Best St Patrick’s Day facts – 6 bizarre things you didn't know about the Irish event

They are typically portrayed as mischievous little creatures in green hats, jackets and trousers.

But the original Leprechauns didn’t look like that.

The early bearded fairies wore red jackets, laced with gold, according to ancient tales.

They are also believed to have sported red, pointed hats (instead of green top hats adorned with shamrocks) and white or brown beards (not ginger ones).

In 1831, Irish novelist Samuel Lover wrote that the Leprechaun was “… quite a beau in his dress, notwithstanding, for he wears a red square-cut coat, richly laced with gold, and inexpressible of the same, cocked hat, shoes and buckles.”

Irish poet William Butler Yeats also described the solitary creature as ‘something of a dandy’ in a ‘red jacket with seven rows of buttons’ and a ‘cocked-up hat’.

He noted that only ‘trooping fairies’ dressed in green.

The writers’ descriptions are a far cry from the Guinness-drinking, ginger-bearded and green-clothed men likely to be seen in Britain’s bars on St Patrick’s Day.

Ahead of the Irish celebration on March 17, we reveal six other fascinating things you probably didn’t know about Leprechauns:

1. They weren’t all that friendly

Leprechauns made their first appearance in an eighth-century poem.

King Fergus of Ulster was sleeping when the tiny, angry men sneakily tried to drag him into the ocean and drown him.

Not that friendly: The early Leprechauns are said to have been untrustworthy, ‘trickster’ figures
Not that friendly: The early Leprechauns are said to have been untrustworthy, ‘trickster’ figures
(Photo: Edera)

They only stopped when he woke up and captured them.

Unsurprisingly then, the creatures are said to have been untrustworthy, ‘trickster’ figures who would deceive others whenever possible.

2. They didn’t even live in Ireland

Yes, you read that right.

According to early tales, Leprechauns lived in an undersea kingdom in the Mid-Atlantic, says Tom O’Donnell, a UCL researcher in Medieval Irish.

The creatures can be traced back to old legends of water spirits called ‘luchorpán,’ meaning ‘small body’.

And even today, they aren’t just restricted to Ireland – with a colony of Leprechauns said to exist in an official city park in Portland, Oregon.

Water sprites: The creatures apparently lived in an undersea kingdom in the Mid-Atlantic
Water sprites: The creatures apparently lived in an undersea kingdom in the Mid-Atlantic
(Photo: Valkrye131)

3. They were ALL male

Irish folklore suggests there were no female Leprechauns… at all.

According to the ancient book, A History Of Irish Fairies, there is only evidence of the existence of male Leprechauns.

We’re not entirely sure what the deal was with procreation.

However, some believe that Leprechauns were the ‘defective offspring’ of fairies.

Others think the creatures may have come from unions between humans and fairies.

4. They wouldn’t fix your shoes

The best you could hope for was that they’d help you breathe underwater.

The Leprechauns gave King Fergus that ability – provided he wore one of their cloaks on his head, or put herbs in his ears.

Magical: The Leprechauns wouldn't fix your shoes - but they may have been able to help you breathe underwater
Magical: The Leprechauns wouldn’t fix your shoes – but they may have been able to help you breathe underwater
(Photo: Matt Brown)

However, the power did not apply to one particular lake – which of course, turned out to be the place the king had to fight a monster and later drowned.

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5. The crock of gold and the shoes? They were added A LOT later

According to Mr O’Donnell, Leprechauns were first linked to shoes in ‘about the 19 century’.

And it may have been a 14th century poem that inspired current beliefs that they own a crock of gold in which they hide their treasure.

“A 14th-century poem had a list of all the magic stuff that the leprechaun had in his bag; the gold might come out of that,” the researcher told the Mirror.

6. They were much smaller than you’d think

You’d probably crush a Leprechaun before you could hear it utter any craic in a charming Irish accent.

When one of the creatures arrived at the court of the King of Ulster, courtiers are said to have tried to drown him in a wineglass.

Tiny: You'd probably crush a Leprechaun before you could hear it utter any craic
Tiny: You’d probably crush a Leprechaun before you could hear it utter any craic
(Photo: Chris Sheppard)

The King’s dwarf poet was able to hold a Leprechaun in the palm of his hand – and a fully-grown man was able to hold the poet in the palm of his hand.

And when the King of leprechauns stood up, a blade of grass came as high as his knee.

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