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Who is the Leprechaun?

We see their likeness every March 17. They are synonymous with both luck and trickery. And the color green and pots of gold seem to be their main accessories. But what do you really know about the history of the leprechaun? Read on to learn more about this mythical Emerald Isle creature.

One of Many Fairies

Irish folklore is one of the most celebrated and imaginative story traditions around, so it’s no coincidence that the leprechaun plays a role in numerous tales. One of many characters in the Emerald Isle’s early mythology, leprechauns are said to date back to the time before the Celts. They are always male, and they are portrayed as being mischievous and often involved in deception.

Shoemakers By Trade

Because even fairies need an occupation, leprechauns were identified as shoemakers or cobblers. In fact, some research points to this trade as the origin of their name. The term leath bhrógan refers to a shoemaker, and one can see how it could have transitioned to leprechaun. Other theories on the etymology point to leipreachán and ‘luchorpán, two Irish Gaelic words that both mean sprite or pygmy.

Cloaked in Red?

While green is the leprechaun’s color of choice today, this has not always been the case. Red was his original clothing hue. Many researchers believe that due to the popularity of all things green on the Emerald Isle, the leprechaun changed his color of choice to follow suit. In addition, green is also thought to be a lucky color.

Rainbows & Gold

It’s hard to envision a leprechaun without a rainbow and a pot of gold; but how did this trio become so tightly woven? Legend points to the leprechaun’s squirreling away of money, as he was thought to have hidden money in a crock or pot and then guarded it. Humans were said to be able to capture the leprechaun, keep their eyes locked on him, and force him to reveal the location of his gold. It is also said that if you find the end of a rainbow, you will find a leprechaun’s pot of gold. If only one could catch that elusive bright arch!