The legend of the Tooth Fairy is shrouded in mystery. While most traditions are easy to trace through history and originated many years ago, it isn’t so with this winged being.
February 28th is National Tooth Fairy Day, so now is the perfect time to learn about her elusive beginnings.
The Earliest Possible Start
In Britain, it was once customary to gift coins to sleeping servant girls. Though this is a tooth-free tradition, it holds weight with some researchers.
Fairies are an important piece of Irish folklore, and some Irish feared fairy changelings, which occurred when a fairy would kidnap a sleeping human baby and replace it with a fairy. If the child fell into ill health, it was likely that this wasn’t the legitimate child, but a fairy replacement. Hiding a tooth near the sleeping child was an effective strategy for warding off this type of trickery.
Venetian children who lost baby teeth were visited by a magical being who replaced their teeth with a small gift, while the Virgin Mary left coins under children’s pillows in 19th century France.
The Tooth Fairy Make an Appearance as a Mouse
“La Bonne Petite Souris,” a French play that translates to “The Good Little Mouse,” follows the tale of a wretched king who locks up his kind wife. A mouse appears to the queen, transforms into a fairy, and knocks the king’s teeth out. The fairy hides the king’s teeth beneath a pillow, kills the king, and frees the queen.
After the release of “La Bonne Petit Souris,” some more Tooth Fairy stories developed:
- In 1920, the play was released in English.
- In 1949, the Tooth Fairy appeared in Collier’s magazine, one of the most popular publications at the time.
- In 1979, The World Book Encyclopedia mentioned the Tooth Fairy, which was her first citation in a reference book.
In the 1950’s, the American mindset shifted, and the Tooth Fairy tradition was close to what we know today. American families earned more money and valued their children more than in past decades. Disney released films like Cinderella and Peter Pan, and the Fairy Godmother and Tinkerbell were popular characters.
The Tooth Fairy Accounts for Inflation
The Tooth Fairy is no stranger to the evolving value of the US dollar. At the start of her career, she paid her customers 12-18 cents per tooth. These days, children glean an average of $3.70 a pop.