A note from the author
There are several ways to study the culture of a nation, such as through historical records or documents. However, literature can also provide interesting information about culture. Myths, fairytales and folklores may have the hidden realities of the culture being explored. To me, these literary works reflect people’s beliefs in immortal beings; so from studying about the nature of one immortal being, one should also learn about the nation it belongs to.
Leprechauns are the most well-known elves of Ireland. They are considered by many people as one symbol of the country. So I think it’s quite interesting to study the myth of these solitary elves and see what information about Ireland or Irish people will be reflected by the beliefs in Leprechauns.
This story of Leprechauns which I wrote will tell you the reason why Leprechauns are solitary and how Leprechauns think of humans. The context in this story is in the 9th century when the first group of Vikings attacked Ireland.
In the story, you will notice that Leprechauns get involved with many immortal beings, mortal beings and also some magical plants. Moreover, this story also reflects some parts of Irish history. Therefore, I think it is necessary to give you some background information about those beings and some parts of Irish history in the introduction part which should help you understand the story well.
Fairies and elves are everywhere in human’s dream. They make people imaginative and happy. I hope you enjoy my story. Remember that fairytales can relieve us from this chaotic world.
Ireland is a land of mythical beauty full of legends to explore. It is called the land of Shamrock, the three-leaf clover carpeting most parts of Ireland forests. Mythological events, which occurred centuries before the birth of Christ, contribute to the mystical name of this land. Not different from Thai people, most of Irish believe in supernatural beings. It seems to be that many myths, legends or folktales, which relate to those immortal beings, came to Ireland with the Celts about 400 B.C. The Celts are tall, fair-haired people came from the region between the Rhine and Danube rivers on the mainland of Europe. They brought Celtic culture which has many beliefs about gods, goddesses, fairies, elves, and many heroes in Celtic mythology, to Ireland.
In the 9th century, Ireland was invaded by the Vikings. The Vikings are the red-haired pirates from Scandinavia. They were great travelers who loved raiding, trading and settling in other lands. The Vikings enjoyed pretty things and loved to express their status via golden jewellery, gem stones and valuable materials. They brought coinage which was something the Irish and Celts had never had before. This made Ireland a centre of European trade where the use of money was introduced. The Vikings had great influence on art, language, folklore and place names as well.
Leprechauns are the most well-known solitary fairy in Ireland and Irish people’s beliefs about them are very fascinating. They are popular figures in the Irish folklores. These two feet tall elves are believed to be often found wearing cocked hats, leather aprons, silver shoes and glasses. They are great shoemakers. Many Irish believe that Leprechauns usually dress in green clothes made of costly material. This may be because they have sacks of gold and gardens of four-leaf clover and shamrock so they are rich and always lucky. They are pipe smokers who love drinking beer and Irish whiskey. It is believed that Leprechauns will drown in a light rain, float away in a breezy day and get buried in a snowstorm. They are known for their naughty ways. These solitary fairies may be the ones playing tricks on humans whom they regard as foolish, flighty and greedy. From myths, these foul-mouthed Leprechauns are self-appointed guardians of ancient treasure left by Vikings. Leprechauns would show the person who could catch them the place where the treasure was hidden. But they usually trick that person and disappear when he looses an eye on them.
Living in large grassy hills, wild areas and in the forest of Antrim, Leprechauns are the owners of Shamrock and the four-leaf clover garden. In Irish tradition, Shamrock or three-leaf clover represents “the holy trinity”: one leaf for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit. For four-leaf clover, it is a universally accepted symbol of good luck. One leaf is for HOPE; the second is for FAITH; the third is for LOVE; and the fourth for LUCK!
From Celtic legends, those who created the 4-leaf clover are Gods of the four elements of nature. For earth, Goddess Dana is also the goddess of rivers, magic, plenty and wisdom. For water, Llyr is the god of sea who rules the underworld. The god of wind, Njord, gives good fortune to those in the sea. Sun God Lugh, who is the father of the great warrior, Cuchulain, is the god of fire.
