Monday, May 14, 2007

Little Green Men


Illustration by Victor Ambrus
for John Jacobs's Celtic Fairy Tales.


I dislike Lepracauns.

Every time I see a set of those little green dancing men on websites I have the urge to put my fist through the screen.

This is not a result of prejudice against the vertically challenged.

I question their authenticity, wondering if in fact they are an Anglicization, an import as it were.

Fact is, until sometimes in the 1800's - or possibly the rise of Irish tourism - they wore red, not green.

Seems there are two kinds: one of them perennially drunk and therefore occasionally good-natured.

Their original role - if indeed they had one - is often obscured: they were the protectors and guardians of fairy treasure, not their own.

In the common tradition, however, they are a classic case of reductio ad absurdum.

Usually in surviving tales they just trot around, making shoes or bedevilling the pesantry.

One function of urban fantasy is to turn conventional perceptions of standard tropes on their ears, modifying the tradition, reversing a stereotype as it were.

Seems if I should include lepracauns in my WIP, as I have banshees and dullahans, it would be both an irony and a cycle.

30 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

Does belief affect your supernatural characters? If so, I be the general populace of leprechauns, satyrs, banshee and what not will be truly angry at mortal mankind for reducing them to mere characatures. That movie Leprechaun (bad horror flick) comes to mind...

You could have some fun with that idea, anyhow. Probably doesn't fit into the WIP, though, based on what I've read of it.

Ric said...

In urban fantasy, anything goes. A friendly, amiable little folk might enhance - while allowing your tongue to placed firmly in cheek.
Leprechauns having an AA meeting.
At least it beats having to create a fanciful creature whole cloth.

Jaye Wells said...

You mean they don't just make cereal?
"Those kids are always after me Lucky Charms."

I love seeing how people twist perceptions in urban fantasy and paranormal romance. It's part of the fun of the genres.

Bernita said...

No, it doesn't fit, Written, you're right.
The book is based on a resurgeance of paranormal types, belief not necessary for their existence.

Actually, Ric, lepracauns in legend are the opposite of friendly - usually miserable little buggers - but that's a great idea.

December Quinn said...

I think it sounds fun, personally. I don't really have an opinion on leprechauns, but hey, why not?

Bernita said...

You're right, Jaye.
Urban fantasy has saved the tales from stagnation and provide a renewal in folk literature, I think.

Bernita said...

I'm fighting it, December.
Problem is, unintentionally, I laid the ground-work for the introduction of the little suckers with the mention of buried gold.

Robyn said...

I agree with Jaye and Ric- it might be fun to turn the perceptions on their collective ear. There's a commercial now that shows a leprechaun going with an insured VISA because he was tired of people taking his gold. :)

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Gee. Can't you find another legendary creature who protects gold? How effective can leprechans be at guarding gold anyway--they're teensy, aren't they? (Magic notwithstanding, but I've never liked the notion of magic making up for physical limitations.)

I'm not overfond of leprechans either. I've always thought they were nasty little critters, and I'm even short.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I don't know if they are/were real or not but my father-in-law, who died at the age of 93 and hailed directly from County Cork in Ireland, used to regale me with numerous tales about the "wee devils"!

Charles Gramlich said...

I sometimes wonder what future archaeologists will think of today's mythology, given that so much as been altered by popular writings, or made up whole cloth.

Dave said...

I equate leprechauns with Johnny Knoxville and the rest of his gang on the TV show Jackass - persistently drunk and involved in childish, stupid mischief.

raine said...

Hmmm...army-green clad men of diminished height because they must fit comfortably into the black helicopters, armed with sub-machine guns and scythes for silently cutting down those who threaten the buried gold of St. Patrick?

Okay, yes...I do need coffee...

Bernita said...

One of those days, I fear - should have been "provided."

That sounds like a cute commercial, Robyn.

I think that's what I should do,SS. And yes, they do seem mostly malignant.

"Wee devils" seems to be accurate, Bonnie.

Folklorist should be used to it Charles. It's the nature of the beast. They'll have great fun arguing over the twists and variants.

Right, Dave, it's the childish and stupid part that irritates me. The only thing more childish than a leprecaun is the gormless guy who catches one.

Hee, Raine! I've already used the black helicopter line for the dullahan.

kmfrontain said...

If you do use them in your story, it would be nice to see them portrayed the way they were before commercialism.

Bernita said...

Not sure they can be retrieved, Karen.
I feel the same way about them as the family in Harry Potter with the garden gnomes.

Gabriele C. said...

Well, if they're to guard gold, they could run a bank today, one of those companies with dependances all over the place like Barclays.

M.E Ellis said...

AHAHAHAHAH @ making shoes!

Very funny, indeed.

:o)

Sam said...

I'm echoing Jaye - when I hear Leprachaun, I think 'cereal', lol.
Magically delicious!
Oh boy, does someone watch too much TV or what?

Bernita said...

Mr. Knox, the banker....Don't send me plot bunnies, Gabriele!

It's what the sober kind do, Michelle.Sounds Grimm.

Ah, thank you, Sam.
Another good reason not to introduce them.

Rick said...

You have an issue with leprechauns? I feel positively genocidal toward Elves - at any rate the Noble kind.

Bernita said...

Well, Rick, the lepracaun ( as spelled in Jacobs's book - not Merriam Webster) are sometimes considered elves.
Generally, I like elves - what makes me homicidal are fairies - you know, the garden type? All wings and winsome.

Sam said...

Oh, I can't abide by fairies. When I read somewhere that they were going to be the next 'big thing', I admit, I nearly choked.

If they were Shakespere's fairies, I might like them - his fairy court was cruel and sinister. But you just know they'll be 'Barbie doll Fairies' all light and fluttery silken butterfly wings and magic fairy dust. Gag gag.

Bernita said...

"Gag, gag."
Move over.
That's one thing L.K. Hamilton does right, Sam.

kmfrontain said...

*chortle*

I in no way want a cute widder Barbie doll type fairy when I read a book.

Rick said...

I had no problem with the elves of Mirkwood in The Hobbit - they didn't exactly roll out welcome mat for Bilbo and his dwarven companions. Unfortunately, Tolkien didn't follow his own lead when he wrote LOTR.

Bernita said...

Gag, gag, gag, Karen.

I quite liked them in Moon's The Deeds of Paksenarrion (sp?), Rick.
They were so satisfyingly snotty.

spyscribbler said...

I'm never much for the good-natured, drunk leprechauns. There are a few devilish leprechauns that have perked my interest over the years, though!

LadyBronco said...

But then you have some person who decided to make a horror movie with a leprechaun as the killer.

Ugh.

Bernita said...

Totally debased and wasted, Natasha and Lady B.