85. Nannie’s Fun Facts! (18)

 J.M.J.

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 Hello, my Friend!  Nannie here!

Well…as you can see the eminent 2nd Graders had wonderful questions for Finney.

I know that Finney hopes he answered them well.  He tried!

The questions were very smart-minded in that Leprechauns are shrouded in mystery.  Those questions were a direct hit on what little we know or have heard.

It seems as if I should mention here that my perspective is one of an Irish American, daughter of an Irish immigrant.  I was not born and raised in Ireland, so my understandings are simply that of an Irish American trying to absorb and pass on the heritage that I cherish and always want to know better and better…a wonderful and mystical heritage that is so singular and unique to we Irish, and for which I am fiercely grateful for and proud of…a heritage that I sense and feel deep within myself.

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Having said that…let us continue!

Going to one of my very favorite sources, http://www.libraryireland.com, we find references to leprechauns just as naturally as to the weather or what was served by the monks to their guests who happened to drop by.

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For example, James Bonwick, in his Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions (1894), refers matter of factly to what “hospitable neighbors” provided the Leprechauns for supper!

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St. Enda’s Cemetery (Inis Mor*, Aran Islands) where history records more than 120 Saints have been laid to rest!

Dr. Joyce, in his Smaller History of Social Ireland (1906), tells us that “the leprechauns are an ancient race in Ireland, for we find them mentioned in some of our oldest tales…”  Dr. Joyce gives us a hint, too, of his opinion of the evolvement (if that’s the right word), of how a “present day story” can draw from an actual account that may have not been exactly the same.  The example I can refer to is that Dr. Joyce tells us that in an 8th Century tale, the King of the Leprechauns had been taken captive by King Fergus Mac Leide.  The King of the Leprechauns “ransomed himself by giving him (King Fergus) a pair of magic shoes which enabled him to go under the water whenever, and for as long as, he pleased…”

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Southwest Ireland

“Dr. Joyce goes on to say that perhaps this story of the magic shoes is the original version of the present superstition that the Leprechaun is the fairies’ shoemaker.”                                    (Towne, Susanne O., Irish Food…For Thought)

So, the story just got dressed up a little.  Keeping that in mind, most any written story often has a long oral tradition that precedes it, which can account for stories with an historical basis developing into topics that many believe are just made up.

‘Tis sorrowful for those who quickly come to that conclusion, when indeed there may very well be true facts at the root of a “story”… especially in Ireland.

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The casual and persistent mention of Leprechauns in Irish culture certainly shows us how ingrained their “existence” is, with many sources having “eye-witness” accounts…Walker, Mathew, Ireland, The Island of Saints (1907); The Carlingford “Story”; Peter J. McCafferty in the Herald Star Newspaper; and the Leprechaun Museum to mention just a few!)

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 Speaking of the Leprechaun Museum…I would love to be the one to let you know that “the” Leprechaun Museum is “based in the heart of Dublin.”  And I quote from their website (www.leprechaunmuseum.ie)…”Irish people have told stories about the Leprechaun for more than a thousand years.  There are many tales about him and the people he meets…leprechauns, rainbows, and pots of gold.”

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At http://www.irishcentral.com, we learn that “In his collection of Irish fairy and folk tales, W. B. Yeats offered an 18th Century poem by William Allingham titled “The Lepracaun; Or, Fairy Shoemaker.”  It describes the tapping sound of the sprite…”  Mr. Yeats, according to http://www.yourirish.com, explains the need for shoemakers in the fairy kingdom, because they love to dance!

That same website, http://www.yourirish.com gives a pretty traditional understanding of Leprechauns with mentions of little suits, hats and buckled shoes…pots of gold, underground homes guarded by trees, and caves masked as rabbit holes…leprechauns being keen musicians who love to dance and sing…  We find talk of how Leprechauns guard their gold at http://www.ireland-now.com.

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 So, now, going back to Dr. Joyce and seemingly made up stories having roots in something true…Lady Francesca Wilde in her Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland, tells us that “it is believed by many people that the cave fairies are the remnant of the ancient Tuatha-de-Dananns who once ruled Ireland, but were conquered by the Milesians.” (hard to determine exact date–one source says around 1500 B.C. — Hart’s Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation)

The Tuatha de Danann were, simply said, possessed of “special” skills (that seemed to some as “magical”) and were “excellent in all the arts as builders, poets, and musicians… and that they lived for a very long time.”  (www.libraryireland.com)

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So, even just this small example shows how some of the “ideas” we have about Leprechauns may have come from true historical fact…combine that with a possible smaller stature and all of a sudden it seems more plausible.

Hmmm…

This sure is a lot to think about…my last thought is to quote again from the Leprechaun Museum (in Dublin) website…

The Museum attempts to give you an experience that will help you “Feel what it’s like to journey deep beneath the rocks of the Giant’s Causeway” (Northeastern Ireland) to “open up your minds to the sights and stories of Ireland’s mythical otherworld on a trip to fairy hill.  Find yourself in a leprechaun-sized world and take a journey to the end of the rainbow to see if the elusive crock of gold really exists.”  (www.leprechaunmuseum.ie)

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Of course, please keep in mind you have heard from Finney directly about all these things…   🙂

God bless you and thank you for visiting Finney and Me!

*Inis Mór

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