Leprechauns are creatures from Oireland, who are often portrayed completely unlike the Irish legends on them.
Irish myth agrees on these basic points: They're the size of children and wear green coats (when they don't wear red). Leprechauns can become invisible, but if you happen to see one, catch him quick and make him tell you where his pot of gold is hidden (they all have one...for some reason). If you take your eye off him for even a moment, he'll vanish again and you'll never find him. They may also use trickery or act as a Literal Genie (or occasionally a Jackass Genie) to weasel out of giving it to you. They are presumed to be flawed offspring of The Fair Folk with some kind of genetic defect because they're all male. They tend to work as shoemakers for the rest of The Fair Folk.
In fiction, they usually have a Nice Hat, often with a buckle and/or a shamrock on it.
The most remarkable thing about Leprechauns is that they are practically the only Irish faries you see in fiction (with the possible exception of the Banshee, who is more often lumped with The Undead), despite hundreds of other types. Ironically this overuse (and Flanderization) has led to Leprechauns pretty much becoming a Discredited Trope in Ireland itself.
Our Fairies Are Different is the Super Trope.
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Lucky the Leprechaun, he mascot of Lucky Charms cereal. To him, his cereal is his pot of gold (which kids are always chasing him over) and he uses magic over rainbows to create and change the cereal's colorful marshmallows.
The mascot of Notre Dame "Fighting Irish" football team
Stalker: "I hate leprechauns. They give the Irish a bad name, with all that old crap about fairy rings and the mystic land of Erin and that bloody ridiculous accent... Hundreds of years from now, I bet people'll still be expecting us Micks to ponce around eating spuds and waiving [sic] four-leafed clovers, and saying "Top o' the mornin' to ye'". Two words, Katarina: Not me.
In the movie Behind the Waterfall the boy Tommy was sure that the old man Mr Conners was one. Unfortunatlly for him, he was eventually proven wrong.
There was even a Leprechaun series of horror films, starring Willow's Warwick Davis, currently up to six entries. Including Leprechaun 4: IN SPACE!
Followed by Leprechaun 5: In the Hood and Leprechaun 6: Back 2 tha Hood. AGAIN.
The fourth Everworld book had a Running Gag about Christopher making references to how they'd probably be running into leprechauns soon, what with running around in a Fantasy Kitchen Sink world. It culminated on the very last page.
The Artemis Fowl Series' Leprechauns are nothing more than an underground (literally) police force: L.E.P. (Lower Elements Police) Recon. Lampshaded, when Short remembers the embarrassing uniforms they used to wear centuries ago that led to their often-attributed attire.
"Tales of the White Street Society" by Grady Hendrix is a horror take on this. The Pseudopod horror podcast has a dramatic reading of it here. (Warning: not safe for work!)
The novel American Gods claims that Leprechauns are actually tall, and that the whole "little people" thing was a bit of an Irish joke. The one leprechaun in the book, Mad Sweeney, is described as a big, barrel-chested, rough-housing drunk.
Another Gaiman story, entitled "The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains," features a protagonist who fits the physical description very closely, and is even mistaken for a child several times; it is revealed that his father was one of The Fair Folk. The story can be found here.
Harry Potter had Leprechauns as the Irish World Cup Quidditch Team mascots, who are incredibly incendiary toward the opposing team. Starting with pointing and laughing, then culminating in giving the other team the finger and resulting in the other team's mascots (more or less harpies) kicking the shit out of them. Yup. Also, they could apparently create gold at will... but it vanished in a few hours.
A very dark version shows up briefly, but memorably, in Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber series.
Terry Pratchett's Nac Mac Feegle are Pictsies, not leprechauns, and don't you forget it. They are small, though, and they might well have a pot of gold hidden away, because their three favorite things are fightin', drinkin', and stealin' (not necessarily in that order).
The Honey, I Shrunk the Kids spin-off TV series included an episode that subverted Leprechauns twice; the first time, by featuring a fake Leprechaun who turned out to be a midget crook with special effects, who was unmasked by Wayne. Then, just as the Scooby-Doo mystery was unveiled, REAL Leprechauns appeared, who looked NOTHING like the stereotype, and instead looked like humans in black coats, speaking in a genuine Irish accent. They punished the crooked impersonator, then responded to Wayne's inquiry as to the true nature of their technology by disappearing with the message "It's Magic!"
