Leprechaun: The Faerie Cobbler
Hey everyone! @MichaelMcGannon here…
Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh!! Which is to say… HAPPY ST. PADDY’S DAY!!!
Today’s holiday is one of my favorites throughout the entire year, right behind Halloween and Christmas, for two reasons. Firstly, I get to pinch people. Second, homemade bangers n’ mash. MMMmmmm. (Also, dyed green hair is pretty fun.)
The Monster Guys actually come from an Irish heritage, and so we have a vested interest in monsters and phenomena coming from the Old Country. What better monster to profile today of all days than a certain mascot of the Emerald Isle…the leprechaun!
The leprechaun is quite a unique fellow among the faerie folk, and out of all of their court we seem to know more about him than most of the others. Let’s start off with some basic facts. (If you’ve ever been to a @TheMonsterGuys panel or talk, read keenly. You might remember a few odd facts here or there.)
Breaking down faerie names is always an interesting task. For instance, banshee, coming from ban (woman) and sidhe (faerie mound), literally means woman of the faerie mounds, and most other faerie folk names seem to be just as literal. As far as we know, leprechaun can be roughly translated into “sprite” or “small body.”
Pretty straight-forward, right? Of course, this little man is about as far from straightforward as you can get, but we’ll get to that later.
Another fact to take note of is that nowadays the leprechaun is portrayed in a coat of green, but this doesn’t match up with older traditions. Originally, the leprechaun wore a red suit, making me think he was somehow related to creatures like Robin Goodfellow, or maybe even the murderous powrie, or redcap.
*conspiratorial waggling of fingers*
The leprechaun is famous for quite a few traits. He is believed by some to be the only industrious faerie, being a cobbler himself and carrying around a strange toolkit that allows him to repair shoes. Though, whenever doing his work he only ever works on one shoe, so you’re out of luck (pun intended) if you need work done on both.
There is another creature similar to our tiny cobbler known as the clurichaun, who is basically the resident faerie of drunkenness. Many people believe that when the leprechaun is done with his daily work he will throw all caution to the wind and become this rowdy little sprite. As if the dirty old cobbler wasn’t rowdy enough without the drink. For those of you who attended one of our talks on monsters, you might remember that the clurichaun is one of @DCMcGannon‘s favorite monsters, due to the fact that the little house sprite resides in and takes care of your wine cellar. As long as you keep him happy, that is.
By the way, did you ever wonder why you pinch a person not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day?
It’s because the faerie folk, particularly creatures like the clurichaun, would pinch sinners and drunkards. I find this both hilarious and hypocritical of them, as the fae were known to be fond of drinking and were not exactly “righteous” folk, many not even able to step onto church grounds without being injured.
Before we leave you to your celebration today, a monster profile on the leprechaun wouldn’t be complete without at least a mention on his legendary pot of gold. But what’s more, I’ll even tell you how to get the pot of gold.
If you remember those old Lucky Charms commercial, it might seem like finding the leprechaun’s pot is an easy enough task…
*overdone laughter and a bit of choking*
NOT SO, SILLY MORTAL.
First, you have to catch the little man. This is done by making sure that, once you’ve spotted a leprechaun, you never blink or take your eyes off of him. If you do, he will disappear. Sorry, bub, dem’s de ropes. Even after you catch him and have a firm hold on him, try not to blink.
Now this part is tricky, as faeries are inherent liars. You’ll have to get the leprechaun to show you the way to his pot of gold, and you’ll have to be discerning. Some have sway over men’s minds. Be wary of this, or else you might become the protagonist of some dangerous task.
Once you’ve gotten the truth out of the bugger, you will find the crock of gold. Stare at it in awe. It’s said the leprechaun gains another gold coin for every year he’s alive, and there are hundreds in this baby. Go ahead and pick one up and…
…weep as the gold turns to dirt and leave in your fingers.
No wonder people stopped trying to find the end of the rainbow.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone. Tip o’ the hat to you!
P.S. – Here’s a bonus for you on today’s monster profile, a poem from W.B Yeats’ amazing collection, Irish Fairy & Folk Tales. This is one of my absolute favorite books on Irish folklore, and I highly recommend giving it a read through. Anyways, on with the show!
THE LEPRACAUN; OR, FAIRY SHOEMAKER
By William Allingham
Little Cowboy, what have you heard,
Up on the lonely rath’s green mound?
Only the plaintive yellow bird
Sighing in sultry fields around,
Chary, chary, chary, chee-ee!–
Only the grasshopper and the bee?–
Scarlet leather, sewn together,
This will make a shoe.
Left, right, pull it tight;
Summer days are warm;
Underground in winter,
Laughing at the storm!
Lay your ear close to the hill.
Do you not catch the tiny clamour,
Busy click of an elfin hammer,
Voice of the Lepracaun singing shrill
As he merrily plies his trade?
He’s a span
And a quarter in height.
Get him in sight, hold him tight,
And you’re a made
You watch your cattle the summer day,
Sup on potatoes, sleep in the hay;
How would you like to roll in your carriage.
Look for a duchess’s daughter in marriage?
Seize the Shoemaker–then you may!
“Big boots a-hunting,
Sandals in the hall,
White for a wedding-feast,
Pink for a ball.
This way, that way,
So we make a shoe;
Getting rich every stitch,
This keen miser-fairy hath,
Hid in mountains, woods, and rocks,
Ruin and round-tow’r, cave and rath,
And where the cormorants build;
From times of old
Guarded by him;
Each of them fill’d
Full to the brim
I caught him at work one day, myself,
In the castle-ditch, where foxglove grows,–
A wrinkled, wizen’d and bearded Elf,
Spectacles stuck on his pointed nose,
Silver buckles to his hose,
Leather apron-shot in his lap–
(A grasshopper on my cap!
Away the moth flew!)
Buskins for a fairy prince,
Brogues for his son,–
Pay me well, pay me well,
When the job is done! ”
The rogue was mine, beyond a doubt.
I stared at him; he stared at me;
“Servant, Sir!” “Humph!” says he,
And pull’d a snuff-box out.
He took a long pinch, look’d better pleased,
The queer little Lepracaun;
Offer’d the box with a whimsical grace,-
Pouf! he flung the dust in my face,
And, while I sneezed,