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A leprechaun (Irish: lucharachán/leipreachán/luchorpán) is a diminutive supernatural being in Irish folklore, classed by some as a type of solitary fairy. They are usually depicted as little bearded men, wearing a coat and hat, who partake in mischief. In later times, they have been depicted as shoe-makers who have a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.


The Anglo-Irish (Hiberno-English) word leprechaun is descended from Old Irish luchorpán or lupracán,[1] via various (Middle Irish) forms such as luchrapán, lupraccán,[2][3] (or var. luchrupán).[a]

Folk etymology derives the word from leith (half) and bróg (brogue), because of the frequent portrayal of the leprechaun as working on a single shoe, as evident in the alternative spelling leithbrágan.[10][8][d]

The earliest known reference to the leprechaun appears in the medieval tale known as the Echtra Fergus mac Léti ('Adventure of Fergus son of Léti').[17] The text contains an episode in which Fergus mac Léti, King of Ulster, falls asleep on the beach and wakes to find himself being dragged into the sea by three lúchorpáin. He captures his abductors, who grant him three wishes in exchange for release.[18][19]

The leprechaun is said to be a solitary creature, whose principal occupation is making and cobbling shoes, and who enjoys practical jokes.[20] In McAnally's 1888 account, the Leprechaun was not a professional cobbler, but was frequently seen mending his own shoes, as "he runs about so much he wears them out" with great frequency. This is, he claims, the perfect opportunity for a human being to capture the Leprechaun, refusing to release him until the Leprechaun gives his captor supernatural wealth.[21]

The leprechaun has been classed as a "solitary fairy" by the writer and amateur folklorist William Butler Yeats.[e][23] Yeats was part of the revivalist literary movement greatly influential in "calling attention to the leprechaun" in the late 19th century.[24] This classification by Yeats is derived from D. R. McAnally (Irish Wonders, 1888) derived in turn from John O'Hanlon (1870).[25]

It is stressed that the leprechaun, though some may call it fairy, is clearly to be distinguished from the Aos Sí (or the 'good people') of the fairy mounds (sidhe) and raths.[27][28][29][f] Leprachaun being solitary is one distinguishing characteristic,[31][32] but additionally, the leprachaun is thought to only engage in pranks on the level of mischief, and requiring special caution, but in contrast, the Aos Sí may carry out deeds more menacing to humans, e.g., the spiriting away of children.[27]

This identification of leprechaun as a fairy has been consigned to popular notion by modern folklorist Diarmuid Ó Giolláin. Ó Giolláin observes that the dwarf of Teutonic and other traditions as well as the household familiar are more amenable to comparison.[6]

According to William Butler Yeats, the great wealth of these fairies comes from the "treasure-crocks, buried of old in war-time", which they have uncovered and appropriated.[33] According to David Russell McAnally the leprechaun is the son of an "evil spirit" and a "degenerate fairy" and is "not wholly good nor wholly evil".[34]

The leprechaun originally had a different appearance depending on where in Ireland he was found.[35] Prior to the 20th century, it was generally held that the leprechaun wore red, not green. Samuel Lover, writing in 1831, describes the leprechaun as,

According to Yeats, the solitary fairies, like the leprechaun, wear red jackets, whereas the "trooping fairies" wear green. The leprechaun's jacket has seven rows of buttons with seven buttons to each row. On the western coast, he writes, the red jacket is covered by a frieze one, and in Ulster the creature wears a cocked hat, and when he is up to anything unusually mischievous, he leaps onto a wall and spins, balancing himself on the point of the hat with his heels in the air.[37]

The modern image of the leprechaun sitting on a toadstool, having a red beard and green hat, etc. is clearly a more modern invention, or borrowed from other strands of European folklore.[40] The most likely explanation for the modern day Leprechaun appearance is that green is a traditional national Irish color dating back as far as 1642.[41] The hat might be derived from the style of outdated fashion still common in Ireland in the 19th century. This style of fashion was commonly worn by Irish immigrants to the United States, since some Elizabethan era clothes were still common in Ireland in the 19th century long after they were out of fashion, as depicted by the Stage Irish. The buckle shoes and other garments also have their origin in the Elizabethan period in Ireland.

