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A Little Leprechaun History

March 15, 2018
by Anna Veltri , Emmetsburg News

Growing up, I never did anything special to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day. Of course I wore green to school and somehow still managed to get pinched every year and my mom would dye our oatmeal and milk green on St. Pat's morning, but our town didn't celebrate. This will be my first year experiencing Saint Patrick's Day as a citizen of Emmetsburg.

As you probably noticed, one of our front page photos is of the two leprechauns that will be in Saturday's parade. Growing up, leprechauns would leave quarters in a pair of shoes the night before the holiday. I've asked around a little here, and I haven't come across anyone with a similar tradition. All of this made me wonder where the idea of the leprechaun came from. I did a little research on the ever-reliable Wikipedia, and here is what I found:

A leprechaun is a type of fairy of the Aos S in Irish folklore. They are usually depicted as little bearded men, wearing a coat and hat, who partake in mischief. They are solitary creatures who spend their time making and mending shoes and have a hidden pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If captured by a human, they often grant three wishes in exchange for their freedom. Like other Irish fairies, leprechauns may be derived from the Tuatha D Danann. Leprechaun-like creatures rarely appear in Irish mythology and only became prominent in later folklore.

The name leprechaun is derived from the Irish word leipreachn, defined by Patrick Dinneen as "a pigmy, a sprite, or leprechaun". The further derivation is less certain; according to most sources, the word is thought to be a corruption of Middle Irish luchrupn, from the Old Irish luchorpn, a compound of the roots l (small) and corp (body).

The earliest known reference to the leprechaun appears in the medieval tale known as the Echtra Fergus mac Lti (Adventure of Fergus son of Lti). The text contains an episode in which Fergus mac Lti, King of Ulster, falls asleep on the beach and wakes to find himself being dragged into the sea by three lchorpin. He captures his abductors, who grant him three wishes in exchange for release.

The leprechaun is said to be a solitary creature, whose principal occupation is making and mending shoes, and who enjoys practical jokes. According to William Butler Yeats, the great wealth of these fairies comes from the "treasure-crocks, buried of old in war-time", which they have uncovered and appropriated. According to David Russell McAnally the leprechaun is the son of an "evil spirit" and a "degenerate fairy" and is "not wholly good nor wholly evil"

Whether you believe in leprechauns or not, make sure to have a fun and safe Saint Patrick's Day. I am really looking forward to all of the events of the weekend, and I hope to see everyone out and about enjoying the beautiful weather.




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