A golden head peaked through the tall green grass while unblinking grey eyes scoured the little clearing under the trees nearby. A bit of string held in a hand still chubby from childhood led to an ingenious network of weights, twine and a whicker cage that was only partially hidden by the lowest branches. The child grinned as she anticipated her prey.
Three hours later the sun was growing hot and the child fidgeted in her hideaway, but she was determined to at least catch a glimpse of her target this time. This was her third attempt to catch one and she was sure she had a chance if only she could keep still and patient. She scratched an itch under her knee when she heard a tiny voice raised in song.
Óró 'Sé do bheatha 'bhaile,Óró 'Sé do bheatha 'bhaile,Óró 'Sé do bheatha 'bhaile,Anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh!
The girl nearly squealed aloud in delight. It was one of the Little People at last. She tensed the string in her hand and watched the little man’s progress with glee. He was headed right for her trap! He stumbled drunkenly into the clearing and stopped a few paces away from where the cage hung to bellow from the depths of his small lungs the final words of his song.
A bhuí le Rí na bhFeart go bhfeiceann,Muna mbíonn beo ina dhiaidh ach seachtain,Gráinne Mhaol is míle gaiscíoch...Ag fógairt fáin ar Ghallaibh!*
As he laughed and stepped forward the cage came down around him. The girl jumped up from her hiding place and released a long pent up shout. She raced forward to secure the trap around the leprechaun.“Now you’re mine!” she cried. “And I’ll have my wishes.”The leprechaun sat down stunned. “Can you imagine? Me 600 years old and caught for the first time by an infant.”“Why, you! For that I’ll have all your gold!”The little man paled. “How did you know to find me here this day?”The girl put her hands on her hips. “I’ve watched for two years. You always come out on Saint Patrick’s Day. Though I couldn’t say why.”“Surely that’s no mystery,” said the leprechaun. “Do you think the Folk have forgotten the great man himself?” He removed his cap in reverence. Then his expression soured again as he contemplated his captor. “Well, get on with it then. I suppose you want a pony?”The girl sat down on the ground beside the trapped leprechaun. “Don’t be stupid. Where would I keep it?”“Fancy dresses then?”“Sure, and get them all dirty while I’m out capturing leprechauns?” she teased.The man glared at her. “Well, what is it you are wanting then?”“I’ve been thinking on it for two years now.”“And?”The girl took a deep breath before plunging on. “I want you to swear to me that you and others of your family will come and play with me sometimes.”The leprechaun was all the more astonished. “Play with you?”“Yes,” said the girl, her voice firm. “You must come and play games with me at least once a month. And they must be magic games.”The leprechaun smiled. “Well, I think that can be arranged. I swear on the memory we hold of the good Pátraic, who saved the Folk from destruction both of body and soul, both myself and my family will come to you each new moon and teach you such magic games as we may. But what of the other two wishes?”The girl beamed at the little man. “I think I’ll be saving those for the future.”“You know once you release me I’m not bound to grant any wishes you haven’t already asked for?”“I know,” said the girl. She carefully lifted the cage and freed the leprechaun.The leprechaun came again on the next new moon and the next, but it wasn’t long before his children’s children were in and out of the girl’s home nearly every day. Her life was filled with magic ever after.
*Óró! You are welcome home!
Óró! You are welcome home!
Óró! You are welcome home!
Now that summer is coming
May it please the God of Miracles that we may see,
Although we only live a week after it,
Grainne Mhaol and a thousand warriors,
Dispersing the foreigners!
And here's a video of The Irish Tenors, a favorite of mine, singing the song the leprechaun sang, Oró Sé Do Bheatha 'Bhaile.
And another of the same song sung by my husband's favorite, The Clancy Brothers, as a treat.