Most traditions and superstitions can be traced throughout history. Historians have been able to follow some characters like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to their origins very easily. Others, however, have proven to be more elusive.
The Tooth Fairy is one such character. Her beginnings have had historians stumped for a long time. Still to this day they haven’t been able to pin down her story 100%.
One thing we do know is that National Tooth Fairy Day is coming up on February 28th! In honor of this day, we’ve compiled the bits and pieces of what historians were able to find about her unclear origins.
Before the Tooth Fairy became a household name, there were several old traditions that shared certain similarities with her. In the 19th century, it was custom for French and Italian children to be left small gifts overnight when they lost a tooth, courtesy of a special magical being.
Around the same time, the English would leave out fairy coins while the peasant girls slept. The Irish believed in a strange occurrence called a fairy changeling. According to myth, this is when a fairy would kidnap a child in the night and leave a mischievous fairy in their place. To avoid this, they would bury lost baby teeth to deter the fairies from snatching up young boys and girls.
Setting the Stage
The play “La Bonne Petite Souris,” meaning “The Good Little Mouse,” parallels the Tooth Fairy’s myth as well. It features fairies, magic, lost teeth and, unlike the Tooth Fairy we know and love, themes of revenge. In it, a good queen is locked away by her terrible husband, the king, when a mouse appears to her. The mouse is actually a fairy in disguise come to save her. The fairy’s way of saving her includes forcing the king’s teeth from his mouth, hiding them under a pillow and then executing him. In the end, the queen is finally free.
The play was the first of a series of Tooth Fairy-related events including:
- 1920’s: “La Bonne Petite Souris” gets released in English.
- 1949: A story about the Tooth Fairy is published in Collier’s
- 1950’s: American families begin to develop a child-centric view of home life.
- 1950: Disney’s Cinderella introduces The Fairy Godmother who becomes wildly popular.
- 1953: Another fairy favorite Tinkerbell makes her debut in Disney’s Peter Pan.
- 1979: The Tooth Fairy is now an integral part of kids’ childhoods and is cited in The World Book Encyclopedia.
Raising Her Gifts with Inflation
The Tooth Fairy has been keeping up with the times when it comes to how much she’s leaving kids these days! When she was brand new, a tooth would typically get you around 15 cents. Now kids get an average of $3.70 per tooth.