Rise Of The Tooth Fairy

By | March 1, 2019

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Tooth fairy and sleeping child. Source: (pinterest.com)

All across the country, children are losing their baby teeth and putting them under their pillows at night. This unsanitary practice is motivated by the belief that a fairy will come while they are asleep and leave them money in exchange for the tooth. But who is this fairy and what does she want with all those teeth?

While this mysterious tooth fairy is a relatively new invention, it most likely evolved from ancient practices for disposing of teeth. Proper disposal of teeth was important as many ancient European cultures believed witches could use discarded body parts such as hair, fingernails, and teeth to target their curses. As a result, they came up with ways of getting rid of the teeth by burning, burying, or even swallowing them. Some cultures would feed the teeth to an animal, often a mouse. Others would call upon a rodent or a crow to help the person grow a better tooth to replace the one that was lost.

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Tooth fairy coin. Source: (coinsofamerica.com)

The monetary compensation which the tooth fairy allegedly leaves has several possible origins. One is an old British custom in which servant girls were given “fairy coins” during their sleep. However, this particular custom made no mention of teeth. Irish folklore, on the other hand, suggests that placing a tooth near a sleeping child could prevent the child from being replaced by a changeling. A Venetian version of Santa Claus would leave presents or money to children who had lost a tooth and a late 19th-century French tradition believed that the Virgin Mary would exchange coins or gifts for teeth left under a child’s pillow.