A leprechaun is a diminutive fairy, a supernatural creature about whom tales were passed down within the rich history of Irish oral storytelling. Many European countries have fairy lore. According to A Treasury of Irish Folklore, the Emerald Isle is unique because “the fairy powers in Ireland have been endowed with names and personalities – they are not a nameless commonality.” Irish folklore described leprechauns as crotchety, solitary, yet mischievous creatures. They were said to be shoemakers who socked away their profits in pots at the end of rainbows, or scattered them around in mountains, forests, or rocks.
Leprechauns originally were said to wear red, and it has been theorized that after green began to be associated with everything Irish in the 20th century, the color of his garments transformed. But there may also be another explanation for the sartorial choice: green helps the little men to blend into the grass and the leaves as a sort of camouflage.
According to Katharine Briggs’ An Encyclopedia of Fairies, though the leprechaun now represents a generalized Irish fairy, this figure may be an amalgam of several individual fairies who have been conflated over time. W.B. Yeats, in Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, describes three fairies: the lepracaun, cluricaun, and far darrig, and indeed the latter two seem to have vanished from the popular lexicon.