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In Irish folklore, leprechauns are a type of elf said to inhabit the island of Ireland. A few Irish people believe in the reality of leprechauns but most people treat them as a charming piece of folklore that adds to the magic of Ireland.

The leprechaun according to folklore

Leprechaun sightings, while rare, occur most frequently in the vicinity of faerie forts (drumlins).

Solitary by nature, leprechauns live in remote places and make shoes and brogues. Their name literally means "one shoe maker" and they are sometimes detected by the rhythmic tapping of their cobbler's hammer as they go about their work.

In appearance a leprechaun takes the form of a diminutive old man, usually no larger than three feet tall, wearing a cocked hat, leather (work) apron, woolen vest, knee breeches, long stockings and silver-buckled brogues. They are always bearded and are usually pipe smokers. In modern times leprechauns are often depicted wearing emerald green frock coats as part of a brightly colored ensemble but this has more to do with the image of a leprechaun on the packaging of the popular breakfast cereal Lucky Charms than established tradition.

Leprechauns know the location of buried treasure, often a crock of gold. They will reveal the location of this treasure if caught but will not give it up easily, hence the saying that a leprechaun's treasure is at the "end of the rainbow" (i.e. unobtainable).

By nature leprechauns are mischievous with a great fondness for Celtic music and sports. They like nothing better than a well-crafted, ironic practical joke and Irish folklore is replete with examples. Once, a farmer captured a leprechaun and forced him to reveal the location of buried treasure. The leprechaun assured him that the treasure was buried in an open field beneath a particular ragwort plant. The farmer tied a red bandana to the plant, released the leprechaun, and left to get a shovel. Upon his return he found that all the weeds in the field had been tied with identical red bandanas.

Leprechauns are said to serve as defenders of the faerie community i.e. a type of palace guard to the faerie queen.

Leprechauns in fiction