard in Ireland. And they wanted to give their children, parents wanted to give their children hope for this. So they’re like ‘hey, the only way to get what you want in life is to outsmart people.’ And that’s kinda where this traditional Leprechaun story came from. It’s like, there’s gonna be really bad people in life, that happens and they’re gonna try and trick you, so you have to be smarter. And that’s kinda where the heart of the Leprechaun story comes from.
I’m just gonna go ahead and do a brief thing of what the story was like when I was younger. Basically it’s, when you’re a kid, you can get visited by this Leprechaun, or you can get visited by many Leprechauns. They’ll come to you in the middle of the night when you’re sleeping and you’ll wake up and you’ll see it, and then it would go off into the garden or into the forest. And typically the kid would chase it. So they chase it and find this little hut. In the hut they would be either making shoes or brewing, brewing beer or whatever. Since this is some sort of magical creature the kid would be like ‘what kind of magical powers do you have. Or what can you offer me. So the Leprechaun tells the kid about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But then there’s like favors involved. They’re like, ‘oh I need leather so I can make more shoes or I need wheat and barley so I can brew more beer.’ So it’s an exchange of sort, but the exchange goes back to hard working mentality, like everything comes with a price. But it also comes to outsmarting the person you’re working with, in this case the Leprechaun. It is really a story about the real world. And it is flavored in this fun-loving and semi-dark fairy tale. In the end sometimes the Leprechaun will die, or he will get murdered by the kid or something. But that’s the story of the Leprechaun.”
Hearing what Leprechauns actually were to the Irish people was really fascinating for many reasons. For one, I never thought of Leprechauns as anything more than Saint Patrick’s Day, rainbows, and Lucky Charms (though I did know they had significance to the Irish, I’m not that ignorant). Learning how Leprechauns were actually the Irish version of fairies and the handful of lessons that they taught to kids was really interesting. I think a creature like this and the non-specific of the story would classify it as a myth. I also thought it was funny how my friend threw in the part about the kids killing the Leprechauns so casually. Stories like this are probably important to him because they were probably stories he heard a lot growing up.