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Where do Leprechauns Come From?

27 January 2021
girl in dublin

Here at Kaplan we take St. Patrick's Day pretty seriously, especially at our English school in Dublin.  So we're getting ready for our big St. Paddy's week-long event with lots of fun facts about green beer, shamrocks, and leprechauns!

You'll be hearing more and more about St. Patrick's Day as we lead up to the big event on the 17th of March, but for now here are some things you might not know about Ireland's mythical troublemakers.


Where do Leprechauns Come From?

Leprechauns are always associated with the Irish and St. Patrick's Day. They have also been seen in films, cartoons and stories for generations.  They are usually shown as friendly red-headed pixies or fairies who wear green, look after a pot of gold, and can grant three wishes to anyone who catches them.

However, leprechauns didn't always look like this. Before Christianity was brought to Ireland by Saint Patrick, the Irish believed that their kings and queens descended from gods called Tuatha Dé Danann.

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These gods took the form of fairies on earth, and were as tall as people, or taller. Leprechauns were the tallest of them all, and mostly wore red coats.  They did play tricks on people, and they did collect gold, but apart from this they weren't anything like the leprechauns we see today in films and cartoons.

So how did we get from tall, red-coated leprechauns to little green-coated ones?  One idea is that as Christianity spread, the fairies and elves of Irish mythology turned into children's stories. As the stories became less important, the fairies in them became smaller and less scary to children.


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