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What are leprechauns and what do they look like?

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Quick Answer

Leprechaun are fairly-like creatures of Irish folklore, said to grant wishes to those who catch them. They are typically depicted as very small, bearded men that wear green suits and buckled shoes and hats.

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Full Answer

In folklore, Leprechauns are said to be tricksters who love practical jokes and often practice deception against humans. They are depicted as solitary creatures who value their privacy and grant those who catch them three wishes in exchange for their freedom. Leprechauns are almost always depicted as being male and are often portrayed as cobblers, a traditionally male profession in Ireland. They are also shown to be hoarders of gold, which is often said to be kept in a pot at the end of a rainbow.

The earliest known example of the leprechaun myth comes from the medieval Irish text "Adventure of Fergus son of Léti." Fergus was a prince who survived a drowning attempt at the hands of three leprechauns, whom he captured and who offered him wishes in exchange for their release.

Prior to the 20th century, leprechauns were described as wearing red rather than green. Leprechauns share characteristics with many other creatures of European folklore, including the Kabouter of Holland and the Fenodyree of the Isle of Man. All three creatures are known to be very small manual laborers who have a cooperative yet distant relationship with humans.

As a concession to cultural heritage, leprechauns have been granted status as a protected species by the European Union, similar to how many states in the United States have made it illegal to harm a sasquatch even though there is no scientific evidence of their existence.

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