Leprechauns have their roots deep in Irish folklore. The earliest recorded mention of these magical creatures come from a medieval tale about a legendary King of Northern Ireland, Fergus mac Léti.
While he slept by the water, a group of water sprites called “Lúchorpáin” emerged from the sea and attempted to drag the King into the water with them. When his feet touched the icy water, he awoke and grabbed hold of the tiny creatures. In exchange for their lives, they offered the King three wishes. For one of these wishes, the King asked for was the ability to breathe underwater. While it was granted, it did come with a stern warning: the power would not work in Loch Rudraige (present day Dundrum Bay).
The King ignored the warning, and sure enough, went swimming in Loch Rudraige. He was pleasantly surprised to find he could breathe under the water. However, he soon realized that the Lúchorpáin’s warning was meant for his own safety as the lake was home to a gigantic sea monster called the Muirdris.
Upon seeing the horrific the beast, the King’s face became permanently contorted in fear. He managed to escape the monster, but when he emerged from the water, his men were shocked by his appearance. The King was completely unaware of what had happened to his face. They decided to keep the details a secret from him and, as the legend goes, went on to cover every mirror in his kingdom.
Over the years, the King was more and more hated by his servants due to the harsh way he treated them. Eventually, he pushed them too far, and one brave, but frustrated servant, revealed the truth to him. The king was furious. With such a deformity he realized he could never become “High King” and ruler of all of Ireland.
The King wanted revenge and went back to Loch Rudraige to kill the monster that had disfigured him. The battle raged over two days and when the king finally emerged victorious, the water had turned red from the beast’s blood. Exhausted from the battle, the King died a short time later.
While the legend is very focused on the king, over 1,000 years later he has all but been forgotten. It is the “lúchorpáin” that continue to be a well-known and beloved part of Irish culture today.
Do you know what to do if you encounter a Leprechaun? We got your covered! Check out our post on 9 Steps to Successfully Negotiate with a Leprechaun.