The Tooth Fairy is a beloved childhood symbol and a source of magic in a child’s life, much like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. What is different about the Tooth Fairy from these other magical characters is that the Tooth Fairy exists in a wide variety of cultures and religions. But not many people know about the origins of the Tooth Fairy and how long children have looked forward to and believed in her magic. Read on to learn about the history of the tooth fairy!
Ancient Myths Related to Teeth
While the Tooth Fairy as we know her today is a relatively new idea, this magical character and the story surrounding her have evolved and changed over time and across cultures. There are many traditions, myths, and legends that date back over a thousand or more years that are related to losing baby teeth.
There are some early European and Norse traditions that suggest that when a young child lost a tooth, the tooth was buried in the ground with the intention of sparing the child from any hardships in the afterlife. There is also a tradition of the ‘tand-fe’ or ‘tooth fee’ that originated in Europe to honour the first loss of a tooth in a child. Vikings also would use their children’s teeth (as well as other items) to bring them good luck and success during battle.
There is also a tradition of a good fairy throughout Europe that originated in fairy tales and literature in more recent centuries. The most popular iteration of the Tooth Fairy is of a ‘tooth deity’ that takes the appearance of a mouse and would enter children’s bedrooms and collect their lost teeth. This traditional story was popular in Spain, Russia, and many Asian countries.
The reason that the mouse is the symbol of the tooth deity in many European cultures is based on the fact that the teeth of mice (and all rodents) continue to grow throughout their entire lives. Anthropologists who have studied these traditions consider this a type of ‘sympathetic magic’ or a way for those who believe to transfer good luck to a child who had lost a tooth.
Other Traditions Related to Teeth
There are many other traditions around the world related to the tooth fairy, including rituals that date back thousands of years across many cultures. Some of these traditions are:
- Throwing the tooth into the sun.
- Throwing the tooth into the fire.
- Throwing the tooth backward between the legs.
- The tooth is thrown onto or over the roof of a home.
- The tooth is placed in a mouse hole.
- The tooth is buried in the ground.
- The tooth is hidden out of sight from animals.
- The tooth is placed inside a tree or on a wall.
- The tooth is swallowed by a mother, a child, or a pet.
The Many Appearances Of The Tooth Fairy
The Tooth Fairy is different from its counterparts because it has not been associated with one specific image or appearance. The most common form of the Tooth Fairy takes its inspiration from other fairies in popular culture, but it has also appeared in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from old to young, human to sprite, and in some cases, various animals have been the inspiration for the Tooth Fairy’s appearance.
The All-American Tooth Fairy
The Tooth Fairy as we know her today took its inspiration from the legend of the mouse and the myth of the good fairy. A book was published in 1927 and made the image of the modern Tooth Fairy popular amongst families. While the legend was relatively obscure for some time, the admiration of fairies in well-known movies and books boosted the popularity of the Tooth Fairy, which then became a part of most North American childhoods.
A recent study discovered that the average child in North America receives $3.70 per tooth, which is certainly more than it was when the tradition first began. The main reason that the tooth fairy tradition is still popular across many cultures is that it offers some comfort and excitement when a child loses a tooth.
Dentists today also enjoy the Tooth Fairy tradition as it helps to encourage good oral health practices and dental health and encourages parents to excite their children about their teeth and the importance of proper oral health care. This type of encouragement, as well as the notion of a Tooth Fairy, can make dental work easier and more accepted for children, and that’s always a very good thing! At Stonegate Dental, we provide the best care and a calm and comfortable environment for all of our clients. Learn more about the services and level of care we provide by reaching out to our Guelph dentist’s office today!