Leprocaun - (Pronounced: "Leph-ro-CHRUN") - [Fearsome Critter/Fairy] - (Latin: Simiidiabolus hibernicus horribillis.)
• About this critter: According to Minnesota's first state forester: Several young leprechauns which had migrated along with Irish immigrants to Ontario Canada (Intended to be kept and sold as pets) - Escaped into the swamps and quickly multiplied... In the cold marshland, their usual merry disposition changed & they quickly abandoned their hobby of fixing shoes, dancing and doing somersaults in the hills, they grew to become feral, barbaric beasts with razor-sharp claws and a taste for horses. - The wee monsters took up raiding timber carts and ambushing the workers!!
• History: Yet another Fearsome Critter from William T Cox's "Fearsome creatures of the lumberwoods" - [published 1910] - This one is quite unique as it's seemingly the only one that's directly based on a creature from earlier (Non-American) folklore, its also the only legend which takes plce in Canada, This critter is also the least illustrated of the batch, most people tend to just shrug it off as nonsense without doing further research! so lets fix that and take along hard look at it. – Cox's entry goes as follows:
"THE LEPROCAUN. (Simiidiabolus hibernicus horribillis.)During the early days of Upper Canada, before it became the Providence of Ontario, there were brought into a logging camp on the Madawaska River several young leprocauns from the north of Ireland. This animal was even then rare and has since become extinct in its native land. It is said that during the last famine hungry Irishmen killed and ate the few remaining specimens of this queer beast.
On its native bogs the leprocaun was a harmless creature, celebrated for its playfulness and laughable antics. It would hop across the bogs, turn somersaults, and leap over hillocks with wondrous agility. A favorite trick was to bore into a pile of drying peat and then, with a sudden spring, send the clods of peat high in the air till the commotion looked like a young cyclone. These antics were all right enough in Ireland, but when the animal was brought to Canada its disposition changed at once. The pets on the Madawaska escape into nearby tamarack swamps, increasing and spreading until an occasional one was seen on the upper Ottawa and even over in northern Michigan. Sneaking through the tamarack and cedar , or leaping across the muskegs after whatever appealed to it as food, the leprocaun became a creature to be feared and avoided. Teamsters toting supplies across swamp roads have been attacked by the animal, which would bound clear over the load, snapping its teeth at the driver and reaching for him with its villainous claws. Hasty flight to thick timber, leaving the team to its fate, was the only choice of the driver, who thanked his stars that in running through tangled tamarack even the leprocaun is no match for a frightened man."
[Close-up of the creature, poor horsies, note the lack of clothing & shoes!]
"Leprechauns" as said, are of course traditionally from Northern Irish Gaelic Mythology. They're often said to be magical tricksters who pull pranks on humans, they run & dance so much that their shoes wear out, and they can often be found busily working on a pair. - "Leprechauns" have been a long-standing part of Irish, Gaelic folklore & Mythology, with roots that apparently date them back to the 8th century; they only began to don green attire & mind pots of gold in much more modern lore. - So, that is to say, of course, stories of leprechauns are so old that they where well known as an Irish legend across America way back during the time Cox's fearsome creatures would have been published in 1910 too!! - 1.2 million Irish immigrants had arrived in Canada from the UK beginning 1825 at least half of those in the period from 1831 to 1850 (Largely as a result of the 1840s potato famine.) - Legends of leprechauns were brought over by the immigrating settlers. - And of course to this day, there is no shortage of Canadian immigrants who have gone on record to say that their home countries "Fairys & Elves migrated with them or their grandparents." - (Either as legitimate belief or just as a story.) - Instances of 'imported leprechauns' are far and few between, but those which do exist, seem to maintain their cute, trickster demeanour. Very few are quite violent or barbaric as Cox's 'Leprocaun' is described.
