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The Origin of the Leprechaun
Ireland, the Emerald Isle; known for rolling fields, lush pastures, and magnificent tales of rainbows and pots of gold. A myriad of legends surrounds this majestic land, and for good reason too. One legend states that the soil of Ireland is full of magic that makes the land so green. Another claims there are tiny little gentlemen called leprechauns who roam the country, tricking people out of gold. That particular legend, though, is true.
Actually, a lot of misconceptions surround the legend of the leprechauns. For one thing, there are no leprechauns. There is a leprechaun- yes, just one single leprechaun, and that is all. I can assure you this is the truth, as I have known the story of the leprechaun from a very young age. I first heard it from my grandmom when I was a child. I know it’s the truth because she, herself, was from Cork, Ireland, and that is exactly where the story begins….
In a cottage just on the outskirts of the village of Cork, Ireland, sat old Paddy O’Brady. He sat blankly staring at the light oak wall of his humble living space, miserable at the world as he always had been. Paddy was a poor old chap, with no friends or family for company. Sometimes a dog would wander upon his doorstep begging for scraps of food, but that was the closest thing Paddy ever had to a friend.
Friendless though he was, that was not the source of his misery. Paddy did not want friends. To him, friendship was worthless.
“Can you sell friendship? Can you frame it and put it on a shelf? Can you bake friendship, lather it in butter and eat it? No, you can’t. It’s worthless,” he would yell out to the passersby who occasionally wandered passed his little cottage on the old dirt path through the woods.
His cottage was in a secluded clearing in the woods, surrounded by tall oak trees that let very little light in, which was fine with Paddy, as he had the same philosophy about light as he did about friendship. The home was just two rooms. The first room acted as the kitchen, living room, and dining area. A thin wooden counter lined one wall, topped with pots, pans, bowls, and dishes. A bucket sat in the corner that he would carry out to the well every morning and fill with water to use for cooking. A small table and single wooden chair sat in another corner. Against the opposite wall was a large chair that had once been comfortable, but overtime, the stuffing had thinned and it was about as comfortable as his rickety dining room chair. The second room was much smaller and contained only his bed and a dresser, which held all of Paddy’s clothing. That was the entire house, and that’s what made him miserable.
Ever since Paddy was a young orphan, he dreamt of nothing but money. His only hope in life was to grow up wealthy and own a castle, preferably made of solid gold, and live the life of a king. As a child, he would walk by the royal castle in the center of Cork and enviously gaze at the beautiful architecture and ornate designs that adorned the home of the royal family.
“One day,” he told himself as a child, “I am going to live in a castle bigger than that. And no one will be allowed in. Everyone will walk by and be jealous of me, because I’ll have all the gold in the land and won’t share with anyone!”
Paddy had always despised the royal family, motivated only by his greed and jealousy. However, the Royal Family was quite adored by the rest of Cork (which only further aggravated Paddy).
The McDecaon family had ruled over Cork for as long as anyone could remember. Despite Paddy’s enduring hatred, they were quite a generous and honorable bunch. Even tales of their abilities to do magic (the good kind, of course) surrounded their honorable name, but no one knew for sure. Back in these days, the queen held most of the power in the royal family, and Queen Caragh did quite a good job. She and King Damian had, by all others’ standards, ruled aptly and fairly. Every Sunday, they, along with Prince Seamus and the rest of the kingdom of Cork, would gather in the Town Square for their weekly decree.
The Town Square was where the entire village of Cork came together. The streets of the Carpenters’ District met up with the streets of the Farmers’ District, and the streets of the Tradesmen’s District met up with the streets of the Butchers’ District, and they all came together in the center of town known as the Town Square. At the center of the Town Square was the magnificent royal castle, its stately towers and vast windows looking out at all of Cork.
Every Sunday, the Royal Family conducted a weekly decree. All of the villagers would gather on the cobblestone streets and gaze fixedly up at the balcony of the majestic castle, where Queen Caragh would deliver her report, usually consisting of the most recent town news and information. Shop owners could also participate and advertise sales or specials at their shops, and other villagers could ask questions and propose solutions to the King and Queen. The weekly decree was like a town meeting.
