Ah, the magical being who spirits away children’s teeth, gently sliding them out from under sleeping little heads and leaving a gold coin, a dollar or a small little trinket in its place as payment. Many of us probably received visits from this nocturnal being as children and have turned around and carried on the tradition with our own children. But when exactly did this charming and quirky character become universally tied to shedding baby teeth?
You Look Great for Your Age!
Some children wait in anticipation for that first loose tooth, wiggling and wiggling with no luck. Others loose a tooth without hardly noticing. Fingers, strings, over eager brothers and sisters more than happy to aid in the process – no matter how the tooth comes out, the end result is always the same, a visit from the Tooth Fairy.
But just when did this mythical tooth taker first make an appearance? The modern Tooth Fairy as we know it seems to be first referenced in a 1908 item in the Chicago Daily Tribune.
“Many a refractory child will allow a loose tooth to be removed if he knows about the tooth fairy. If he takes his little tooth and puts it under the pillow when he goes to bed the tooth fairy will come in the night and take it away, and in its place will leave some little gift. It is a nice plan for mothers to visit the 5 cent counter and lay in a supply of articles to be used on such occasions.”
But the groundwork for the tradition dates back to as far as the Middle Ages. The Vikings paid children for their teeth, as teeth and any article belonging to children was thought to bring good luck in battle. In medieval Europe, superstition led children to bury or even burn their teeth to avoid a witch getting a hold of them, resulting in total control over the child. In northern Europe, there was a tooth fee which a child received when they lost their first tooth, as evidenced in the earliest written records of Norse and Norther European traditions.
You’ve Come a Long Way, Tooth Fairy!
So whether a gold coin or a dollar bill, the modern Tooth Fairy is often seen as a charming rite of passage to provide comfort for the sometimes scary and uncertain experience of losing a tooth. Soon enough, the baby teeth all get replaced by adult teeth but the memories of the tooth fairy remain.