Bob Curran,
The Truth about the Leprechaun
(Wolfhound, 2000)

Anywhere you go in Ireland, you'll find crafty merchants tempting tourists to spend money on a wide array of leprechauns -- pictures, dolls, figurines, you name it, they're everywhere you look and there's always a cash register close by. But the leprechauns of legend have little to do with the cute little fellows designed for the tourists. Instead, they were grim and foreboding characters, sullen and stingy and often eager to do harm to a stranger. At times, they're downright evil.

Bob Curran, in his revealing book The Truth about the Leprechaun, explains the true folklore of the ubiquitous wee folk. These leprechauns aren't prettified in adorable little suits of green, nor are they happy-go-lucky bundles of blarney in gay pursuit of their lucky charms. Curran lays it all on the table, delving into the possible origins of the tales, the differences among the wee folk in Ireland's four provinces and the similarities with figures of lore elsewhere in the world. At the same time, Curran never loses a touch of the expected "sure and begorrah, of course they're real" tone in his narrative, and he includes plenty of anecdotal evidence of their existence as well as dire warnings of the possible consequences of dealing with them.

Chances are, you won't come away with a pot of gold.

But this book provides a colorful taste of Irish folklore, worth its weight in gold for anyone interested in that ancient culture. Curran has done an excellent job of presenting a complex folkloric figure in a lively, fascinating text that will be palatable to the tourist and scholar alike.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 10 November 2001

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