The story of the leprechaun: Where did it come from and why?

Chicago Scene

It’s St. Patrick’s Day! Time to celebrate all things Irish – including the holiday’s unofficial mascot: The leprechaun.

But how much do you really know about the little guy?

Dr. Emily Zarka is about to shed some light.

Zarka is the host and writer of Monstrum. The PBS series explores how monsters, mythology and lore mirror society and it’s values and fears.  It’s a show designed to dig deeper and find the elements of its origins, characters, and stories.

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Zarka a “monster expert” earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Literature from Arizona State University.

“We can learn a lot about our culture by exploring the monsters we invent,” Zarka said. “Looking at the portrayal of zombies over the past two centuries, we can witness the evolving issues and anxieties Americans have faced.”

In the latest episode, Zarka examines the leprechaun.  Of course, we know leprechaun and the association to St. Patrick’s Day.  But why?  How is this jovial, red-haired little man dressed in green, standing next to a pot of gold have to do with being Irish?

Zarka explores the Irish lore through ancient mythology, Irish immigration to the US, and some timely marking in the 1980’s that has propelled the leprechaun to the top of one of the most recognizable folkloric figures in history.

Catch the latest episode of Monstrum.

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