Paddy, of course, never attended. Instead, this Sunday, he sat in his home, staring at the wall, as he did most of the time. He had no books to read or people to talk to, and so instead, he would just sit.
Suddenly, he heard the voices of two strangers walking through the woods up his path. Immediately, he ran to the window that faced the front of the cottage and saw two young women making their way through the clearing. The decree must have just ended, Paddy concluded. As he opened his mouth to shout some sort of ignoble remark, he heard them gossiping about the McDeacons. Anything rude about the royal family was of interest to Paddy, and so he closed his mouth and listened.
“Can you believe Prince Seamus?” the first girl said with a look of disgust.
“No, I can’t,” her companion replied. “I would be a much more suitable bride for him than some poor girl.”
“Who is this Fionnula Flynn anyway?” the first remarked again. “How could the prince ever fall in love with such a nobody? He deserves better…he deserves me.”
The girls continued to walk along past Paddy’s house arguing over which one of them was better fit for the prince. Fionnula Flynn, Paddy thought to himself. That must have been the subject of this week’s decree. He knew her.
Fionnula Flynn was a fair young maiden who lived just a few miles south of Paddy’s home in the woods. She, too, lived in the woods, however, she lived with her parents and had many friends. She was also certainly not poor, as Paddy remembered, as he had met her outside her home one day while walking through the forest to his cottage.
An idea struck Paddy. He had always wanted to be rich, and stealing money from Fionnula would be like stealing from the Royal Family. What better way to get rich? He’d have money, and he’d have gotten back at the McDeacons- what more could he ask for? Paddy immediately began to devise a plan to steal money from Fionnula’s home. She lived just a few miles away, which meant that Paddy could put his plan into action immediately after he perfected it.
Paddy boiled himself a cup of tea and sat down in his chair. Think, think think, he told himself, until, finally, he had concocted a brilliant plan. In these days, most people stored their money in black cauldron-like pots beneath the floorboards in the kitchen. It was thought to be the safest place, as any robbers would be heard breaking up the floorboards. But Paddy had a plan to get to their pot of money.
That night, Paddy tip-toed through the forest to the Flynn home. It was a clear night, and the stars gave him just enough light to see the house. He stood outside Fionnula’s parents’ bedroom window and made a noise that sounded like a howling wolf. He chuckled softly to himself as he heard the two of them wake up and mumble to each other about a wolf. Again he howled, and this time he heard the two of them get out of their beds. He heard her mother go into Fionnula’s room and wake her, while he heard her father make his way to the front of the house. With one last howl, he ran around the back of the cabin, which was significantly larger than his own, and came up to the window to the kitchen.
This was his chance. He saw all three Flynns outside searching for the “wolf” they had heard. As he saw them make their way into the surrounding clusters of trees in search, he climbed in the window to the kitchen. A candle on the table illuminated the room just enough for Paddy to see where the floorboards seemed to be a bit more worn than the rest. Jackpot, he thought to himself as he walked over to the spot. Beneath these few worn floorboards had to be the Flynns pot of money.
Lucky for Paddy, he could still hear them outside rustling through the brush in search of a wolf. Why they were looking so hard for this animal, and what they planned to do if they spotted it, Paddy was unsure of. But whatever they intended to do, Paddy was okay with, as it granted him ample time to lift the floorboards and pull out the black pot that lie beneath.
Quickly he replaced the boards and climbed out the window, safely brandishing the pot in his left hand. He ran around the back of the house and let out another howl. As soon as he heard the Flynns migrating towards that spot, he trotted back around front and down the path home. He did it.
As he entered his cottage, Paddy felt happier than he’d ever felt. He stole, indirectly, from the Royal Family. His greedy little heart raced as he uplifted his own floorboards and stored his new pot of savings. Tomorrow morning, he thought, I will count the money and start my life as a rich man. With a smile, he went to bed.
