The Tooth Fairy is a peculiar creature. Unlike the Easter Bunny or Santa, the Tooth Fairy’s past whereabouts are murky, because researchers have had a rough time making sense of her history.
National Tooth Fairy Day is February 28, so we’ve sorted through her past to observe the occasion.
The Earliest Signs
Around Europe, there are several old customs that the Tooth Fairy could be behind. In England, it was commonplace to leave a coin for a sleeping peasant girls. Irish folklore paints fairies as malicious creatures who wreak havoc on the home. Fairy changeling occurred when Irish babies were kidnapped and replaced with fairies. If a child ever fell ill or behaved strangely, fairies were to blame. Keeping a tooth near the child was a way to keep fairies away.
A kindly magic entity rewarded Venetian children for their lost teeth, while the Virgin Mary left coins under the pillows of 19th century French youths. However, we see one of the closest links when she takes to the stage.
She May Lead a Double Life as a Mouse
In an 18th century French children’s play called “La Bonne Petite Souris,” or “The Good Little Mouse,” we see a glimpse of our heroine.
When a benign queen is imprisoned by her husband, a magic mouse appears and transforms into a fairy. The fairy finds the king, and beats him so his teeth fall out. The teeth are hidden beneath a pillow; the king is killed; and the queen is freed.
This charming story kicked off a Tooth Fairy PR Blitz:
- 1920’s: “La Bonne Petite Souris” is released in English.
- 1949: Collier’s magazine, one of the most popular publications during this time, publishes an article about the Tooth Fairy.
- 1979: The World Book Encyclopedia gives the Tooth Fairy her first citation in a reference book.
After WWII, a time of prosperity and a kid-friendly view of the American family, the Tooth Fairy really picks up steam. Pop culture’s influence didn’t hurt either. Both Peter Pan and Cinderella came out in the 50’s, and characters like Tinkerbell and the Fairy Godmother were universally adored.
She Won’t Rip You Off
Today, the Tooth Fairy is a great lady to do business with. She takes inflation into account. Before 1975, kids got about 15 cents per tooth, while today she pays them an average of $3.70.