When you lost a tooth as a kid, what did you do with it? You put it under your pillow, right? Then the Tooth Fairy would come, and give you a quarter (or a dollar if you’re lucky). The Tooth Fairy has been part of our culture for many years in books and DreamWorks movies, but do you know the history of her/him? What other tooth-related traditions are there around the world?
The Tooth Fairy actually didn’t even start out as a fairy. She/He began as a mouse. The story was originally called La Bonne Petite Souris (The Little Good Mouse), and involved a mouse hiding underneath the pillow of an evil king. While under the pillow, the mouse knocks all of his teeth out. This is a somewhat violent beginning, and the story was retold with a more modern twist in 1949. Lee Rogow wrote “The Tooth Fairy,” and his tale was much closer to what we now tell as the winged fairy who gives us money for teeth.
Surprisingly, the tooth mouse story is still popular in some Spanish speaking countries, such as Mexico, Venezuela, and Spain. Mice have strong teeth their whole lives and can grow them back if they do lose them. That is why mice were chosen instead of a fairy. In Spain when kids lose their teeth, the tooth mouse “Raton” will come take them.
The Tooth Fairy and tooth mouse are not the only teeth-related traditions in the world, either. Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq, Egypt, and Sudan will throw their tooth towards the sun, or Allah. In China children will put their upper teeth at the head of their bed and the lower teeth at the foot. They believe this will help their adult teeth to grow in quickly and be strong. Some Native American cultures will wrap their tooth in food and feed it to a female dog with the request that a better tooth will grow back. In El Salvador, instead of a fairy or a mouse, it is a rabbit.
As you can see, the idea of the Tooth Fairy is common, but is different around the world. It is interesting that so much importance is attached to the losing of our teeth. We hope you enjoyed this history lesson about the Tooth Fairy!