Wee Folk and Their Friends


The classic tale of the leprechaun is that of the Irishman catching one of the wee folk and demanding to be given the little fellow's crock of gold. In these stories, the sly leprechaun always manages to trick the greedy lout who has grabbed him by causing the human to glance away from him for even a moment. Once a human takes his or her eyes off the leprechaun he or she has somehow managed to glimpse in the first place, the wee one has the power to vanish in a flash.

The origin of the leprechaun derives from a tale much like the old story of the shoemaker and the elves. The leprechaun, dressed in his bright green clothing with a red cap and a leather apron, was originally known as the cheerful cobbler, a wee person who takes delight in repairing humans' shoes for a reward of a bowl of porridge.

The countryfolk of Ireland take their wee folk seriously, and they know better than to disturb

Model from the film "Gremlin." (FORTEAN PICTURE LIBRARY)
Model from the film "Gremlin." (
the mounds or raths in which the leprechauns dwell. Those who would wantonly violate the wee one's domicile is to invite severe supernatural consequences upon oneself.

The trouble at the rath outside the village of Wexford began on a morning in 1960 when the workmen from the state electricity board began digging a hole for the erection of a light pole within the parameters of a rath. The villagers warned the workmen that the pole would never stay put, because no self-respecting community of wee folk could abide a disturbance on their mound.

The big city electrical workmen had a laugh at the expense of the villagers and said some uncomplimentary things about the level of intelligence of the townsfolk of Wexford. They finished digging the hole to the depth that experience had taught them was adequate; then they placed the post within the freshly dug opening and stamped the black earth firmly around its base. The satisfied foreman pronounced for all within earshot to hear that no fairy folk or leprechaun would move the pole from where it had been anchored.

However, the next morning the pole tilted at a sharp angle in loose earth. The villagers shrugged that the wee folk had done it, but the foreman of the crew voiced his suspicions that the leprechauns had received some help

Illustration of a leprechaun from A Treasury of Irish Stories. (ELSIE LENNOX)
Illustration of a leprechaun from A Treasury of Irish Stories. (
from some humans bent on mischief. Glaring his resentment at any villagers who would meet his accusative eyes, the foreman ordered his men to reset the pole.

The next morning that one particular pole was once again conspicuous in the long line of newly placed electrical posts by its weird tilt in the loose soil at its base. While the other poles in the line stood straight and firmly upright, that one woebegone post was tilted askew.

The foreman had endured enough of such rustic humor at his expense. He ordered the crew to dig a hole six feet wide, place the pole precisely in the middle, and pack the earth so firmly around the base that nothing short of a bomb could budge it.

But the next morning the intrusive pole had once again been pushed loose of the little people's rath. The foreman and his crew from the electricity board finally knew when they were licked. Without another word to the grinning villagers, the workmen dug a second hole four feet outside of the mound and dropped the pole in there. And that was where it stood as solid as the Emerald Isle for many years to come.

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