While we often think of the tooth fairy as a modern myth, it really has a long, colorful history of superstition — with roots in Viking battles, rodent snacks, the afterlife and even witchcraft.
History of the Tooth Fairy
How old is the tooth fairy? The legend of the tooth fairy dates to the Middle Ages (500-1500 c.e.) when parents thought it was important to dispose of children’s teeth in a way witches could not possess them. It was believed witches would use lost baby teeth to cast spells on the children. Teeth would be disposed of by burying them or feeding them to rodents.
A baby tooth that was buried was not just hard to find but was thought to spare the child from hardships in the next life. On the other hand, it was believed a child’s tooth fed to a rodent would lead to a healthy strong adult tooth. Rodents were often valued for their strong teeth because their incisor teeth never stop growing and are extremely hard. Did you know rodent teeth are harder than lead, aluminum, copper, and iron?
Scandinavian history suggests that the practice of trading money for a tooth originated with the Vikings. Vikings raided, colonized and traded throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. They believed baby teeth brought good luck and would exchange coins for a child’s lost tooth, string them into necklaces and wear them into battle.
By the 18th century the story of the Tooth Fairy began to take on the likening of a traditional fairytale-like story and resembled more of what we think of today’s Tooth Fairy. A French bedtime story, dating back to the 17th century (La Bonne Petite Souris) tells of a Queen that solicits the help of a fairy that could change into a mouse to defeat an evil King. The fairy/mouse defeats the king by hiding under the evil king’s pillow, nibbling on parts of his face and mouth and ultimately knocking out four his teeth by later pushing him from a tree.
Through years of evolving myth, lore and storytelling — the modern practice and tale of leaving a lost tooth under the pillow for the Tooth Fairy (or if you are in France, a little mouse) to come and exchange it for coins, was born.