It’s fun when your various worlds meet.
That happened to me two weekends ago at the annual Ten Thousand Villages Fair Trade Show at the Ottawa Mennonite Church (1830 Kilborn Ave).
As a note, the show runs Fridays and Saturdays in November (info here!). I’ve been going for well over a decade now and look forward to it annually.
But back to my story.
I found this book, which I promptly purchased as a Christmas gift for my girls:
It is a lovely book about what happens around the world when you lose your baby teeth.
Because this has been a big deal FOREVER.
In every culture.
And the Tooth Fairy?
Very North American.
And unlike Santa and the Easter Bunny?
How do I know this?
In the summer of 2014 my eldest lost her first tooth.
She was also curious about the computer and crazy about Disney fairies, so I started a Fairy Pinterest board with her so we could find pictures of fairies she liked together and collect them:
Because she’d also lost her first tooth, we collected a few pictures of the Tooth Fairy.
Including this one:
Yup. The Tooth Fairy from Rise of the Guardians, or Tooth, as the other Guardians (Santa, the Easter Bunny, Sandman) in the movie call her.
A fun activity with my daughter. No deeper thought than that.
Online I also blog, tweet and on Pinterest have some ACTUALLY useful recipe boards.
But this pin?
By far the most popular thing I’ve EVER done on the Internet.
I continue to get multiple notices a week from people pinning and liking it. At the time of writing this post, it has been repined almost 650 times. By ALL. THESE. COOL. PEOPLE. Heck! Even the Real Tooth Fairies found me through this obvious meeting place online of Tooth Fairy Fandom.
So, I thought the time had come to honour this random – and continuing – achievement.
With the aim of giving all the apparent Tooth Fairy fans out there something with a wee bit more value than a pin of a movie poster, I give you:
First thing to know about Tooth? As alluded to above, she didn’t show up on the scene until quite recently: the early 1900s.
That said, as Throw Your Tooth on the Roof can tell ya, there are numerous traditions and legends across cultures related to losing baby teeth. Early norse and European traditions suggested burying lost baby teeth to spare the child from hardships in the next life. Vikings used children’s teeth to bring them good luck in battle.
Also, back when witches were believed to use pieces of your body, like hair and fingernail clippings, to direct magic and curses at you, proper disposal of teeth was very important. The process differed by culture, but methods included throwing the tooth up to the sun or over the roof, swallowing it or burning it.
One of the most widely practiced disposal rituals was feeding or offering the lost tooth as a sacrifice to a mouse or rat, in the hope the child’s adult teeth will grow in as strong and sturdy as a rodent’s. Rodents also continue to grow their teeth their entire lives – so there’s another toothy link.
In many countries children still leave teeth out for a mouse in exchange for money or some other gift. In France, this is La Petite Souris, dating to the 17th century. In Spanish-speaking countries it is Ratóncito Pérez (who has his own museum).
As the Straight Dope notes, there are equally long traditions about fairies. However the two didn’t get together for a while, and research is unclear on when and how this happened. There’s a tradition from 18th century France of a “tooth mouse,” likely based on a fairy tale, La Bonne Petite Souris, in which a fairy changes into a mouse (or perhaps the other way around) to help the good queen defeat the evil king. The mouse hides under a pillow to taunt the king, and punishes him by knocking out all his teeth. Perhaps this was the origin of the tooth fairy, but no one really knows.
The tooth fairy as we know her today didn’t make an appearance until the early 1900s, when she appeared as a “good fairy” with professional specialization.
The Tooth Fairy’s popularity grew slowly over the next few decades. The Tooth Fairy, a three-act playlet for children by Esther Watkins Arnold, was published in 1927. Lee Rogow’s children’s story “The Tooth Fairy” appeared in 1949. However, she became widely popular from the 1950s onward, with many books and cartoons as well as an increased focus on children’s dental hygiene. The 1980s then saw the commercialization and merchandising of the tooth fairy, with pillows, dolls, banks and so forth…
The start of recent (as in, beginning in the last 1970s(ish)) research on the Tooth Fairy was done by the late Dr. Rosemary Wells, who was a professor at Northwestern Dental School. Given the lack of clear answers on the origin of the custom that saw millions of American children put their teeth under their pillows in exchange for cold, hard cash, she researched it herself and became the world’s leading “Tooth Fairy” expert – appearing on Oprah and opening a Tooth Fairy museum in Deerfield, Illinois. When she passed away in 2000 her husband sold the memorabilia.
Then there’s, of course, Tooth in the movies. Aside from previously mentioned and obviously awesome 2012 Rise of the Guardians, there’s been 2010’s Tooth Fairy with Duane “The Rock” Johnson, 2003’s Darkness Falls with the always awesome Emma Caulfield who I love from my Buffy days, and Kirstie Ally’s Toothless from 1997.
Here endeth my post contributing to the expansion of understanding of Tooth Fairy’s role in the hearts and minds of us all.
Given the global observation of this right of passage, I think it’s sort of perfect that the Ten Thousand Villages Fair Trade sale brought me back here.
If you are local, the show runs every Friday and Saturday through November. I posted details previously here. Here’s a sampling of what’s there from my visit this year:
They are having a fair trade fashion show this Friday, November 27th, starting at 7:00. I aim to bring my girls.
Regardless of your place in the globe, I want to leave you with this tonight: