Historians can trace most traditions through history. Thanks to the media’s influence, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny have a clear, definitive path of how they came to be.
The Tooth Fairy is one exception to this rule. Historians have had a hard time pinning her down and aren’t 100% sure where she came from.
Since February 28 is National Tooth Fairy Day, we’ve done some legwork by sorting through her elusive history.
There are several old traditions and, while none of them point to the Tooth Fairy outright, they bear a striking parallel to the creature we know today. During the 19th century, both French and Italian children participated in similar traditions. After they lost teeth, a magical being left small gifts for them while they slept.
At about the same time in England, it was a custom to leave fairy coins for sleeping peasant girls. The Irish believed in a phenomenon called a fairy changeling. A fairy would kidnap a child in the night, leaving a fairy in their place. A good way to deter this type of behavior was to bury a lost baby tooth nearby.
Taking to the Stage
“La Bonne Petite Souris,” or “The Good Little Mouse,” is a play about fairies, magic, and lost teeth. When a good queen is locked away by her horrible husband, a mouse appears to her. The mouse reveals herself to be a fairy in disguise. She forces the king’s teeth from his mouth, hides them under a pillow, and has the king executed. Then, the queen is set free.
This tale triggered a number of Tooth Fairy events, like:
- 1920’s: “La Bonne Petite Souris” is released in English.
- 1949: Collier’s magazine publishes a story about the Tooth Fairy.
- 1950’s: American families are prosperous and adopt a child-centric view of home life.
- 1950: The Fairy Godmother from Disney’s Cinderella is a widely popular character.
- 1953: Disney’s Peter Pan is released, and Tinkerbell is universally loved by America.
- 1979: The Tooth Fairy is cited in The World Book Encyclopedia.
Adjusting her Rates for Inflation
When she was new to her career, the Tooth Fairy bought each tooth for an average of 15 cents. To keep up with the evolving cost of the dollar, kids get an average of $3.70 these days.