This week marked the 25th anniversary of the premier of Are You Afraid of the Dark? on Nickelodeon. So happy American birthday, AYAOTD! And really, what better way to celebrate than by watching a classic episode, which is actually one of the more unusual tales.
Disclaimer: I hate leprechauns. So I was really dreading watching this episode.
When your parents are too lazy to turn off the television when Leprechaun 3 is on and you’re four-years-old, you’ll probably get a bit scarred. I still can’t sleep on my back properly after watching a Leprechaun saw a man in half alive.
But thankfully, “The Tale of Jake and the Leprechaun” doesn’t include terrifying leprechauns with bad skin. This tale is a rather sweet one and the first thus far to bring me to tears (though it certainly won’t be the last).
Unlike most episodes which use the Midnight Society to simply bookmark the ends of the episode, their scenes are actually important to the tale. It’s Eric’s first time to tell a tale, and it’s a personal one.
He begins by telling the Midnight Society that his grandfather had passed the week before. His grandfather was Irish, and a great teller of traditional stories. Eric pulls out a tricorne hat he says belonged to his grandfather. And to honor him, Eric dons the hat and says he will share his grandfather’s favourite tale: “The Tale of Jake and the Leprechan.”
Jake is a young boy who dreams of being an actor. His first ever role is in a play called The Will o’ the Wisp. Though he’s not particularly great, he admires his co-star – Erin. After he takes a tumble during a scene, Jake tells the director Lucy that he wishes to be as good as Seamus.
She tells him that Seamus drinks a special tea that gives him his inspiration. Jake thinks the tea would also help him, so Lucy gives him a list of the ingredients in the tea, though they are unusual ones that Erin uses from his own stash.
Undeterred, Jake goes to a local greenhouse for help. There he meets the Irishman Sean O’Shaney, who is the gardener at the greenhouse. While friendly at first, Sean becomes angry when he sees the list of ingredients that Jake hands him. Sean tells Jake to leave, and the boy leaves without his tea.
At the following rehearsal, strange things begin to happen to Jake. During his scene with Erin, his voice begins to change after he takes a sip from a pouch thrown to him by Eric. Apparently no one gives shit that Jake has suddenly hit puberty and speaks like a 40-year-old man, but it certainly shakes Jake.
He returns to Sean in hopes of getting help. Reluctantly, Sean agrees after Jake explains the strange things happening to him the more he rehearses the play. Sea actually becomes eager to help once Jake explains the premise of the play and recites some of the lines from his scene with Erin:
“Yours be mine and mine be yours.”
The next day, Sean attends one of the rehearsals for Will o’ the Wisp. Sean becomes shocked when he sees Erin on stage with Jake. Obviously recognising the man, Sean insides the ropes for the set, and it falls – stopping Erin in the middle of his lines. But for Jake it’s too late. As he runs off stage he sees that his ears have become permanently pointy and elf-like.
Sean tells Jake that he’s been drinking a glamour during his scenes with Erin. The glamour is what is causing Jake to turn into a changeling. And according to Sean, the change will be permanent the next time Jake takes the glamour.
To convince his friend, Sean takes Jake into the basement rooms of the theatre where Erin lives. They set off an alarm to distract Erin and begin searching the rooms.
They discover a shrine of sorts with Jake’s photo. They also see a frog, that Sean later explains was once a human. But before they can get any further, Erin returns and the two friends hide under the bed. Erin begins to make himself comfortable and it’s revealed that his has horrible skin, pointy ears and a disgustingly hairy back.
When they finally escape Erin’s room, Sean tells Jake that Erin is a Banshee. Erin is nothing like an actual Banshee from Irish lore, but we’ll go with it anyway. Erin needs a human soul every seven years to turn into a changeling. Jake thinks he can backout easily, but Sean tells him he can’t survive as half of a changeling. But thankfully Sean has a trick up his sleeve.
On the opening night of the play, Sean takes Jake aside and tells him the steps to beat Eric. First, he has to be brave so Sean gives Jake some rather disgustingly big spiders to eat. Then he says Erin needs a taste of his own medicine (the glamour, but with Sean’s added magic). And finally, Jake must spellbind Erin by not losing eye contact with him.
During their scene together, things seem to work out for Jake until he loses his eye contact with Erin. The banshee turns Jake into a toad, seemingly ending the story. But Sean appears in Leprechaun kit and battles it out with Erin. The crowd enjoy the show, believing it to be a bunch of good tricks.
Sean pulls a rat-like tail from his bag that stuns Erin. Sean offers a trade, and throws the tail at Erin, which turns him into a pail of black grime leaving only a toad behind. Sean uses his magic to return his friend to human form. And as a final treat, gives Jake his tricorne hat.
So was Eric’s grandfather really Jake? Maybe.
The episode wraps up when each member of the Midnight Society give Eric a comforting hug. This is, unfortunately, the first of only two tales that Eric shares. The last will be next week’s episode. And incidentally, the real reason I still run up the basement stairs as a full-grown adult.