If you’re an American, chances are visits from the Tooth Fairy were an integral part of your childhood. Most of us can remember the pain of losing your tooth being significantly lessened by the shiny coin that replaced it in the morning. Where did the coin come from? The answer is simple, a sweet little pixie who has one job — to buy children’s teeth while they’re asleep. It sounds crazy when you read it that way but really, that’s the story.
It’s no surprise that an inquisitive child would grow up to be an inquisitive adult. We don’t know about you, but we were constantly asking who the Tooth Fairy was and why she wanted our teeth. As you well know, these are completely logical questions with no satisfying answers. Even our dentists didn’t know the answer. Chess & Taub Family Dentistry is committed to being different dentists, ones who know the answer to these sorts of things. So we did our research and found these improved answers to some of the hardest Tooth Fairy questions.
Who Does The Tooth Fairy Visit?
The answer is a lot fewer people than you might think. The Tooth Fairy as we know and love her, lives and operates almost exclusively in the United States. Considering that Santa Claus delivers gifts to every child in the world in one 24-hour period, the Tooth Fairy has a considerably lighter load. The sprite has 12 hours to visit all the children in one country who both lost their tooth that day and put the tooth under their pillow that night. It has been discovered over the years, that she doesn’t have a consistent price for teeth and can sometimes be a little flighty when remembering exactly what night to come visit, but she always corrects her mistakes. Whether she leaves monetary compensation or a small toy, most children agree her gifts are much more fun than keeping their tooth.
What Does The Tooth Fairy Look Like?
According to the 2010 movie, Tooth Fairy, our protagonist pixie might look like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Whether that’s true or not, the reality is no one actually knows. There is no official written description of her anywhere and no look that’s universally agreed upon. There’s no way to tell if the Tooth Fairy is even a girl or a boy, in some cases she’s considered both or neither. For the sake of this article, we’ve decided to imagine the Tooth Fairy as a girl, to save pronoun confusion, considering people are most likely to imagine her as a girl fairy than anything else.
Scholars believe there might be a connection between the American dental sprite and European folklore about supernatural protections. There are many myths and legends of people putting iron knives under their pillows to protect from evil spirits. Common myths of the time also regularly claimed that trolls or other supernatural beings would steal children as sacrifices. Teeth are seen as protective talismans in many cultures, so it’s logical to connect the ideas, resulting in a child who keeps their teeth with them under their pillow at night to ward off other-worldly malevolence.
Where Is The Tooth Fairy From?
While the tooth fairy we’re familiar with is probably from the United States, there are some similar stories from Europe that we like to think could have been our cherished imp’s ancestors. Most Anglo-Saxon countries believe in some form of fairy or mouse coming to take a youngin’s baby teeth. We’ve chosen a few that are extremely well-known and similar to our American version.
In a recent fairy tale from Ireland (2010 was all about tooth fairies apparently), a young leprechaun girl named Anna was skipping in the woods when she tripped and knocked her front tooth out. Now she sneaks around the island collecting children’s teeth, looking for the perfect fit to replace her tooth. By leprechaun code, she may not steal, so she puts a gold coin in the tooth’s place.
TANNFE (KARIUS OG BAKTUS)
In Nordic countries, there is a little fairy who exchanges baby teeth for silver coins. “Tann fe” is an old phrase meaning “tooth fee” and Norway has the oldest written record of children receiving payment for their baby teeth. In fact, the vikings used to string them around their necks and wear them to battle for protection. Now though, “tannfe” has become the word for the tooth fairy, who asks children to drop their tooth in a glass of clear water next to their bed so she can find their tooth easier. When the children wake in the morning, there is a silver coin in its place, sunken at the bottom of the glass. Additionally, she fights against Karius and Baktus, tiny tooth trolls who are her sworn enemies. They can be lured to a child’s mouth after the tiny human eats candy without brushing their teeth afterward. The trolls drill holes into the dirty teeth that night while the children sleep. Every Nordic country has its own version of the tooth fairy and tooth trolls, but they all originated from the Norwegians.
Much like our Tooth Fairy, Ratón Pérez is a popular mouse in Spain who does all the same things, except he has an origin story and arguably more praise. It started in 1894 with a story that Luis Coloma wrote for King Alfonso XIII after the young king lost one of his baby teeth. Ratón Pérez is a brash mouse who lives in Madrid in a box of cookies. He often would run away from his home and end up in new rooms that just happened to have children who had lost their teeth. The young king and Ratón Pérez became good friends and the little mouse became so famous, he is the first fictional character to be honored with a plaque in Madrid. The inscription says, “Here lived, in a box of cookies, Ratóncito Pérez, according to the story that the father Coloma wrote for the young King Alfonso XIII.” Since then, Coloma’s story and his mouse have continued to see their popularity soar. The original manuscript of Luis Coloma is currently stored in the vault of the Royal Palace Library, while Ratón Pérez has starred in several cartoons and has a museum dedicated to him in Madrid.
We learned so much about our Tooth Fairy and other Western tooth barter systems, we hope you did too. While the Tooth Fairy is generous and kind, please remember she is very firm about not accepting dirty or rotten teeth. Be sure to call Chess & Taub Family Dentistry and have your child’s pearly whites checked today!