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One of the lesser known but quite curious fairies in Irish folklore, the Far Darrig looks similar to a leprechaun but is much more ill-mannered. While leprechauns usually tend to themselves and stay away from people most of the time, a Far Darrig will constantly seek out people to bother and torment.
Who are the Far Darrig?
Far Darrig, or Fear Dearg in Irish, literally means Red Man. This is quite an apt description as the Far Darrig are always dressed in red from head to toe. They tend to wear long red coats, red tri-point hats, and they often have either grey or bright red hair and beards.
They are also sometimes called Rat Boys because their skin is often described as dirty and hairy, their noses are like long snouts, and some authors even claim they have rat tails. The fact that the Far Darrig are short and stout like a leprechaun also doesn’t help.
Also, like the leprechaun and the clurichaun, the Far Darrig is considered a solitary fairy.Such fairies are often described as most sluttish, slouching, jeering, mischievous phantoms. All this goes double for the Far Darrig who, it is said, … “busies himself with practical joking, especially with gruesome joking”.
Why are the Far Darrig so Despised?
All solitary fairies are mischievous but there seems to be a difference between the pranks of leprechauns and the outright terrorization of the Far Darrig.
Almost all tales of these red men mention that they roam around at night, carrying a large burlap sack behind them – large enough to fit not just a child but a grown man too. And, indeed, the favorite midnight pastime of the Far Darrig seems to be kidnapping people at night.
Being small in stature, the Far Darrig usually accomplish this by ambushing people or by laying out traps for them. Often, they even bait people into holes or traps, just like humans do when they hunt for wild game.
What Does A Far Darrig Do With His Victims?
The two most common victims of a Far Darrig are either grown men or little children, including toddlers and even newborn babies. Curiously, this mischievous fairy has two very different and surprising goals in mind when he kidnaps people.
When a Far Darrig successfully captures an adult in his burlap sack, he drags the person back to his lair. There, the Far Darrig would trap them in a locked, dark room from which they couldn’t escape. All the hapless victims could do is sit there and listen to the Far Darrig’s evil laughter coming from an unknown direction.
On rare occasions, the Far Darrig would also force his captive to make him dinner out of a hag skewed on a spit. There are also cases when the Far Darrig wouldn’t even bother capturing the person and dragging them in his sack but will just lure them into his bog hut and lock them inside. In almost all cases, however, the Far Darrig eventually lets the poor victim leave and return home after a while.
Things get grimmer when a Far Darrig chooses to kidnap a baby, however. In those cases, the red fairy never returns the child but instead raises it as a fairy. And to make sure that the child’s parents don’t suspect anything, the Far Darrig would put a changeling in the baby’s place. This changeling would look very much like the kidnapped child but would grow into a crooked and ugly human, incapable of performing even the most basic tasks. The changeling would bring misfortune on the whole household but would be a pretty good musician and singer – like all fairies typically are.
How Can Someone Defend Against A Far Darrig?
You’d think that a grown man wouldn’t have much trouble dealing with a little red leprechaun, but Far Darrigs have a very high “success rate” when it comes to their traps and kidnappings, if the stories about them are to be believed. These little tricksters are just that cunning and mischievous.
The one effective defense against the Far Darrig the people of Ireland have discovered over the centuries is to quickly say Na dean maggadh fum! before the Far Darring has had the chance to spring his trap. In English, the phrase translates as Do not mock me! or You shall not mock me!
The only problem is that the Far Darrig’s traps are usually already sprung by the time his victims even realize they have to say the protective words.
Another protective measure, however, is carrying Christian relics or items, as those are said to repel fairies. That’s obviously a later addition to the mythology of the Far Darrig and isn’t a part of the old Celtic myths which predate Christianity.
Can the Far Darrig Be Good?
Interestingly enough, some myths explain that the Far Darrig doesn’t technically mean to be evil – he just has trouble controlling his proclivity to mischief. Sometimes, however, a Far Darrig will actually bring good fortune to people he favors or to those that show him kindness. They just have to be inherently lucky too, if they are to chance upon a Far Darrig that can reign in his incessant desire to cause trouble.
Symbols and Symbolism of the Far Darrig
The Far Darrig’s myths bear a striking resemblance to the later stories of the boogieman found throughout the world. Given that the ancient Celtic mythology and culture were spread all throughout Europe, it wouldn’t be surprising if old Celtic creatures like the Far Darrig have inspired later myths and legendary creatures.
On his own, the Far Darrig seems to symbolize people’s fear of the wild and the unknown. The kidnapping legends may have come from people being lost in the woods or kidnapped by a human, while the stories about replaced children may reflect some families’ grievances with “underachieving” children.
The bit about the Far Darrig’s “good” side that often takes the back seat to his mischievousness might symbolize the very typical human nature of people who do try to do good but just can’t overcome their vices.
Importance of the Far Darrig in Modern Culture
Unlike their green brethren, the leprechaun, the Far Darrig aren’t really represented in modern pop culture.
The most famous mentions of these red fairies come from W. B. Yeats’ Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry and Patrick Bardan’s The Dead-watchers, and Other Folk-lore Tales of Westmeath, but those were both written at the end of the 19th century, over a hundred years ago.
There have been some minor mentions of these mischievous fairies since then but none as noteworthy as the thousands of texts talking about leprechauns.
While not as popular or lovable as leprechauns, the Far Darrig is an interesting and unique Irish mythical creature. It’s impossible to say just how much this creature has influenced other cultures, but we can speculate that many frightening characters, such as the boogeyman, were inspired at least in part by the Far Darrig.