One cannot mention Canadian elves & fairies without mentioning that there are myriads of "little people" stories of Indigenous mythology and legend as well. [A couple 'Tricksters' that come to mind from Ottowa area are those such as Memegwesi & Pukwudgies of local Algonquin folklore.) -- of course, I'm only bringing these up only to clarify that Cox's story does NOT seem to be based on either of those, nor should they be conflated.
-- In modern-day USA and Canada, Leprechauns are of course especially synonymous with St. Patrick's day. Cox's story feels almost prophetic, as 100 years later, in modern media and in pop culture: leprechauns are probably best known for hanging around the end of rainbows, hoarding gold and stealing cereal from kids. (which if i had to say is only the very base and somewhat stereotypical understanding of the legend and lore of leprechauns.) in horror related media, they also have a violent streak resulting in a bizarre series of slasher movies and more. -But, I mention all of that to finally say that although Cox's "LEPROCAUN" at face value does seem to be what many have called as a "perversion" of the "Leprechaun" legends of old... If what Cox says was true, and the 'Leprocaun' truly originated from stories spoken about in Ontario area at the time: then the origin of this yarn likely stems from campfire stories told in and around the Irish lumber camps which were indeed present in the area! - Especially Gatineau & Pontiac which are especially relevant to critters & folklore: as they're said to be the origin of famous tall tales and yarns such as Big Joe Mufferaw and Paul Bunyan. – On that note: following the lumber trade down the mentioned Madawaska River: it seems quite possible that the "Leprocaun" was perhaps inspired by early Leprechauns stories & encounters spoken of by settlers in Killaloe, Mount St Patrick Ontario. -
"The Irish settlement on the Mountain is known across Canada for its mythic leprechaun population, It was built for lumber trade in 1849, and was rebuilt in 1870 after a fire devastated the town, a catholic church was built on the mountain in 1896." - Ottowa Valley Travel.
The main source for these stories is a modern one found in "Killaloes Leprechaun history" a fairly recent Opeongo Line Podcast (2022.) [part 1.] [part 2.] – Where in several local folklorists & storytellers got together to recount the local history by sharing a ton of local stories and tall tale experiences with the little magical men. The leprechauns are of course described a bit more traditionally as to how they were in earlier Irish folklore (but with an occasional pinch of modernization, for instance, lotto tickets instead of gold, etc) – While it's definitely not an exact 1 for 1 – The main parallel to Cox's Leprocaun is that the Killaloe Leprechauns share os that they're often described as being brawly with humans (There's a case or two where their general antics result in fights, the death of someone, and one story which involves a young lad riding a timber kart!!!) furthermore, The time of the construction of the town puts it very close to the time Cox was writing fearsome creatures too!! - Perhaps he had heard a story from a Killaloe logger and went with it? - Regardless it is at the least, the closest local parallel that I could find! - [it'd most certainly be worthwhile visiting the area for a more thorough investigation sometime!]
--All this is to say above all, Cox's Leprocaun was most likely included for the sheer absurdity of it. --[Despite my desire to be analytical in writing this biography The humour of leprechauns having a Canada-hating "regional form" paired with the dark humour that is 'Humans eating leprechauns' is of course not lost on me.] - End of the day, most critters were invented for that very reason. --Unless further information surfaces from the area, then its perhaps most safe to say that the leprocaun was likely included just for the sake of a Laugh -- And to that, I'd say there's nothing wrong with the critters origin resting there either!! – I say this with much appreciation that Cox would have been only two years older than I am as of writing, this! (he'd have been 32 at the time of writing.)
...Meanwhile: On the opposite coast of Canada: "Leprechauns" seem to have remained as usual - You can Learn more about "West-Coast Canadian Leprechauns" at The Vancouver Institute of Leprechaun Research. (officially hosted by SFU, since 2001!)
Art sticker & bio drawn/written by @samkalensky part of my fearsome critters collection of stickers. check my shop and support me on patreon for more! [PS: I promise i'll eventually draw a more traditional leprechaun someday!!]