Upon hearing the word leprechaun, images of a small red-headed man wearing green and a stove-pipe hat are the first thing that pops up. He is usually male, with a long beard and if he is not mending shoes or smoking a pipe, he is protecting his precious pot of gold.
This modern image of the leprechaun was made popular due to the Walt Disney film “Darby O’Gill and the Little People.” The film was the result of Disney’s own experiences in his search for leprechauns in Ireland.
What many Westerners don’t realize, however, is that the leprechaun is not like the Americanized concept.
To correct this common misconception, the National Leprechaun Museum was created in 2003, and it officially opened on March 10. The museum is the first of its kind, dedicated to the history of the leprechaun and other mythical creatures who have ties in Irish fairy tales and mythology.
In Dublin, visitors to the museum will experience the world of the leprechauns and fairies through an interactive exhibition. Twelve separate rooms weave a path that represents a part of Irish folklore or recreates an experience typically associated with a leprechaun.
The first stop is at a tunnel, whereupon passing through the perspective changes, the visitor feels as if he or she has shrunk and crossed over into the fairy world. From there, the visitor enters the room of a giant, where the furniture is over-sized to give the feeling of being as small as a leprechaun.
The museum guides encourage visitors to spend some time and play on the giant chair and drink from an enormous tea cup.
Inside the next room is an audio-visual display with information on the alternative history of Ireland, especially concerning its mythology. The room contains a 3-D model of Ireland and a light display focuses on different landmarks, while the audio explains the location’s significance.
Next, is the rain room, in which umbrellas hang from the ceiling and sounds of rain pour over the visitor’s head. Where this leads to is, of course, a rainbow. However, this rainbow is made from curtains full of colorful string.
Parting the curtain leads to discovering the crock of gold in the center of the next room. Before leaving for the next room, visitors can throw in a coin or two into the crock. The next room is a bronze-colored storytelling room, where one of the museum guides weave tales from Ireland’s Neolithic history while 3-D projections bounce off of the walls. Listen to one of the stories here.
After listening to the stories, the next room displays the traditional story of Tom Fitzpatrick, who caught a leprechaun. According to legend, the leprechaun promised to mark the tree where his treasure was hidden with a red sock, while Fitzpatrick went to retrieve his spade. When he returned, Fitzpatrick discovered the leprechaun had tied red socks to all the trees, making it impossible to tell which tree hid the crock of gold.
The tale leads the visitor to the final room, which leads to a wishing well surrounded by floor-to-ceiling tree trunks. The bottom of the well has a reflective mirror and also more lighting effects, to give a magical element when making a wish.
“I wasn‘t disappointed,” said Bonnie May, a student from Southeastern Louisiana University. “All the stories and information I heard was accurate from what I‘ve found out myself, except more in detail, and I learned a lot of new things. Plus it was a lot of fun. The whole experience showed how even adults could have fun using their imagination and being a kid again.”