Where Did the Tooth Fairy Come From?

February 27, 2017

The Tooth Fairy is an offbeat sort of girl, unlike most magical beings. Thanks to their impact on advertising and pop culture, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny can be tracked through history. This isn’t the case with the Tooth Fairy.

Since February 28 is National Tooth Fairy Day, we’ve attempted to pin down her mysterious ancestry.

Speculated Sources

Several historic traditions throughout Europe may point to this winged tooth collector. Examples of such customs originated in:

  • France. The Virgin Mary would leave coins under the pillows of children who had lost their baby teeth.
  • England. It was customary to leave a coin next to sleeping servant girls.
  • Italy. Children in Venice were visited by a mystical being who would grant them a small gift in exchange for a lost baby tooth.
  • Ireland. Some were cautious of fairy changelings. This occurred when malevolent fairies would swap a human child with a fairy. Burying a tooth near the child was an effective security measure.

The Tooth Fairy on Stage

In an 18th century French play, “La Bonne Petite Souris,” or “The Good Little Mouse,” spectators witness a close parallel to the fairy of today.

In this production, an evil king imprisons a kindly queen. A mouse appears to her and reveals herself to be a fairy. The fairy punches the king in the face, and hides his teeth under a pillow when they fall out. The fairy manipulates the king to his death and frees the queen.

In the 1920’s, this play was translated into English and released in the United States, sparking hubbub surrounding fairies. In 1949 and 1979, she gets references in major publications: a magazine and a reference encyclopedia, respectively.

In the 1950’s, she’s the queen of children’s oral health. This decade was a time of prosperity and parents viewed their children as an important part of their lives. Films like Peter Pan and Cinderella introduced fairy characters like Tinkerbell and the Fairy Godmother, and America ate it up.

She Keeps up with the Changing Times

Don’t worry; she won’t rip you off. Prior to 1975, a fair baby tooth price was 12-18 cents, but today the Tooth Fairy pays an average of $3.70 a pop.