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Tooth Fairy Origins, A Brief History of “Shed Tooth Rituals”

Tooth Fairy Origins, A Brief History of “Shed Tooth Rituals”.

Tooth Fairy Origins, A Brief History of "Shed Tooth Rituals".

After writing THE WEIRDEST TOOTH FAIRY TRADITIONS I had to find out where the tooth fairy tradition began. So, this article on the origins of the tooth fairy was inevitable.

Shed Tooth Rituals

Losing baby teeth is one of the earliest and most anticipated rites of passage for a young child. In our part of the world, it often involves a visit from the tooth fairy. But just how old is the tradition, and what came before it?

Anthropologists and folklorists call the traditions that accompany the loss of baby teeth “shed tooth rituals”. Such rituals have varied widely from one place to another and from one time to another.

Ensuring The Childs Adult Teeth Were Strong!

Every human culture has such rituals, and many have a feature in common: whatever is done with the baby tooth is done in the belief that it will protect the child from harm or ensure that a strong, healthy permanent tooth grows in to replace the old tooth.

For centuries in Europe, it was common practice to “plant” baby teeth in the ground as if they were seeds. Doing so was thought to encourage the growth of the new tooth. Planting the tooth also kept it from falling into the hands of a witch, who could use it to cast spells on the child who lost it. (If there was any question as to whether the tooth had already been bewitched, throwing it into a fire destroyed the tooth and broke the spell.)

THE FIRST TOOTH FAIRY WAS A MOUSE

Tooth fairy mouse, Tooth Fairy Origins, A Brief History of "Shed Tooth Rituals"

If you’ve been unfortunate enough to have lived in a place that has been infested with mice, you’ve probably noticed that the pests can chew through just about anything, even wood. This did not go unnoticed in generations past, when homes had dirt floors and rodent infestations were a part of daily life.

In those days most people were all but toothless by the time they reached their 40s. Mice, by comparison, never lose their teeth because their teeth never stop growing. Perhaps it was inevitable that toothless humans would come to associate mice with strong teeth, and begin to offer their children’s baby teeth as “gifts” to mice in the hope that some of the toughness of their teeth would transfer back to the child.

Anthropologists call this “sympathetic magic.” In some places the parent or child would give the baby tooth to the mouse by throwing it out the window. In other places by tossing it over a shoulder, under the bed, onto the roof, into the yard, or left it as an offering next to a mouse hole somewhere in the house. No matter the local custom it was usually accompanied by saying the phrase “mouse mouse here is a tooth Now give me another one”.

FRANCE IS TO BLAME fOR TRADING THE TOOTH FAIRY!

Folklorists believe that France is the place where this tradition evolved into “trading” the baby tooth not for a healthy permanent tooth but rather for money or a small gift. When a child lost a tooth, they placed
it in their slipper or shoe and left it out overnight.


While the child slept, le petit souris (the little mouse) would come and take the tooth away and leave a coin in its place. Eventually a barter system developed wherein a sleeping youngster could trade a tooth for candy, not with a mouse but with a fairy.

Tooth Fairy Origins, A Brief History of "Shed Tooth Rituals".

THE MODERN TOOTH FAIRY IS AMERICAN-MADE!

By the early 1900s, the tradition of exchanging baby teeth for money or gifts had spread to the United States, where children began to put their teeth under their pillow instead of in a shoe. Rather than give it to a mouse or to a random good fairy, children began to give it to one fairy in particular: the tooth fairy.

It’s not known precisely when or where in the United States the tooth fairy made its first appearance, but by the time the first story featuring the tooth fairy appeared in print in 1927, the tradition is believed to have become quite widespread.

AROUND THE WORLD

I’ll add two traditions from around the world here but if you’d like to find out the weirdest traditions children practice all around the world you can read the recent post 18 Weirdest Tooth Fairy Traditions from around the world.

Norway

The Vikings, who raided and plundered much of coastal Europe from 800 to 1100, believed that baby teeth brought good luck, so they strung them into necklaces and wore them into battle. This tradition may be related to another ancient Norse custom, that of paying atannfe, or “tooth fee,” to a child when they lost their first tooth.

Spain

Children leave their tooth under their pillow for Ratoncito Pérez (Pérez Mouse), who leaves a coin in exchange for the tooth. In Spain in 1877, but he didn’t get involved in the tooth-swapping.

Tales involving a character named Ratón Pérez first appeared in print business until 1894, when the eight-year-old boy king of Spain, Alfonso XIII, became upset over a lost tooth. His mother, Queen Maria Cristina, hired a journalist named Luis Coloma to write a story that would calm His Majesty down.

Spain, Mexico, and other Spanish-speaking
countries have been leaving their baby teeth out for Ratón Pérez ever since, though in some regions he’s known as Ratón de los Dientes (The Tooth Mouse).

Ok, so now we know the origins of the tooth fairy. If you’d like to know the weirdest tooth traditions of children from around the world you can read the recent post HERE.

Random Tooth Fairy Fact

The tooth fairy is a busy lady. She collects an estimated 300,000 teeth every night.

20 Unusually Interesting Facts about Teeth

THE WEIRDEST TOOTH FAIRY TRADITIONS FROM AROUND THE WORLD!

Tooth Fairy Origins, A Brief History of “Shed Tooth Rituals”.

Thoughts?