Bewitched has an episode with a visiting leprechaun. Oddly enough, he's from Darrin's family rather than Samantha's.
The '80s version of The Twilight Zone has an episode in which a leprechaun is captured by three boys while vacationing in America. He grants each of them a wish (all of which backfire comically) before being set free.
An episode of Moonlighting, of all things, featured a woman who thought she was a leprechaun. Not true, but kind of fun while it lasted.
Encountered several times on Charmed, first being saved from the Monster of the Week, then in later appearences assisting in the good fight, usually by Buffing the luck of the heroes. Their duty is to spead luck around, both good and bad.
Wizards of Waverly Place has the Leprechaun Grill, where the staff are just dressed up as leprechauns, and they keep one actual leprechaun in a box. Because Corporate demanded they had one to make it look real.
The TV miniseries Magical Legend of the Leprechauns features both the traditional leprechauns (sometimes referred to as solitary fairies) and the winged Trooping Fairies. The leprechauns are your traditional redheaded green-suited drunken pranksters and the fairies are elegant guardians of nature (if a bit snooty).
WWE has been trotting out a "leprechaun" named Hornswoggle on its programming for some time now. He's currently being heavily featured since being recently revealed to be the illegitimate son of one Vincent Kennedy McMahon. Yes, folks, this did take home the 2008 WrestleCrap Gooker Award for worst storyline of the year. Oh, and it turns out Hornswoggle wasn't Mr. McMahon's son after all. And he was the last Cruiserweight champ.
It wasn't that bad at first. When Finlay was working as a heel, a green light began to eminate from beneath the ring. He lifted up the apron, and a leprechaun scrambled out and began attacking his opponent before scurrying back to his hiding space (sometimes tossing Finlay a shilelagh). He was only referred to as "That Little Bastard". This was repeated in every match, until the revelation came that he was really (not really) Vince's bastard son.
Of course he's hugely over with the live crowds to the point when, on the 1/25/10 episode of RAW, Shawn Michaels stated Hornswoggle had the week off, the crowd booed. LOUDLY.
Believe it or not, there was yet another pro wrestling example... The Dungeon of Doom, a stable filled with really bad "monster"-type characters in WCW, had a member named Braun the Leprechaun, who was about 4 feet tall and went around biting people. He lasted about a month.
The tabletop RPG Changeling: The Dreaming has the Clurichaun, mischief makers with ties to Ireland who hate to be called leprechauns. In mythology, cluricahauns are similar to leprechauns...but drunk.
Leprechauns were included in the 1st and 2nd editions of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, then disappeared from the system when 3E came out. The Basic/Expert/etc system, in contrast, detailed their role in fairy society in Tall Tales of the Wee Folk.
An old GURPS supplement suggests that they are a race specially created after a wizard feud left a powerful spellcaster, having previously developed a taste in expensive clothing, with an inability to wear the same article of clothing twice. The suggestion furthers that there were other races, each dedicated to creating a separate type of clothing, of which leprechauns are the only one remaining.
In Finians Rainbow, Og the leprechaun has been gradually turning into a mortal ever since Finian took his crock of gold. After Three Wishes are made on the gold, it turns to dross.
The Fey faction in the Warlords Battlecry series has leprechauns as one of the basic units. They have a weak attack, but they're easy to spam, and each one increases your gold income.
They're only Goddamned Bats if you don't know the easy way to keep them from teleporting: don't have any gold.
Leprechauns also appear in Nethack's predecessor, Rogue, where they steal your gold and instantly disappear, but leave behind large amounts of gold if killed (the trick is to engage them with ranged weapons).
In To ME, they not only steal your gold and teleport away, but they also breed explosively. So if you happen to encounter them on a level, run.
The Halflings of Age of Wonders use Leprechauns as their most powerful unit, which are actually rate the status-they're naturally invisible on the world map, have respectable melee abilities and a ranged attack, and are exceedingly frustrating to attack due to their superior defensive abilities. Oh, and they do magical damage, which is the hardest damage type to get protection against.
In Heroes of Might and Magic III, most of the maps feature a spot where a leprechaun dances in perpetuity (you can even hear the music), to which the player can go to shake the guy down for cash once per game week. One wonders why he doesn't move along after awhile.
Heroes IV had them as actual troops... who vanish into their hats when they die. Often cited as the most useless creature in the game in contrast to the above, despite their ability to cast the "Fortune" spell (hey, at least peasants pay taxes).
