When we think about heroes from our childhood we think of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and maybe even the Tooth Fairy! Unlike Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy seems to transcend regional and cultural barriers. How is this the case? Where did the tooth fairy come from?
The modern version of the tooth fairy is a fairly recent culmination of different myths and legends from around the world, with some of these legends and myths dating back millennia. In the earliest recorded writings of ancient Norse and Northern European Traditions, there is mention of a tradition called “tand-fe” which roughly translates to “tooth fee.” This tradition involves parents paying their children a small fee when they lost their first tooth. This tradition started because children’s teeth were thought to hold great value and bring good luck. Warriors would even string together children’s teeth as a necklace to wear into battle.
There is another tradition in Russian, Spanish and Asian countries that involves a mouse, el Ratón Pérez or Perez the Mouse, who would enter children’s rooms at night and remove their baby teeth. The creation of Perez the Mouse is credited to a Spanish novelist in 1877 and the tradition has since moved to Latin American countries. This tooth-fairy-like creature has its own movie, made in 2006, has made appearances in Colgate commercials in Latin America and even made an appearance in the 2012 film Rise of the Guardians. The reason behind symbolizing a tooth-fairy as a rodent is because rodent’s teeth grow throughout their whole lives.
The modern-American adaptation of the tooth fairy as we know it was first mentioned in an article in the Chicago Tribune in 1908. The author of this article, Lillian Brown, used the idea as a suggestion for parents to persuade their children to allow a loose baby tooth to be removed(offering the incentive of receiving a small gift in exchange from the magical “tooth fairy”). Similar stories were adapted in newspapers and magazines throughout the country and eventually the tooth fairy became a nation-wide phenomenon.