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Cat in the Stax: Leprechauns

As Falvey’s Cat in the Stax, Rebecca writes articles covering a broad range of topics, from academics to hobbies to random events. All the while highlighting how Falvey Library can enhance your Villanova experience!

Welcome back to campus, Wildcats! I hope you all were able to relax over the break and are coming back refreshed and ready to take on the semester again. If you’re not, no worries! Easter break is two weeks away, so just keep pushing through!

Deck yourself out in green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this Sunday, March 17th. In honor of this day dedicated to celebrating all things Irish, I thought I’d write about a popular figure of Irish culture: Leprechauns.

Tales of leprechauns emerged in Irish folklore in the eighth century, supposedly originating from legends of small water sprites in Celtic mythology. Their name comes from the word luchorpán,” meaning small body, as these creatures were said to be around two or three feet tall.

Image by Francis Tyers from

The leprechauns of medieval Ireland are very different than the ones we know today. Firstly, these figures were originally dressed in red, not green. As their depiction evolved, their attire was changed to green. Scholars theorize this occurred due to the general popularity of the color in Ireland. Leprechauns were also solitary male faeries or goblins that were old, wrinkled, ugly, and of a solemn disposition, not the youthful, cheery, red-cheeked creatures we know today. They were also figures of mischief and trickery, said to deceive humans and warn against greed.

Some aspects of the legend remain, though. In traditional lore, leprechauns were guardians of hidden treasure–the iconic pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. However, this hidden gold was impossible to find on one’s own, so you had to catch a leprechaun in order to be led to the treasure. Catching a leprechaun was a difficult task by itself; these creatures are incredibly agile and expert in evading traps. If one successfully captured a leprechaun, they would have to keep him in sights at all times or else he would not reveal the location of his treasure.


If you’d like to read some stories about leprechauns or are interested in learning more about Celtic mythology and Irish folklore, check out some of these texts below that are available at Falvey:

Image by Judith Chambers from



Rebecca Amrick

Rebecca Amrick is a first-year graduate student in the English Department and a Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.

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Last Modified: March 13, 2024

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