There is the rainbow bridge connecting God’s place and the earth called Bifrost. And it is the duty of Heimdall, the Norse god of light and dawn who has to be a guardian of Bifrost. At the end of the rainbow, there is a 4-leaf clover garden where Leprechauns’ gold was hidden called Lucky Charm garden. From the myths, Leprechauns seemed to hate the rainbow since it will show where the gold is. Anyway, rainbow is the other important symbol in myths.
The Story of Leprechauns
Chapter 1: The Vikings of the North Sea
Toward the end of the 9th century, the Vikings, red-haired pirates from Scandinavia, were having a good time on their ship sailing amidst the North Atlantic cold wind to the Emerald Isle of Ireland, the green land of Celtic treasure. The party was arranged to praise the brave deed of Elmist, the greatest pirate of the North Sea, and to admire big piles of treasure he had just robbed. The sound of music and joyful laughs spread everywhere. Every crew was dancing, eating, and drinking their favorite whiskey. Near a main post of the ship, Elmist and his two followers, Satus and Racas, talked cheerfully.
“Look at these, my friends. Who else in this world but me deserves all of this treasure?” Elmist said.
“That’s right. I’m so proud of you, my lord,” said Racas.
“You’re our rescuer. We never had enough to eat but now we have plenty of food and whiskey. We have parties to enjoy and places to sleep. It is all because of you, Elmist”, Satus flattered.
Three of them went on admiring the big piles of treasure. The party continued until the large dark cloud moved above the ocean. Suddenly, a 100-metre giant wave crashed the ship. Everyone screamed with panic.
Although Vikings were experts on sailing and had faced a great number of cruel storms, it was different this time. The storm was so dreadful. It was like a curse from sky, meant to destroy all Vikings in the world. The ship was sinking. No one even Elmist could stop this disaster.
“Hurry, Satus, Racas! Put my treasure in the boxes and board a rowing boat,” Elmist ordered in the midst of chaos. “Drop the boat! Everybody, abandon the ship.”
Eventually, the ship was totally destroyed. Some crew died. Some survived. The waves washed away the boats to an isolated island in the middle of the sea. The island was covered with the dome-like band of green ray of light. It is the Emerald Isle of Ireland! The Vikings were very happy and carried their supplies on to the land with the hope to explore and take the treasure of Celtic Gods, the ancient Gods who had been protecting Ireland for a long time.
Suddenly, a great number of large rocks fell on Elmist and his men.
“What? Who dares to do this to me?” Elmist shouted angrily.
“Look at that!” Satus pointed up to the edge of the cliff.
Tall round towers stood on the cliff. Red-dark skinned local people were throwing stones at the Vikings. Elmist, Satus and Racas managed to escape. They started exploring the island and seeking the treasure of Celtic Gods.
Chapter 2: The Forest of Antrim
Quite afar from the shore, the Forest of Antrim was also covered with magical green shield. The sun shone through the shield warming every creature in this wonderland. Gods, goddesses, fairies, elves and humans lived together peacefully. Shamrock, with its three leaf branches and yellow flowers, together with other kinds of flowers where the flower nymphs lived, covered this island making the land so colourful. Birds and butterflies flew near a rainbow of the Norse god. Next to the rainbow, a waterfall flowed over the crystal stones where mermaids sat and combed their golden hair. Sounds of music were everywhere making this place a beautiful dream world.
Everybody was working to prepare the biggest party for the greatest hero of Ulster, Cuchulain, son of Sun God Lugh. Cuchulain had just conquered King Conchobar of the Connaugh County. At the end of the rainbow, Gods of the four earth elements: Goddess Dana, mother of all; God Llyr, king of the underworld; Njord, God of wind; and Sun God Lugh who has the magical spear of Celtic legend, were making a garden of the four-leaf clovers called “Lucky Charm” to keep their treasure and gold. The garden was also covered with magic shield and only Leprechauns could enter this garden. Under the Lucky Charm clovers, great quantities of gold were hidden. Leprechauns, two feet tall Irish elves wearing green clothes and jackets, were making beautiful shoes for the fairies who wanted to go to the party. Although, it was an urgent task, these tiny elves seemed to be happy and enjoyed doing their job while drinking whiskey and beer. And because of their fun-loving, friendliness and optimism, every god, goddess, fairy, elf and even human seemed to love Leprechauns.
