Lucky the leprechaun
Don’t let the big grin fool you…
That guy on the cereal box isn’t the real deal. You know the one I mean: Green suit, jaunty green hat, gigantic clover sticking out of it. He carries a magic wand and fairy dust follows him around whenever he flies—does he have wings? How does he fly, exactly? Anyway, that’s not a real leprechaun. No doubt real leprechauns want to perpetuate this as their image because people will leave them alone, but I’m here to set the record straight.

Leprechauns are faerie. The spelling’s important. We’re not talking Tinkerbell’s kind of fairy—though maybe the cereal box guy is related to her. We’re talking an entire race of enchanted folk belonging to Celtic mythology. All kinds of people belonging to the race of faerie—some people call them elves, dwarves, goblins, etc—can be found throughout Ireland and the rest of the British Isles, particularly in Faerie mounds.

A word of warning, you probably don’t want to go into one of those. Sure they know how to party, but getting back is a problem. At least getting back before a hundred years or so goes by is a problem, but, hey, if your calendar is free, go for it.

Leprechauns actually look a lot like you and me. That is, no wings, nothing really remarkable about them. Yes, they’re shorter, but they’re not the size of garden gnomes. More like a ten year old boy, but they’re almost always old, looking to be about 40. The clothes? No green suit. They actually look like old-fashioned cobblers—not the peach kind, though those are delicious. They wear leather aprons with pouches on them, and look like they’re ready to do some work.

The leprechauns just appear as short people, a little older, and a whole lot trickier. Yes, there is a pot of gold. Will you get it? Not a chance. Chasing down that rainbow gets you nowhere fast. If you happen to catch a leprechaun, you’re still going to be on a goose chase as the leprechaun is more likely to lead you to the beginning of the rainbow than the end. Come on, it’s his gold, would you give it up so easily?

Oh, and just because you found and caught the leprechaun, don’t think you’re in charge. Like the rest of their faerie-kin, they’re smart, clever—devious, even—and like to play tricks on mortals. That would be us, at least until I figure out that immortality thing, then your’e on your own. If you manage to get a hold of a leprechaun, he may make you jump through a list of hoops, buy a bunch of things, or otherwise convince you that there’s a bunch of things that need to be done in order to get the faerie treasure. Leprechauns will happily send us on a wild chase, make us act like fools, even get into trouble—sometimes very serious, deadly trouble—to exploit our greed. Oh, and because they think it’s funny. Yes, they will go to that length just for a joke. They are truly dedicated to their little cons, but not for a monetary payoff, just amusement.

Irish Coin
Lucky or no?
More than that, leprechauns have other tricks up their sleeves. Instead of the whole pot, they’ll try and bribe you with the gold they have on hand. Don’t take it. No, seriously, it’s a bad idea. See, like everything about faerie, it’s magic. The magic gold coin has a special property which is great for leprechauns, not so much for you and me. When he gives it to you, it’s fine. After a little time goes by, it will disappear. Depending on the story it will just vanish or it may crumble to dust, and not gold dust. Leprechauns will happily give this coin in order to get away from you. Once you go to spend it, poof, gone, and you’re stuck washing dishes to pay off that bar tab because you went on a bender for some Guiness.

The other pouch has a more insidious kind of coin. This is the one the leprechaun uses to buy stuff with. It’s silver, so it’s not as good, but the catch here is that the coin will make its way back to the leprechaun’s pouch. It’s a freaking boomerang coin, only it doesn’t fly back to the pouch, it just disappears then shows up in his pouch. That beats anything Batman could ever come up with.

So watch yourself on St. Patrick’s Day. The short guy at the end of the bar might be more than he seems. And the next time you get the urge to chase down that rainbow, think twice.

[Coin image via Zadok's flickr stream]

Andy Adams is an adjunct professor of English at various colleges in the Phoenix area. He has an affectation for fedoras as they complement his villainous goatee. He’s been known to poke his head onto Twitter @A3Writer, but he’s never been big into birds. He blogs at A3writer.com about writing, teaching, and the conquest of fictional worlds—they’re more fun than the real world.

Read all posts by Andy Adams for Criminal Element.


  1. Wavalene Adams

    Very interesting article. Never heard this story. The coins were something different. Keep up the good reporting.

  2. Jeff Baker

    The folklore I heard is that the leprechauns are actually fallen angels. not evil but fallen nonetheless! These are according to the stories of Hermionie Templeton, which were the basis for the Disney movie “Darby O’Gill and the Little People.” Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!

  3. Blaine A.

    Great article! I never knew any of this about leprechauns, and I loved the fairy v. faerie distinction.

  4. Terrie Farley Moran

    Wonderful fun! Thanks so much.

  5. Cheryl English

    This is really awesome. Thanks for sharing with us.

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