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Papa Joe  ~  Telling Tales

Saint Patrick and the Leprechauns:

a riddle story dedicated to Jamie

Once upon a time, in a small village on the island called Ireland, there was such a problem, you might not believe it.

Every night, leprechauns would come traipsing into the village. All night long they'd play pranks on the people. For young and old alike, there would be no peace until morning. Then off the leprechauns would go and, not a glimpse would be seen of them, as long as the sun shone.

Such pranks they would play. One night the leprechauns painted every man's beard green. The paint wouldn't wash out for months. Half of the men shaved off their beards in dismay.

Another night, the leprechauns stole all of the butter from every house in the village. They spread it over all the floors.

When the people got up in the morning, SLIP, SLIDE, SLAM! Down they went again, onto the greasy, slimy floor. What's worse is that they didn't have any butter left for their toast.

Not even the animals were safe. Those leprechauns would put the cows on the roofs, the cats in the kettles, the pigs in the pantries. Of course it was difficult for the villagers to sleep under these conditions.

Can you imagine sleeping with a cow lowing over your head? Mooooo! Or a cat crying in your kettle? Meow, meow. Let meowt.� Let meowt. What kind of mess would a pig make in your mother's pantry?

Well, of course the villagers tried to catch the little pranksters. Some nights they stayed up and watched, but the leprechauns always went where no one would see them.

The people dug pits and covered them with hay, but could they catch a leprechaun that way? No, they could not!

They set up nets to drop, made cages with sliding doors, they even set up snares, but could they catch a leprechaun unaware? No, they could not!

Nothing seemed to work. The villagers were afraid they would never be free from the pests.

Then one night, an unbelievable thing happened. A leprechaun did get caught. Not in a trap. He was pouring soot down a chimney into some one's soup. He slipped, fell down the flue and got hung up on a pot hook.

In the morning he was still there trying to wiggle off the hook. Well, it wasn't very long before the whole village was there. Every one of them had a different idea on what to do with the creature. Some people wanted to punish him for all the tricks that had been played on them. Others wanted to hang him in the middle of the village as to sign to other leprechauns to stay away.

The children had a totally different idea. "We want our one wish. He's a leprechaun. He must grant us one wish."

Well, that started a new argument. What would the wish be? They knew they'd have to be careful for there were lots of stories about clever leprechauns tricking people out of their wishes.

Finally the villagers asked, "How do we stop this torment?"

The leprechaun answered,

The best I can do is give you a clue.

It doesn't matter, don't you see?

You can do what you want with me.

The leprechaun said "To turn this around

Is the one who wears the golden crown."

The people knew the answer to that riddle. "Well then! How do we talk to your king?"

The leprechaun only gave them a new riddle.

"You can not talk to him at night,

Though you work or plan or fight.

You will not see him in the days.

He will not come into sun rays."

The people began to mumble and grumble, for they didn't know what the new riddle meant. When they tried to get the leprechaun to tell them more, he only said:

"Now let me go. You know it's true.

I can only grant one wish for you."

The villagers didn't want to let him go, but they had had their wish and a promise is a promise. They took him down off the hook and before they could blink, the leprechaun was gone.

The days went on and the days went by, but nothing had changed at the village. The leprechauns came every night and the villagers could do nothing to stop them. No one understood the riddle, so no one knew how to talk to the leprechaun king.

Then one day, into the village came a stranger. It didn't take long for him to learn of the leprechaun problem and the riddle.

The stranger's name was Patrick and he was as learned a man as there had ever been in the village. Right away he told the villagers the answer to the riddle.

"If it's not day or night, then the answer is between. The only time to meet the king of the leprechauns is twilight. If you would like, I'll meet with him myself. Perhaps I can persuade him to leave your village alone."

Yes, the whole village wanted Patrick to talk to the leprechaun king. They hoped he would be the one to save them from the leprechaun plague.

So just before sunset, Patrick went to the side of a hill that every one said was the entrance to the little people's kingdom. There he waited. As soon as the sun disappeared, Patrick heard a voice.

"Why are you standing by our gate?

Don't you know you're one we hate?

You'd better leave before it's too late."

Patrick answered as bold as bold. "I know the answer to the riddle a leprechaun told. I'm here to meet the king. It's nether day or night. I will speak with him now while it's twilight."