Leprechauns where one of the many different types of Fairies you could collect in Shining the Holy Ark. You would release them just before a battle and if the enemy came up from the ground they would cause damage dependent on how many you've caught.
DC Universe Online is somewhat of a subversion, since all leprechaun activities are actually Mr. Mxyzptlk.
In The Non-Adventures of Wonderella, leprechauns are always responsible for sending Wonderella and Wonderita to different times and places as the they try to get the leprechauns' gold.
Homestuck, as part of its ongoing effort to appear on every single page in this wiki, has recently confirmed that the green-skinned Felt are from a homosexual species known as leprechauns. To make it even more absurd, the symbols of their various forms of romance are based on Lucky Charms.
In the Fairy Dust farming operation this webcomic is named after, Leprechauns are involved for their kinship with the fairfolk, that makes them immune to fairy dust.
A leprechaun has made a couple of appearances in The Simpsons, most notably the "Treehouse of Horror" segment "Hex and the City", in which Homer has to capture it to break the gypsy curse. It also tells Ralph Wiggum to burn things in "This Little Wiggy".
The South Park epic "Imaginationland" begins with Cartman betting Kyle that leprechauns are real; Kyle loses.
In one episode of The Littles, Dinky Little wants to find leprechauns, and his young cousins offer him "tips" to make fun of him. During the course of following their advice, Dinky is caught by an Irishman looking for leprechauns, mistaking his prize for one.
The transformation teacher in Winx Club, professor Wizgiz, is a leprechaun through and through.
In an episode of Johnny Bravo, Johnny tried desperately to kiss a leprechaun named Barney Stone because, due to a silly misunderstanding, he thought it would make him irresistible to chicks. After an extensive chase, Johnny caught Barney, who granted his wish in exchange for not being kissed... which led to Johnny being swarmed by poultry.
On The Fairly Oddparents, Timmy meets a leprechaun in one episode. It tells Wanda (in rhyme) that Cosmo bet her in a contest.
In another episode, he encounter a trio of rough and scruffy leprechauns who wanted their pot of gold back after Cosmo took it to give to Mr Crocker who thought he was a leprechaun after Crocker switched from hunting fairies to leprechauns. It's a Long Story.
One was in an episode of Ducktales, When Scrooge and 'the gang' went to Ireland. These leprechauns really didn't like thieves or intruders, and almost dumped the group into their snake pit; fortunately, when the king found out that they had been invited by another leprechaun (even though the guy was a Snake Oil Salesman that none of them liked) he figured he really couldn't do that. (Curiously, this group of leprechauns did include females.)
A cartoon featuring The Beatles had the band go to Ireland and meet a rare female leprechaun. They perform "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" for her.
In Superman: The Animated Series, Mr. Mxyzptlk claims that all the old legends about leprechauns (and genies, imps, and similar creatures) on Earth were actually about him.
An episode of ¡Mucha Lucha! was actually about an evil leprechaun named Rick O'Shea who constantly pestered the main character because his name sounded exactly the same and it was ruining his evil reputation.
In an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, Plucky and Hampton (who are selling novelty shop items door to door) help drive a nasty banshee out of a castle belonging to a clan of leprechauns. (In a curious twist, most of the episode focuses on the banshee, the leprechauns only showing up in person at the end.)
A Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon had Caspar go to Ireland where he met a little boy who was sure Casper was a leprechaun. Casper decided to play along since at least the boy wasn't running away screaming like most people.
An Inspector Gadget episode has a pair of diminutive (but fully human) M.A.D. agents disguising themselves as leprechauns to spearhead Dr. Claw's plan to steal the Blarney Stone. In the end, their defeat is implied to be covertly assisted by real leprechauns
The Woody Woodpecker short "His Better Elf" features a leprechaun that resembles a tiny green version of Woody who speaks with an Irish brogue. After offering our hero three wishes, it proceeds to grant them in the worst possible ways. Woody uses his third wish to get rid of the imp by telling it to "go to blazes!"
In the Crichton neighborhood of Mobile, AL, a group of fine upstandingcitizens thought they saw a leprechaun in a tree and soon formed a mob of leprechaun catchers intent upon getting "da gold", creating a media frenzy and casting an unflattering light on Alabamians in general with their antics. This video contains a "sketch" of the leprechaun that appeared on the Alabama evening news. To date, the leprechaun remains at large.