Popular Characters of Irish Folklore


Irish folklore has been passed from generation to generation for many centuries. The central premise revolves around superstitions and beliefs that the Irish have retained century upon century. While a majority of Irish legends are heavily influenced by superstition, they have successfully preserved a portion of the Irish culture.

What’s for certain is Ireland is a land rich with strange, yet enthralling stories that will forever be told by Irish Americans and marveled by anyone interested in folklore. While this list of five is far from inclusive of all characters seen in Irish folklore, we thought it would be fun to share a bit about these unique characters.

The Leprechaun


Throughout Ireland he is known as ‘leprechaun’ but, the term seems to vary by region. In the text The Elusive Elf: Some Thoughts on the Nature and Origin of the Irish Leprechaun, Winberry says the term ‘logheryman’ is used in Ulster, while ‘cluricaun’ refers to a particularly small elf in the south of Ireland (1976, p. 64).

His dress is quite unique with a waistcoat, shoes with shiny buckles, apron and leather purse for his ever reappearing shilling.

The leprechaun is spirited, collects gold to stash at the end of a rainbow and may have derived from ancestral spirits. Perhaps the most widely known Irish folklore character, he dates back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.


The Shamrock


The Irish shamrock has held much esteem within the culture because of its three heart-shaped leaves. The number three may represent the elements, stages of life- past, present and future or anything else in a set of three.

This unofficial symbol of Ireland is lucky, sacred and a plant believed to have powers to ward off evil.






The fairy is famous worldwide, but unique in Irish culture because of their inkling to bring misfortune to humans. Since they have a reputation for bringing bad luck to humans, interaction between both creatures is limited. They are powerful, beautiful and present in most Irish folklore.



The Banshee


Perhaps the most fearsome and dreaded of all characters is the spirit of a wailing woman who brings the omen of death. Varying accounts say her appearance and dress sometimes change, but her appearance is always followed by a death in the family.



The Pookas


Some might contradict my earlier statement and declare the pooka as being the most feared in Ireland. Tradition says pookas prey on the happiness of individuals who live in rural areas. Everything that makes their rural abode profitable and sustainable is destroyed.