A Deeper voice replied.

"Well, I never.

You are clever.

Have your say,

Then Go Away!"

Patrick felt a little awkward talking to a hill. He could see nothing but the flowers bending in the breeze. "I've come to ask you to keep your people away from the village."

The leprechaun king said:

"We didn't start this noisy fight.

You should know that we are right.

We've lived here beyond your days.

And never bothered with your ways.

But that village grows and grows.

Noise all day adds to our woes.

So we return the noise at night

Don't you think that is our right?"

Now Patrick understood the problem. The leprechauns were getting back at the villagers for the noise during the day. But what could the villagers do about that? Could you play and work quietly all day? Either the villagers would have to move or the leprechaun would have to move. Patrick knew that neither group would want to leave their homes.

Patrick spoke to the hidden king. "If the problem is only that, then maybe we could solve the problem now and stop this noisy war."

The king called:

"What is it you're trying to say?

Will the village go away?"

Patrick smiled. "Maybe it will or maybe not. I was wondering if a riddle contest might decide; winners stay, losers go away."

"To a riddle contest you'd challenge me?

I know each riddle of every degree.

I think that you are very brave.

And since 'twas you the challenge gave

The first riddle falls to Me.

As green as an emerald.

Named like a stone.

Found on this island,

Where ever you roam."

"That's a simple one in Ireland, little king. What else could it be, but shamrocks in the spring? And now, can you guess this?

Sometimes it's fat. Sometimes thin.

Sometimes like an O. Sometimes a C."

The leprechaun king laughed.

"Fat and thin! O and C.

This is too easy for the likes of me.

The answer is the moon.

Now listen to this tune.

I'm often held, yet rarely touched.

I'm always wet, yet never rust.

I'm sometimes wagged and sometimes bit.

To use me well, you must have wit."

Patrick thought a moment. "It's held, wet, wagged and bit. To use it well I must have wit? It sounds like my tongue! I don't touch it much and it never rusts.

It's my tongue. We'll see how much wit I have. Try this:

You come to a fork in the road,

One to the right, another to the left.

Only one route leads to safety.

The other leads to certain death.

Two men stand beside the road.

One is honest, the other always lies.

Only one question you may ask.

Inquire correct and safely pass by."

The king only paused a moment.

"So simple! It's easy! This is child's play.

You ask one man what the other would say.

Then you go the opposite way.

A clever puzzle, but not the best.

Here's the next riddle of this test.

It can not be heard. It says not a word.

It can not be seen. It's not just a dream.

Beware! Beware! All men have fear."

Patrick really had to think this time. "All men have fear of this thing? I've heard of some creatures all men might fear, but you could see and hear them."

The leprechaun king became impatient.

"You are squirming like a hamster.

Do you not know the answer?"

Patrick tried not to get nervous. "Things that can't be seen might be in the dark. Be in... Wait! The Dark! The dark can't be seen or heard. Everyone has been afraid of the dark.

It's the dark. Beware of the dark. That's three for me. Here's your third."

"What walks on four legs in the morning,

Two legs in the afternoon,

And three legs in the evening?"

The king didn't answer. Patrick waited a minute and then five more. "Well? Can you unravel the riddle? Let's hear the answer."

A crack appeared in the hill. Out stepped a leprechaun as old as old. On his head he wore a crown of gold, covered with gems and jewels. He looked at Patrick.

"I've lost. I admit it.

Now tell me, What Is It?"

Patrick shook his head. "The answer will cost you your kingdom."

The king said,

"I would give you anything else that you asked.

If only to keep that from coming to pass."

Patrick said, "Then answer the riddle."

The old king took off his crown.

"We'll move. I'll command it.

Tell the me the answer. I Can't Stand It!"

"It's an old riddle from the land of the sun. I read of it when I was young. The answer is a man. In the morning of a man's life, he's a baby and crawls on all fours. In the afternoon of his life, a man walks upright on his two legs. In the evening of his life, he's old and weak and needs a cane. So that's his third leg. There's your answer, now keep your word."

From that day forth, never again were leprechauns heard in the village. As for Patrick, he traveled about Ireland, helping people where ever he could. The Irish loved him so much, that when he died, they called Patrick a saint.

Papa Joe  ~  Telling Tales

Papa  Joe  ~  Telling  Tales

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