I love the Tooth Fairy. Maybe it’s because in my Jewish household, we had no other mythical visitors like Santa and the Easter Bunny. Tooth Fairy visits were something I could enjoy and share with all my classmates.
And what a delightful discovery occurred when I learned that one of my neighbors, Suzanne Wenzlaff, DDS, portrayed the Tooth Fairy in the much heralded Hollywood Boulevard annual Christmas parade.
As a child, it thrilled me when a baby tooth fell out. With great anticipation, I placed it under my pillow at night and when I found a shiny dime in its place the next morning, I could hardly wait to spend it.
My own children received a quarter per tooth, so I wondered about the going rate in 2015. I asked my lovely great-grand niece, Brin Pime, how much money the Tooth Fairy left for her two young daughters. “One dollar per tooth,”Brin answered, adding that she often dusted the bills with sparkly eye shadow. What a charming idea.
When I asked Brin what other parents gave, I was astounded to learn that for one of her acquaintances the going rate was $20 per tooth because the parents were caught with only $20 bills in their wallet. Wow! Has inflation hit what was once an affordable tradition?
As a folklorist, I am asked, “Where did this tradition come from?” And like so many customs, it is hard to ascertain their origins. However, the Tooth Fairy seems to flourish in English-speaking countries, like the US, Canada, and Australia.
In Spain, the child tucks the tooth under her pillow, and while she sleeps, Ratoncito Perez (a small mouse) takes the tooth and leaves money or candy. In many other cultures, too, the one who takes the tooth is a rat or a mouse, no doubt in the hopes of emulating their strong sharp teeth. Other variations include throwing a lower tooth on the roof and upper tooth under the bed.
Of course, if you Google the Tooth Fairy, you will find related objects for sale, for example, kits, books, and objects for storing the teeth. Unfortunately, she has been commercialized. Here are a few tooth fairy containers that I have in my folklore collection.
I find it heartening that in this high tech obsessed world of ubiquitous cellphones and lap tops, something so low tech as the Tooth Fairy still prevails. Long May She Reign!
Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is encouraged that the Tooth Fairy is still an important part of childhood.
My friend, Roxana, sent me this letter that appeared on her Facebook page:
I don’t like the idea of a Tooth Fairy with conditions. Do you?