Found in the folklore of various cultures, leprechauns, elves, dwarfs, gnomes, and goblins are thought by some people to actually exist. They are described as tiny humanlike beings, and all but elves are said to be wizened (and, in the case of goblins, grossly deformed as well). Elves are generally regarded as looking perpetually young and attractive. Moreover, elves are said to have magical powers, including the ability to shape-shift in order to conceal their true identity and/or play tricks on people, sometimes harmless tricks but other times hurtful or even cruel ones. In folklore, elves are said to enchant or bewitch human beings, using spells that typically cause the human to lose track of massive amounts of time. Some who believe that elves really exist support this idea as well.
Both in folklore and among believers today, gnomes and dwarfs are said to live in caves, caverns, other underground regions, or deep forests, and some believe that they turn to stone when caught outside in sunlight. Dwarfs are also tricksters, and, like elves, their behaviour ranges from relatively harmless to very harmful to humans. Goblins perform harmless mischief, such as overturning furniture, frightening animals, and ruining food on the stove. Leprechauns are thought to play tricks as well, but they might also mend people’s shoes without being seen.
Believers say that the trickery and occasional helpfulness of leprechauns, elves, dwarfs, gnomes, and goblins explains why, for example, keys and socks sometimes go missing for no apparent reason, or other objects in a home are discovered in a different place without anyone having moved them. Sceptics say that such events are due to simple forgetfulness and scoff at the notion that humanlike creatures, no matter how tiny, could have existed on Earth for centuries without being seen.
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning