It is probably safe to say that you know who the Tooth Fairy is, but do you know where she came from and how the tradition of putting lost baby teeth underneath a pillow in exchange for money came from? As a parent, you have probably played the role of the Tooth Fairy or will do so in the future for your children, the same way that your parents or guardians did for you. Unlike the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, who are both tied to religious holidays, the Tooth Fairy is domination-free and a tradition most families follow without a second thought to why or how that tradition began.
It might come as a shock, but the Tooth Fairy, as we know her, isn’t even a hundred years old. She is also from the United States of America. While other countries around the world have their own traditions that surround the loss of baby teeth, the Tooth Fairy with her beautiful wings, sparkly dress, glittery wand, sweet demeanor, and maternal vibe, is unique to the United States.
The earliest written account of the Tooth Fairy came from a three-act eight-page playlet for children that was written by Esther Watkins Arnold in 1927. The story was written to help bring comfort to children during their years of losing their twenty baby teeth. The idea and act of losing not just one tooth, but twenty teeth in total can be a scary one for young children. The tradition of a sweet and silent fairy taking away the lost tooth from beneath one’s pillow and replacing it with money really helped make this natural part of growing up something to look forward to rather than fear.
Around the same time the story of the Tooth Fairy gained popularity in the United States, Disney released animated movies like Cinderella and Pinocchio, which both had an important fairy character. It was Disney’s rendition of the fairy that helped to solidify what the Tooth Fairy would look like in the minds of most children; a sweet maternal figure with a wand. While there are all different versions of the Tooth Fairy on a physical level, the idea and story is the same across the board. The Tooth Fairy sneaks into the bedroom on the night that a baby tooth is lost, removes it undetected from underneath the pillow, and replaces the tooth with money.
While this tradition is unique to the United States, many countries, including Russia, Mexico, and New Zealand adhere to the tradition of a Tooth Mouse sneaking into the bedroom to take the lost baby tooth. Now, many parents leave money or a small gift behind in exchange for the tooth, but the original tradition was that if the mouse took your tooth it meant that you would have strong adult teeth since mice themselves have strong teeth. Other cultures have children throw their lost baby tooth on the roof, bury it in the ground, toss it in a fire, place it in a tree, or even give it to their mother to swallow