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Friday, March 17, 2017

Irish Folklore: At last, a Leprechaun

Sean O'Conaola of Galway heard this story from some elderly folks in the area. He told it to Brian Mac Lochlainn in 1937; it's in Sean O'Sullivan's Folktales of Ireland.

The Three Laughs of the Leipreachan
A farmer, out early to check on his livestock and crops, heard a hammering noise. Looking around, he found a huge mushroom, under which was a leipreachan making a pair of shoes. The farmer seized the little person and demanded to know where the liepreachan's money was hidden.
[It might be relevant to know that legends tell of Danish treasure being hidden in the earth, the location of which is only known by the little people]
"I can't tell you," said the leipreachan, "for I don't know where it's hidden."
"Then," said the farmer, "I'll shut you in a trunk for seven years. We'll see if you know the answer then."
So the farmer brought him home and shut him in a trunk . When th4e farmer was out once, he found some driftwood and managed to sell it to another man. When he returned home, he heard laughter from the trunk. When the seven years ended, the farmer took out the leipreachan out and demanded to know where the riches were. Again, the liepreachan pleaded ignorance, and again he was shut up in a trunk.
A while later, a poor man was traveling by the farm. The farmer offered the man some food, but the poor man refused. Walking along shortly thereafter, the poor man fell and broke his leg. The farmer again heard laughter from the trunk. Again seven years went by, and when asked the leipreachan still denied all knowledge of treasure.
Later still the farmer was going to a fair, and dug up his money from where he'd hidden it out behind the farm (as was common in those days). Alas, he was spotted in this activity by some thieves, who waited until he was gone and then raided his stash.
When the farmer returned home, he heard the leipreachan laughing once more. This time, he got the little man out of the trunk and demanded to know the reason for the three times he had laughed. The leipreachan said, "There are many things which a person would be better for not knowing."
"Enough of that," said the farmer. "Tell me."
So, the leipreachan told him: First, the bit of driftwood the farmer had found and sold had been full of money, and the man who bought it was filthy rich. Second, the leipreachan told of how the poor man had broken his leg, and that he'd have been unhurt if he'd just stayed for a bit to eat. And third--and this one the man had to coax out of him with threat of force--he told the farmer about the thieves stealing all his cash.
At this the farmer jumped up to go check his stash and found it empty. He went around like a mad man from one place to another. If he didn't know that it had been stolen, he mightn't have lost his reason.
Not the typical leprechaun story about the ribbon tied around a tree, but a common one in Ireland a while back. Apparently it's sometimes told of a mermaid, instead of a leprechaun. And though it's not often said these days, leprechauns are said to be cobblers.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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