The Irish Folklore Centre

Providing a focus for the whole Irish folk tradition

Cluricaune or Leprehaune is the name given to the Irish Puck. The character of this goblin is a compound of that of the Scotch Brownie and the English Robin Goodfellow. He is depicted (for engraved portraits of the Irish Leprehaune are in existence) as a small and withered old man, completed equipped in the costume of a cobbler, and employed in repairing a shoe.  A paragraph recently appeared in a Kilkenny paper stating, that a labourer, returning home inthe dusk of evening, discovered a Leprehaune at work, from whom he bore away the shoe which he was mending; as a proof of the veracity of his story it was further stated, that the shoe lay for the inspection of the curious at the newspaper office.  The most prominent featuyre inthe vulgar creed respecting the Leprehaune is, his being the possessor of a purse, supposed to be like that of Fortunatus, inexhaustible; and many persons, who have surprised one of these fairies occupied in shoe-making, have endeavoured to compel him to deliver it; this he has ingeniously avoided, averting the eye of his antagonist by some stratagem, when he disappears, which it seems he has not the power of doing as long as any person’s gaze is fixed upon him

From Researches in the South of Ireland by Thomas Crofton-Croker, London, 1824

But there are differences…

The Cluricaune is a subterranean Dwarf and a distant cousin of the Gnomes. At the end of the Golden Age, when Elfin people began to fade into invisibility or to mingle with humans, the Cluricaunes left their enchanted caves to take up housekeeping in the cellars of inns and to become ‘household and domestic dwarves’. In exchange for this human hospitality they revealed the secret of whiskey, already confided to the Brownies of Scotland.

Brother of the Cluricaunes with whom they are often confused, Leprechauns are the most popular and best-loved of the Little People.  People open the cat flap for them and leave milk on the windowsill.

Guardian of the buried riches of the Tuatha Dé Danann and of Elfin treasures and cobbler to the Sidhe and the Little People, the Leprechaun is incapable of finishing work at human request and will only repair one shoe of a pair. If you spot one first, he is obliging and will regale you with pretty stories, lovely songs (his repertoire is inexhaustible), and excellent beer – and may even slip you a purse full of gold. But watch out if he sees you first, since these fellows can be dangerous and transform you into whatever they wish or transport you to wherever they pleased.

From La Grande Encyclopedie des Lutins by Pierre Dubois, Éditions Hoebeke, Paris, 2003

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