From the fun-loving magically delicious Lucky Charms mascot to the sinister serial killer who stalked a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston in a cult horror film that spawned a franchise of bad horror films, the leprechaun has left a very definitive footprint in pop culture. But how did this mischievous yet loveable creature get its reputation?
The modern day leprechaun’s image is one that most people are familiar with. Their iconic red beards, top hats, buckled shoes and green attire are everywhere come St. Patrick’s Day. But according to ancient Gaelic mythology, the original leprechaun wore red garments and had no green in its wardrobe. Leprechauns adopted their modern depiction around the 20th century when green became the color of everything associated with St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland. But some claim that the leprechauns became green because it made it easy for them to camouflage themselves in all of the greenery that is Ireland.
Derived from the Gaelic word luchorpán which means “small body”, the quintessential leprechaun was a solitary sort of fellow who made shoes for a living and stowed his profits in secret places only known to him. Anyone fortunate enough to happen upon a leprechaun gets access to its wealth of gold. But these mischievous little creatures aren’t so easy to catch. They say one way to track a leprechaun is to listen carefully for sometimes you can hear the sound of its hammer mending shoes. Such was the case of Michael O’Grady.
As legend has it, one fine morning Michael O’Grady decided to wander up into the wooded hills for a walk. He became intrigued by the distant sound of tapping. Curious, O’Grady followed the sound only to stumble upon a leprechaun tap-tap-tapping away at a pair of shoes. Michael knew that this was his lucky day for the site of a leprechaun meant surely there was a pot of gold hidden somewhere nearby. These cunning little creatures had a reputation that preceded them, however, and Michael knew that he could not trust the little imp.
O’Grady slowly crept up behind the leprechaun, refusing to take his eyes off of it even for an instant as these creatures had the ability to vanish in a flash. He grabbed the creature with both hands, looked into his eyes and forcefully commanded, “tell me where your pot of gold is!” The creature attempted to break free but O’Grady’s grip was far too strong. Defeated, the leprechaun said, “Come with me” and led Michael O’Grady deep into the woods onto a cluster of trees. The leprechaun pointed at one tree in particular and said, “Underneath that tree is your pot of gold”.
Michael hadn’t expected that when he left the house that morning he would be digging for gold. He realized he would need a shovel but how would he ever remember what tree the pot of gold was buried under? Just then Michael O’Grady came up with a brilliant idea. He would use the red garter around his leg to identify the tree! After he wrapped it around the stem, he menacingly said to the leprechaun, “Now promise me that you will not remove the garter from the tree”. The leprechaun crossed his heart and swore that he would not. Michael ran through the forest and back to his home to pick up a shovel. By the time he got back to the woods, however, all the trees had a red garter tied around the stem and he could not determine which one had the pot of gold beneath it. The devious little creature had tricked Michael.
And so the story of the leprechaun goes. When you’re out and about this St. Patrick’s Day and you stumble upon a leprechaun, do not trust this mischievous little creature for you might encounter a fate similar to that of Michael O’Grady.