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.[42]

For many years, we were afflicted with the miserable trivialities of our tourist advertising. Sometimes it descended to the lowest depths, to the caubeen and the shillelagh, not to speak of the leprechaun.[44]

Films, television cartoons and advertising have popularised a specific image of leprechauns which bears little resemblance to anything found in the cycles of Irish folklore. It has been argued that the popularised image of a leprechaun is little more than a series of stereotypes based on derogatory 19th-century caricatures.[45][46]

While the film project was in development, Walt Disney was in contact with, and consulting Séamus Delargy and the Irish Folklore Commission, but never asked for leprechaun material, even though a large folkloric repository on such subject was housed by the commission.[48][g]

Leprechaun is a 1993 American comedy horror film written and directed by Mark Jones, and starring Warwick Davis in the title role, with Jennifer Aniston in her film debut. Davis plays a vengeful leprechaun who believes a family has stolen his pot of gold. As he hunts them, they attempt to locate his gold to mollify him.

In 1983, Dan O'Grady returns to his home in North Dakota from a trip to his native Ireland, where he stole the pot of gold from a leprechaun he interrogated. After burying the gold, O'Grady discovers that the evil leprechaun has followed him home and murdered his wife. O'Grady uses a four-leaf clover to suppress the leprechaun's powers and trap him inside a crate. Before he can burn him, he suffers a stroke.

Ten years later, J. D. Redding and his teenage daughter Tory rent the O'Grady farmhouse for the summer. Contract workers Nathan Murphy, his 10-year-old brother Alex, and their dimwitted friend Ozzie Jones help re-paint the farmhouse. While looking around the basement, Ozzie hears the leprechaun's cry for help and mistakes him for a little child. He brushes the old four-leaf clover off the crate, freeing the leprechaun. The leprechaun tells Ozzie that he works as a shoemaker in Ireland, but came to America looking for his gold. After failing to convince the others that he met a leprechaun, Ozzie spots a rainbow and chases it, believing that he will find a pot of gold at the end. Alex accompanies him for fear that Ozzie might hurt himself. A bag of one hundred gold coins magically appears before Ozzie. After Ozzie tests the gold and accidentally swallows a coin, they stash it in an old well and plot to keep it for themselves, hoping to fix Ozzie's brain.

At the farm, the leprechaun lures J. D. into a trap by imitating a cat, biting and injuring his hand. Tory and the others rush him to the hospital, and the leprechaun follows on a tricycle. Alex and Ozzie visit a pawn shop to see if the gold is pure, and the leprechaun kills Joe the shop owner for stealing his gold and shines the dead shop owner's shoes before leaving. The leprechaun fixes himself a small go-kart and goes back to the farmhouse, getting pulled over by a police officer on the way back for speeding. The police officer gets chased by the leprechaun into the woods, eventually getting killed by the leprechaun in the process. The leprechaun returns to the farmhouse, where he searches for his gold and shines every shoe that he finds. After leaving J. D. at the hospital, the group drives back to the farmhouse. Finding it ransacked, Nathan checks outside, where he is injured by a bear trap set by the leprechaun. The group fights the leprechaun outside, ganging up and beating him up with sticks and stone.

After finding a shotgun in the farmhouse, they shoot the leprechaun several times. When this has no effect, they attempt to flee the farm, but their truck's engine has been sabotaged by the leprechaun. After ramming the truck with the go-kart, the leprechaun terrorizes the group until Ozzie reveals that he and Alex found the pot of gold. Tory recovers the bag from the well and gives it to the leprechaun. Believing the worst to be over, they leave for the hospital. While counting his gold, the leprechaun discovers that he is missing the last coin that Ozzie swallowed. Thinking that they have tricked him, he menaces them until Ozzie tells them about O'Grady, who was taken to a nursing home after his stroke. The group distracts the leprechaun by throwing dirty shoes around, which the leprechaun can't resist but to go and shine them, while Tory gets into her jeep and drives off. Tory visits the home to learn how to kill the leprechaun.

At the nursing home, the leprechaun pretends to be O'Grady. After he chases Tory to an elevator, the leprechaun throws O'Grady's bloodied body down the shaft as Tory flees. Before dying, O'Grady tells her that the only way to kill the leprechaun is with a four-leaf clover, which happens to grow in a big batch outside the farm. Tory returns to the farmhouse, where she searches for a clover until she is attacked by the leprechaun; Nathan and Ozzie save her. Ozzie reveals that he swallowed the last gold coin, and the leprechaun critically wounds him trying to get it. Before the leprechaun can kill Ozzie, Alex takes a four-leaf clover Tory has found, sticks it to a wad of gum, and shoots it into the leprechaun's mouth, causing him to melt away. The leprechaun falls into the well, but his skeleton climbs out to continue menacing the group. Nathan pushes the leprechaun back into the well and blows up both the well and the leprechaun with gasoline. As the cops arrive in the morning and investigate the remains of the well, the leprechaun vows he will not rest until he recovers every last piece of his gold. 041b061a72


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