For as long as anyone can remember, way before your Mum, Dad, or Grandparents were born, there has lived a special creature, known to those near and far as “The Tooth Fairy”. So tonight we are going to look into this mystical person, and how the traditions associated with the tooth fairy vary throughout the world.
Well the tooth fairy did originate in Europe, and can be traced back to writings recorded in the 13th Century in Northern Europe where there was a Viking tradition called “Tann-fe” or tooth fee, which was paid when a child lost their first tooth. The Vikings believed that the power of the children’s teeth would aid them in battle. In 15th century Europe it was a tradition to bury baby teeth that fell out. The story goes that the tooth was buried so as to hide them from witches and evil spirits who would be able to use the power of the lost tooth and place a curse on the child.. It was then evolved into when a child’s sixth tooth fell out, the parents would place a gift or money from the tooth fairy under the child’s pillow. This eventually changed to include all teeth, and so the tradition of the modern tooth fairy emerged. Nowadays, when a child loses a tooth, it will be placed either under the pillow, or for some, in a glass of water besides the bed before going to sleep that night. The reward left under the pillow varies in modern times, by country, and the family’s economic status. A 2011 study found that the average American child receives $3 per tooth. The most useful purpose of the tooth fairy myth in this day and age is to give children something to look forward to when they lose a tooth, especially as some children become quite concerned about the loss of their first teeth.
Traditions vary around the world, in Spain it’s not the tooth fairy but “Ratoncitio Perez” a mouse, the earliest finding comes from Madrid in 1894, where it was noted that when a child loses a tooth, it was customary for Ratoncito Perez to take the tooth from under the child’s pillow, and exchange it for a gift. The mouse is also used instead of the tooth fairy in most of the Hispanic cultures around the world, as well as Italy, France and Belgium, where he is called “La Petite Souris” (The Little Mouse). In the UK it is the tooth fairy that visits, with the exception of certain parts of the Scottish lowlands where a white fairy rat comes and purchases children’s teeth with coins. In India, Vietnam, and Korea, when a child loses a tooth, it is customary for him or her to throw it onto the roof if the tooth came from the lower jaw, or into the space beneath the floor if it came from the upper jaw! While doing this, the child shouts a request for the tooth to be replaced with the tooth of a mouse. The tradition is based on the fact that the teeth of mice grow for their entire lives. In Japan, a different variation calls for lost upper teeth to be thrown straight down to the ground and lower teeth straight up into the air, the idea is that incoming teeth will grow in straight. Lastly in Middle Eastern countries, there is a tradition of throwing a baby tooth up into the sky to the sun or to Allah.