“Hurry up! friends. There’re only two days left for us to make these great shoes for our fairies,” one Leprechaun said joyfully.
“Many people will come. There will be lots of beer and whiskey. It should be fun,” another Leprechaun added.
“Come on, my brother. Stop talking. We have to finish our job before sunrise” Drook, the most diligent and youngest Leprechaun warned his brothers.
Everything went well until the three Vikings, Elmist, Satus and Racas, came. All of gods, goddesses, fairies and elves disappeared except Drook who kept hammering shoes on the leaves of shamrock near the garden of Lucky Charm. Quietness came to visit Antrim. The waterfall stopped flowing. The rainbow faded away. Birds stopped singing and mermaids swam down to their home under the clear blue water. What was left to human eyes were Drook, brilliant colours of flowers, and the dim Lucky Charm garden. Elmist, Satus and Racas walked straight to Drook. They were badly injured. Their faces were swollen and soaked with blood.
Chapter 3: Relationship
Drook asked “Who did this to you, my friends?”
“We come from a far-away land, running away from hunger, suffering and coldness. With great hope, we sailed to find a new land where we can have better life. Unluckily, the storm sank our ship. Many of us died. But wind and waves have taken us to this land,” Elmist said weakly while staring at Drook and thinking, ‘What’s this creature? Human or elf? His face looks like the Irish but why is he so small???’
“And when we came ashore, those local people threw stones at us,” Racas complained.
“Oh! poor you. Do you have any place to stay?” Drook asked.
“No.” Satus answered.
“Let’s see. You can stay with us. We have a comfortable place for you,” Drook proposed.
“You’re so kind. Thanks so much for your help,” Elmist said to Drook.
Drook led the three Vikings to a place located near the rainbow of the Norse god. With the hope that these three fellows would be protected, Drook selected this house for them. The house was like a castle in every human’s dream. In front of the house, there was a big beautiful flower garden where charming flower fairies were dancing and watering their flowers. The ground was covered with shamrock and when the sun threw its light on it, the bright green beam sparkled, making this place the magical land of happiness. The roof was sheltered with ivy blooms and several kinds of mushrooms where the nymphs stayed. In the middle of the house, a golden chandelier of fireflies was hung. There was a little dead-locked door at the corner of the room.
“What is that door? Why is it locked?” Satus asked doubtfully.
“Well! That door is used to connect this house and my garden where I work. But 500 years ago, an evil monster came through this door and attacked us. God decided to close this door with the strongest spell. Don’t try to open the door, O.K.? You will be seriously injured,” Drook warned.
“Then where is your house?” Satus asked.
“My house is very near here. Look over there. Do you see those three giant mushrooms? Behind those mushrooms, the land near the end of the Norse god’s rainbow covered with shamrock is my home.” Drook answered.
“I saw you were making shoes. Whom were you making shoes for?” Elmist asked.
“Ah! We, Leprechauns, have to make shoes for our beloved fairies. But at this moment, we have to work hard because soon there will be the largest party for the greatest hero of Ulster, Cuchulain” Drook replied.
“I see. But who is Cuchulain? Why is he so important?” Racas asked.
“Cuchulain is the great warrior of Ulster and he is the only son of Sun God Lugh. He just conquered King Conchobar of Connaugh who followed his wife’s order, Queen Maeve, to attack Ulster. Cuchulain defended the province single-handedly for months against Conchobar’s army. So all of us, gods, goddesses, fairies, elves and humans will arrange the party to praise his bravery,’ Drook said proudly.
“Can we help?” Racas asked.
“Well, you’d better have a rest. When party time comes, you can go to join us,” Drook said. “You can come to see me any time you want. My folks will always welcome all of you, too,” Drook said and went away.
The three Vikings recovered and enjoyed wandering around with Leprechauns in the Forest of Antrim. Vikings and Leprechauns seemed to have the same characteristics: fun-loving, song-loving and friendly with a good sense of humour. They were loved by all: gods, elves, fairies, mermaids and humans. The Vikings lived happily in this forest and seemed to have no desire to leave.
Chapter 4: The Party
Party time came. The party area was filled with the fragrance of flowers. Birds sang songs of delight. Butterflies flew everywhere. All classes of fairies came down to dance among the Ulster people who joined the party. The flower nymphs came to make the flowers bloom and give out the beautiful fragrance. The waterfall flowed down making the stream of luck for Ulster people.
The great moment came when Cuchulain, a brown-skinned little man walked mightily into the party and greeted all gods, goddesses, fairies, elves and Ulster people. Then, Sun God Lugh came down from the heaven and gave a speech for his son.
“Ahem, good morning everybody. Now, my son, come to stand next to me on this stage,” Sun God Lugh said to Cuchulain.
Cuchulain went to stand with his father.
“Today is a good day for us, all races have come to celebrate and congratulate my son. Cuchulain, you have protected the County of Ulster from the army of Connaugh who kept attacking us. I’m so proud of you and all of the people of Ulster are also as proud of you as I am. Is that right?” Lugh asked.
“Yes yes, ” Ulster people cheered.
At the same time, a group of Leprechauns went to the end of the rainbow and picked up their green hats, green coats and emerald shamrock-shaped pendants and put them on before walking through the green magic shield to the garden of Lucky Charm.
Elmist asked Drook.
“Drook, why do you folks have to wear green coats, green hats and charms before entering the garden?”
“Do you see that green ray of light covering the garden? It is the protective spell which spreads widely to the dead-locked door in your house. That door used to link with the garden. And as I told you, when the monster came, gods put the spell on the door and also on this garden. Only us, Leprechauns who are believed to be the closest relatives of Sun God Lugh, can enter the garden. See! How important we are!! ” Drook replied.
“I see, so all of the stuff that you wear before going in will protect you from the curse.” Elmist realized.
“Yes. All of those charms were given by one God who is Sun God Lugh’s best friend,” Drook said.
Everybody then heard the announcement of Sun God Lugh,
“I give this decoration of bravery and gold of mine to my beloved son,” Sun God Lugh said while putting the necklace on Cuchulain’s neck. After Sun God Lugh awarded Cuchulain the gold that the Leprechauns had just got from the Lucky Charm garden, he announced,
“Now, let the party begin.”
Everybody cheered. The party went on as if it would never end.
Chapter 5: Monster
Unexpectedly, an ugly big red-haired monster with greedy eyes and big mouth full of worms and smelly rotten food, broke into the party. All immortal beings including Leprechauns disappeared. Ulster people ran away in disorder. The evil monster destroyed everything. Many died. Some were injured including the three Vikings.
The monster walked straight to Elmist and pushed Elmist violently into the Lucky Charm garden. The green spell covering the garden harmed Elmist. The spell was meant to protect the garden from all creatures except the Leprechauns. Luckily, Drook ran to help Elmist in time.
“Are you alright?” Drook asked with great concern.
“Just a little pain. I will be fine soon. Don’t worry.” Elmist replied.
“Unbelievable! No monsters have dared to come to this land for 500 years. Where does this monster come from?” Drook wondered.
Suddenly, Elmist coughed up with blood.
“Oh dear. I will take you to my house and cure you,” Drook cried and told Satus and Racas to carry Elmist to his house.
In a little while, Cuchulain and all Gods successfully forced out the monster. The party was over. The place was ruined. Afterward, the four gods of the elements of nature came down to sprinkle holy water and blessed all of the creatures in the land. When all four of them came together, life began again. Those who died became alive. Those who injured were recovered except Elmist who was brought to Drook’s house where the holy water couldn’t reach.
Drook’s small house was enlarged by his magical words, Elmist laid down on the golden bed covered with the softest blanket knitted from Lucky Charm leaves. The fireflies sparkled their light from the golden chandelier to warm Elmist.
“This blanket will heal you. You will be fine soon,” Drook said to Elmist putting his little hands on Elmist’s hand. “Get well soon. We will roam around together as we used to,”
“I will be fine. Don’t worry,” Elmist said softly.
Chapter 6: Pretense
Drook, Satus and Racas took very good care of Elmist. One week passed by, but Elmist’s condition was still not good.
