27 July 2007

Origins of the Tooth Fairy

First let me explain WHY I’m posting about the Tooth Fairy. My eldest daughter had to have five baby teeth pulled today (yes…big ouch!) and about the only thing that made her feel better was telling her that there would be a big payoff under that pillow tomorrow morning.

Of course, she thought “a million bucks” would cover it. Ha Ha. I was thinking more along of a fiver, but I guess when you’re eight it doesn’t hurt to dream big.

My girls have these adorable “piggy bank” style boxes that come with a book to record the date and a satin pillow with a little tooth pocket. There was much drama first about IF five teeth with roots would fit in the pocket (they did) and if the Tooth Fairy would find five teeth on one night a bit suspicious (we left a note to explain they were pulled). So after everyone was tucked in, I found myself wondering, “How did the Tooth Fairy come about?”

Surprisingly there isn’t much out there about this. I found two sites with helpful info: Dr. Bunn’s site (Yes, I think that’s his real name) and the good ole’ Straight Dope site.

Both agree that our modern Tooth Fairy myth is a very new story—less then a century old. In the 30’s there were two stories by different authors published about her and this is apparently where the idea of a fairy who finds teeth under pillows and gives out money for the little pearly whites really took off. Straight Dope goes on to say the toothy miss wasn’t even commercialized until the 1980’s when such things as “Tooth Fairy” boxes (see above) began appearing on store shelves.

What is interesting to me as a paranormal author is the witch connection. Yes, the witch connection! While the kind, sparkly tooth fairy is a figure that gives comfort to modern day children across the nation, those poor middle-age peasant kids had no such luck. Instead people have found traditions in England and Europe that suggest baby teeth were burned or buried to prevent the local witch from using the baby teeth to CURSE the children.

Yep. I guess teeth worked even better than hair for hexing those serfs.

Wouldn’t that make the great opening of a paranormal story?

A mother burying the first tooth of her first-born believing she’s alone in the woods…and then when she leaves the scene—a haggard old creature could appear and dig through the freshly turned soil until a small yellow nugget of tooth is held gleefully in the fading sunlight!!!

Can you picture it?

I’m going to leave you with another interesting medieval tooth tradition. Some cultures believed that if a buried tooth was eaten by a dog, the child’s adult teeth would resemble a canine. This also worked with hogs and mice.

I didn’t know a person’s teeth could resemble a hog’s. But then luckily I live in a century where we can visit the dentist and have five teeth pulled so we don’t look like we’ve got a mouth two sizes too small with teeth two sizes too big.

Have a great weekend!
~Margo

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