St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching! This day can be a wonderful reminder to celebrate the vast culture and extensive history of Ireland. Leprechauns are a widespread symbol of this clover-filled land, but why? Let us dig deeper into this legend and experience its origin and evolution within Celtic mythology.
According to legend, when the mythical Tuatha Dé Danann tribe invaded Ireland, their leader, Lugh, who was a master of crafts and trickery, led them during a time of peace and prosperity. The Milesians then invaded and forced the Tuatha Dé Danann to live underground. Since the Tuatha Dé Danann spent some time with the Druids, they were trained in the arts of magic and sorcery. Hence, the legend of magical folk that live underground who are masters of crafts (particularly shoe-making) and trickery.
Ireland already had several legends of small creatures, fairies especially, so it is no doubt that these legends were combined. Lú Chorpain, after all, means “small body,” which eventually transformed into the world leprechaun. Leprechauns themselves are actually considered to be fairies, the national fairies of Ireland, in fact!
Due to the clever nature of leprechauns, it is said that all other fairies entrusted them with the task of hiding their valuables, such as gold. They were quite good at it. Leprechauns even created false clues, saying that their hiding locations could be found at the end of rainbows.
Why are leprechauns shoe makers? They are well known for their love of music and dance. They dance so much that they wear down their shoes on a regular basis and must make replacements. Thank goodness their original leader, Lugh, taught them this crafty trade. When looking for a leprechaun, be sure to not only be on the lookout for rainbows, but listen carefully for the tapping of a tiny cobbler hammer driving nails into new shoes.
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Written by Carol Gabbert, Van Zile Travel