“Why is it so? This land is surrounded with magical power. Nobody gets sick more than two days. Why?” all Leprechauns kept talking.
Drook could feel that the magical shield protecting Lucky Charm garden was fading away. Lucky Charm leaves were loosing their freshness. Drook decided to go up to the Lord of all Gods for an explanation.
“My mighty god, I’m so worried about the safety of Lucky Charm garden. Its magical shield is disappearing. How can I be sure that your gold and treasure will not be stolen?”
“Don’t worry, little elf. Whoever wants to steal my gold must wear your emerald charm and you must be in his or her sight at all time. It is very difficult for someone to steal anything from this land.”
“But what about the leaves? Would they regain their freshness? I am so attached to Lucky Charm. In no other place can we work best on your shoes,” Drook said nervously.
“Umm, it is quite strange. Lucky Charm usually survives from all spells. I promise you that the garden will return to its normal condition. I’ll try to solve the problem.”
Drook returned to his place feeling much more relieved. However, when he saw Elmist looked so pale in bed, he started feeling depressed again.
“Not any better?” He turned to ask the two Vikings who watched over Elmist.
“Not yet … I really feel so bad. Elmist is both my lord and my dear friend. If something happened to him,….. oh, I hate to think about it,” Racas talked with tears in his eyes.
“We will watch over Elmist. Don’t you worry, Drook. Please get some rest. Some good things might happen tomorrow.” Said Satus.
When the dark night fell, the sound of shoe-making faded away and fireflies stopped shining their soft charming light. All Leprechauns got ready for bed. Drook came to look at Elmist closely one more time before he lying down tiredly on his little bed. Satus and Racas walked over and put the warm blanket on Drook and told him “good night”. Then both Vikings returned to their own beds with strange grins….. the grins no one has ever seen before!!!!
Chapter 7: A Lie
The next morning, Drook woke up very early and rushed to see Elmist and there he found the empty bed. Elmist had disappeared!!! Drook woke Satus and Racas and asked them and other Leprechauns to find Elmist. They searched all over. Satus and Racas suggested everybody to go look for Elmist in the place where they have been staying. Everybody was again disappointed to see the empty place. One could hear soft blowing wind and see the green spell all over the room.
“Oh, look at that little dead-locked door,” a Leprechaun shouted.
Everybody turned around to look at the door. How could the door be open since it had such a strong spell on it? The Leprechauns picked up their coats, hats and emerald green charms and dashed through the door hurriedly. Inside was dark and filled with the terrible smell from the demon who had broken into the Lucky Charm garden. Its huge footprints were there, filled with slime. The Leprechauns didn’t bother to look back. They missed the eager look on the faces of the two Vikings who followed them closely. The Vikings were panting because of the spell. Their breathing sounded like a thunderstorm. There, close to the entrance of Lucky Charm garden, lay Elmist badly injured.
“What happened, my dear friend?” Drook ran to him.
“That demon …. Devil….” Elmist completely lost his consciousness after these few words.
All Leprechauns were frightened.
“Oh, Elmist, my lord, you must live….I can’t live without you. You have given me happiness. I don’t want to suffer as in my old days. Please don’t leave us,” Racas sobbed and moaned.
“I will help Elmist. Don’t panic. But before you met Elmist, were you really in trouble?” Drook asked.
“We were so poor, suffered from hunger and coldness. I had never seen a golden coin. We could only dream to be rich,” Satus replied.
“After I help Elmist, I will help making your dream come true,” Drook gave them hope and then he took out the holy water he received from the lord of all Gods. This holy water is specially made of the divine waterfall, the scales of young mermaids, and Lucky Charm powder.
Drook sprinkled the holy water on Elmist’s body. Suddenly, Elmist opened his eyes. His injuries were gone. Everybody was happy.
“In fact if you had stayed in my house, no devil could do you harm. How did you get hurt?” Drook asked.
“I decided to leave because I don’t want to give anyone trouble. I know well that you are so good to me. When I started packing, the devil came and destroyed that door and dragged me in. But it couldn’t stand the protective magic which spread out of Lucky Charm garden. It then fled somewhere and left me near the entrance of the garden,” explained Elmist.
