Not your ordinary Leprechaun!

Submitted by kspring on Fri, 03/06/2015 - 17:23
Soon the celebration of St. Patrick’s day will be here and the color green will enliven our pancakes, beverages, and – down in San Diego especially, our eggs. And while the hue of the Emerald Isle lends a festive note to the day, historically some of the visual symbols associated with the modern day feast have differed. For instance, did you know that the Leprechaun hasn’t always worn a green jacket replete with golden clasps and buckles? According to Fairy and folk tales of Ireland, edited by W.B. Yeats, the Leprechaun wears red! While browsing our holdings in Special Collections I came across this little volume, which includes Butler's Fairy and folk tales of the Irish peasantry, originally published in 1888, and Irish fairy tales, originally published in 1892. The text portrays the Leprechaun differently from what an online search may yield. To begin with, he is classified as one of the solitary fairies: a rather homely and slouchy bunch. Standing out from the rest, the Leprechaun is characterized as the One-shoe maker. As such he is most often depicted working on a single shoe, usually while sitting under a hedge. But the real difference is in his clothing. Yeats and other contributors explain that the Leprechaun wears red specifically because it is the distinguishing color of the solitary fairies. It’s actually the social, or trooping, fairies who are noted by their green clothing. So, claiming a festive mood, we've decided to visualize this anomaly:  


Here my friend models our amateur version of the Leprechaun's costume while he tends to a single shoe. The red coat is described as having seven buttons in each row. Sometimes seven rows of seven buttons are outlined, sometimes not. So we’ve decided to go with just two. No specific color was assigned to the hat; but the book does mention that the solitary fairies are not flashy or glittery, so we’ve chosen to make the hat drab.     A poem by William Allingham titled "The Lepracaun; or Fairy Shoemaker" is included in the collection and talks of treasures hidden in mountains and forests. Presumably these are the pots of gold we now expect to find at the end of rainbows.


Additionally, legend has it that the Leprechaun balances on his hat, upside-down, when he’s being particularly mischievous. And, of course, we had to try that out!                 But, no matter which version of the Leprechaun you prefer, almost all agree that he's a crafty little guy who can disappear in an instant. Wishing you a most happy St. Patrick's Day! Source: Yeats, W.B., ed. Fairy and folk tales of Ireland. London: Picador, 1979.