Monday, May 09, 2016

The leprechaun

The appearance

The leprechaun is a small, red-haired, male creature wearing green clothes: a suit with silver buttons, a waist-coat, a hat with silver buckles on the front and buckled shoes. Leprechauns are shoemakers who possess a hidden pot of gold, smoke a pipe, love traditional Irish music and drink a little bit too much of their poteen, an Irish alcoholic drink.

The green colour

The green colour can be associated with 3 elements: the shamrock which is Ireland's magic number. The Irish flag on which the green colour represents Irish nationalism and Ireland’s nickname, “The Emerald Isles”. The latter comes from Ireland’s splendid-looking greenery with its flamboyant green valleys and hills. The term was seen for the first time in William Drennan’s poem “When Erin First Rose”.

The National Leprechaun Museum

There is a leprechaun museum in Dublin: The National Leprechaun Museum which miniaturises the visitors so that they can discover the universe of these little creatures as if they were one of them. In fact, all pieces of furniture are oversized to this effect. The visitors are then led to the cauldron of the leprechaun at the foot of the rainbow and can discover the attached legend, origin and myths.

The etymology

The word “leprechaun” comes from Old Irish “Luchorpan”,  which means “small body”.

The Legend

Once upon a time there was a tiny old man (about 2 feet tall) who lived in Ireland, called a Leprechaun. He was dressed like a shoemaker and had in his possession a pot of gold hidden in the wood at the bottom of a rainbow, at the feet of a tree. One day, a little human boy whose name was Jack captured the creature and forced him to bring him to the hiding place of his treasure in exchange for his freedom. Once they got there, Jack realized that he had to go back home to get a shovel, but that he first needed to make sure that he would be able to recognize the tree when he would be back. So he decided to tie his yellow scarf around the tree and to make sure that the little man would not take it away, because Leprechauns always keep their promises . When Jack returned, however, there was a yellow scarf on every tree and the leprechaun had disappeared. This legend illustrates how clever a leprechaun can be and how the captor’s eyes must not leave him because he can easily evade capture from humans and all hopes of finding the treasure are then lost. They are very intelligent and mischievous, but also trustworthy, as they always keep their promises.

St. Patrick's Day

The leprechaun has become a potent Irish symbol thanks to its mythological importance and became an important part of many Irish festivities, more specifically St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day takes place on 17 March and is celebrated in Irish communities all over the world. In Ireland and Northern Ireland, it is also a public holiday. The celebration involves seas of alcohol, green colours, shamrocks pinned on your chest and leprechaun’s costumes.

Who was Saint Patrick ?

A nice anecdote is that it was even celebrated by Irish Astronauts on the International Space Station. Saint Patrick is considered as the patron saint of Ireland who brought Christianity to the country around the fifth century. The legend tells us that he explained the Holy Trinity to Celtic pagans with a three-leave shamrock. The leprechaun is therefore obviously linked to other Irish cultural symbols, and remains one of its most famous ones.


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