“O.K., friends, from now on you will suffer no more. And I will make your dream come true,” said Drook.
“Do you have gold?” The three Vikings asked excitedly.
“Not just 10 coins, I have a lot,” Drook boasted
Drook gave the green charms to the three Vikings to wear to protect themselves. The four of them walked into Lucky Charm garden. The three Vikings’ eyes were wide-open with greed. However, what appeared to their eyes in the mid of the garden were just Lucky Charm leaves covering the ground.
“Where are all your treasure? I don’t see anything,” Elmist asked disappointedly.
Drook walked toward the biggest Lucky Charm in the middle of the garden and said some magic words. Suddenly, all the rest of the Lucky Charms rose up in the air. The three Vikings’ eyes were struck with the golden sparkling light. There in front of them, lay the great big pile of gold, long hidden under the Lucky Charm.
“Oh, I’ve never seen such great treasure in my life,” Elmist said excitedly. Drook caught the terrible look in Elmist’s eyes and thought he had seen such look somewhere before.
Then Satus spoke up, “The Vikings have a belief that if the sunlight doesn’t touch your eyeballs for 1,324 seconds, the treasure will be doubled.”
“Is that so?” Drook said.
“Try it.” Satus told Drook.
Drook closed his eyes and started to count.
“1…., 2…., 3…., 4…., 5….”
“Oh, no… you have to count very slowly or the miracle won’t happen,” Racas remarked.
“O.K. ………1……….., ………2………, ………3…….., …………4……….” Drook thought to himself, “Now I can take the extra portion of the treasure which I gain from closing my eyes. Gods will never know because theirs will still be the same amount as had been. But where can I hide my gold?”
Drook heard the clinking sound while he was counting but he didn’t pay attention. The sound became softer and softer. Drook counted up to 1,324 before he opened his eyes. What he saw was one coin on a small piece of paper. The writing on the paper read,
“One for you and the rest for us!!! ESR.”
“ESR????? Elmist, Satus, Racas …. You thieves …. You stole my gold. Disaster will come to you. Just you wait !!!!”
The sound of the Vikings’ laugh was so loud. Drook was so angry. For Leprechauns, friendship and trust for humans came to an end.
Later, in the mid of the North Atlantic Sea, Elmist, Satus and Racas were drinking happily in the welcome party arranged for them on the Viking ship. Protus, Elmist’s younger brother walked toward Elmist and poured more whiskey for him.
“Do you feel better now?”
“Yes, my brother. Thank you so much for helping us get out of that land. You must be very tired. That was the big job, disguising yourself as the devil so that we could enter the garden. Did you get hurt from the magic shield?” Elmist asked.
“Satus and Racas stole the holy water from that stupid little elf for me. I feel stronger than ever,” Protus said, “Thank you, Satus and Racas.”
“Never mind. It is our job to take care of Elmist and you are his brother,” Racas said. They all laughed happily.
“I want to see that Drook’s face. He learned his lessons from trusting us,” Satus laughed again.
“He’s really stupid. Only I pretended to be sick for a week. He completely believed us .. ha ha ha,” Elmist proudly spoke to all. “Let’s go to see our gold.”
All four of them went down into the cabin underneath the ship. They almost fainted when they found nothing but a coin on a little piece of paper with the words
“One for you and all the rest for us!!!” Drook, you beloved friend.”
The sounds of laughs from all the Leprechauns became louder and louder …
The last Chapter: Consequence
All Gods realized that the spell which destroyed the magic shield for Lucky Charm garden was human greed.
New stronger magic was created to protect the garden.
The Leprechauns were so angry and decided to live solitarily without any contact with fairies, gods or even other Leprechauns because their trust which they always gave to others had been destroyed.
The Leprechauns took all of the treasure and gold back from the Vikings by magic and kept them at Lucky Charm garden. They took good care of it as if it was their own treasure.
The Vikings were mad at the Leprechauns and hoped that someday they would get the treasure back. Many Vikings including Elmist, Satus, Racas and Protus settled down in big cities near the forest of magic called Dublin, Cork and Limerick. They kept waiting for the opportunity to take revenge.