The next morning there was more commotion in his neck of the woods than normally. Crowds of villagers were coming and going down the path, all murmuring of the same thing: the Prince’s bride had been robbed. Paddy listened from his window as he watched the hoards of people making their way to the Flynn cottage to send their condolences and fresh meals to their future princess. Paddy just laughed to himself as he closed his curtains and pulled out his pot and counted his funds.
Paddy felt like a new man. He replaced the boards, opened the curtains, and with a few hundred coins, made his way into the Town Square to purchase himself a new suit. As he made his way into the square, he noticed that it was eerily deserted. It had been a while since Paddy had been in the square, but he didn’t remember ever seeing it so empty. His stunt must have caused a bigger commotion than he had expected. He made his way through the Socialites’ District, when suddenly, out of a dark alley, came two very small, very strange looking men.
“Paddy O’Brady?” the first said as he grabbed Paddy’s left arm.
“Yes,” Paddy said, confused as to what these small men wanted with him.
“We’re with the Royal Family,” the second said, grabbing hold of Paddy’s right arm. “You’re coming with us.” Paddy tried to break free of their grip, but to his surprise, these tiny people had immense strength. They carried him swiftly back through the town and into the Royal Castle and down a long corridor. They went through a tall pair of thick, wooden doors, and inside was, to Paddy’s horror, Queen Caragh.
“That’s enough boys,” she said and gestured for them to let go. They made their way to the back of the room and stood on either side of the doors. “Have a seat, Mr. O’Brady.” With a swift gesture, a large, comfortable seat appeared in front of him.
Paddy’s jaw dropped. The stories are true, he thought to himself as he took a seat facing the queen. Queen Caragh sat on a huge, magnificent throne. Her seat was coated in red velvet and tasseled with gold trimmings. Upon her head sat the majestic royal crown and in her right hand was the legendary royal staff.
“You have dishonored my family,” Queen Caragh said sternly.
“Wha-what do you mean, Y-your Majesty?” Paddy managed to stutter. He knew his luck had run dry, and all too quickly.
“Don’t pretend with me, Paddy,” she said. She sounded deeply hurt. “I know you’re the one who stole all of the Flynn’s gold.”
“You must be mistaken, Your Majesty,” he mumbled again.
“Don’t be cheeky, Paddy!” she shouted. “What kind of queen do you take me for? I care about the safety of my kingdom, Paddy, and that is why, since long before I have been queen, patrol elves have been employed to watch the villages at night and ensure safety. Those are the same elves who brought you here, and they’re the same elves who saw you cheat your way into the Flynn’s home.”
Paddy realized he had nowhere left to run. His only option was to plead. “Please, Queen Caragh, show some mercy!”
“No, no, boyo,” she said as she stood up from her throne. “You are not off easy. I have given much thought to your punishment, as you have truly hurt my family, my future daughter-in-law, and me. For that, you deserve worse than I could ever consciously give.”
Paddy’s stomach erupted with fear. His palms grew sweaty and he immediately regretted his actions the night before.
“You will hereby spend the rest of your life correcting your actions from last night. Instead of taking money, you will be giving money.” And with a wave of the staff, Paddy shrunk into a man the size of the patrol elves. “You will hideout in trees, and at the appearance of every rainbow, you will leave a pot of gold at the end, for whoever the lucky finder may be. If you are ever spotted, you will give the one who saw you a pot of gold. You will spend eternity doing so under your new name, Leprechaun. Now, go!” And with another wave, Paddy was sent into the hollow of a tree, where he was forced to wait until the next rainbow to go out and leave a pot of gold.
That, my friends, is the true story of the Leprechaun, Paddy O’Brady, and how he was forced to spend eternity giving to make up for his life of greed. As you may be interested, Seamus and Fionnula were happily married and reigned over the kingdom as well as Caragh and Damian had before them. Some skeptics often doubt the legend, claiming that they saw leprechauns but were not given any pots of gold. That, obviously, is because they spotted one of the patrol elves, and not, in fact, Paddy. Paddy still roams the Emerald Isle, following rainbows and leaving pots of gold for those lucky enough to find them. This is the truth, as told to me by my own grandmother. You can now take it or leave it, but mark my words, the story is true, Paddy is real, and that is how the legend of the Leprechaun was born.