Tag Archives: Fairy

The Tooth Fairy

Main piece: Every tooth you got a note from the tooth fairy, who was a woman – a Ms. Tooth Fairy. And she had a wand and a costume. And there was a rate for it. One tooth was $1, molars were $5, and the last tooth was a big deal, like 20 bucks. The fairy is magic. She’s real. She sent me a letter. But, you know, my children loved those notes. One of them kept all of them.

Background:  My informant is a fifty-three year old woman from Los Angeles, California. She is the mother of three children, aged twenty, sixteen, and fourteen. Whenever one of them would lose a tooth, they would receive some money (rates stated above), and a letter from the tooth fairy inquiring after their general well-being, and complimenting how big they’ve grown. To this day, whenever her children ask about the tooth fairy (including her eldest for the purposes of a folklore project), she adamantly says “she” is real. 

Context: The tooth fairy is a common folk character. The Western variation of this folklore states that if a child loses their tooth and leaves it under a pillow, the tooth fairy will come, take the tooth, and bring them money. In the case of my informant’s children, a note would accompany the typical tradition, and my informant continues to tell her children of its existence, even if they are old enough now to no longer believe in her. 

My informant told this story when I brought up Santa Claus as an example of a character rooted in folklore. 

Analysis: The folklore of being given money by the tooth fairy comes from the fear of losing one’s teeth- an otherwise horrific and scary occurrence for any young child to deal with. By rewarding or giving the child a present in exchange for the lost tooth, they are able to take something that would otherwise be seen as strange and scary and make it seem exciting or something to look forward to. The notes as an accompaniment to the money made the experiences of the children of my informant more personal, and having a stock character that wrote to them and comforted them made that experience even easier to handle. Additionally, my informant’s refusal to deny the existence of the tooth fairy to this day has more to do with her perspective than that of the kids’, as having a tooth fairy is part of childhood, and as the children grow up, they no longer need her and stop believing in her. My informant’s insistence of her continued existence in reality is her way of connecting the character with the childhood innocence of her children, even now that they are mostly grown up.  (For another version, see Stuurman, May 18, 2020, “The Tooth Fairy”, USC Folklore Archives)

The Folk Belief of Fairy Cycle/Ring

Main piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.

Informant: When my sister and I was little, my friends told us these things called Fairy Cycles. And so essentially what a a fairy cycle is this ring of mushroom that show up in the yard often after it rains outside or just been the weather is a little off. What it signifies is that there’s been a fairy there. However, there is also like a tale that if you go inside of the fairy ring and you sit in the middle of it, you will be possessed. So like if you go inside, the fairy will capture you, just do something bad.

Interviewer: So when you go into the ring, are you being blessed or possessed?

Informant: I don’t really know what it means. I was really little when I heard that and it is just like being possessed by a demon or something haha. Yea, so my sister and I were very interested in fairy and we would also built little houses out of flowers and sticks and natural materials to attract fairy or something.

Interviewer: So do you ever go inside?

Informant: No, we try not to, because apparently there are some evil power or something if you go inside haha. I honestly don’t know.

Interviewer: So do you just watch them grow?

Informant: Yea, they are just there. A lot of the time, if it rains outside, you will see a circle of mushroom under grass, like it could be like just ten or twenty. Sometimes they are bigger mushrooms, and sometimes they are little. And it is said that it is caused by fairies dancing.


My informant heard this piece from her friend when she was little. And because she and her sister were super into fairy, they were always excited when they saw fairy rings appeared. They even built flower houses to attract fairies. The story behind the fairy cycle adds fun experience to her childhood memory.


This piece was collected in a causal interview setting. My informant and I finished our class and were talking as we walked to the USC village together. We then sit in an outdoor space and collected some folklore from each other.


A lot of kids are drawn to fairies. Part of the reason is that there are many fairy tales for kids to read. When thinking of fairies, they are often linked to natural settings like flowers and nature in general, which makes sense for kids to believe mushroom ring is caused by fairy dancing. Often time when talking about folk belief, there are a lot of things that people should not do. For this case specifically, kids are not supposed to sit inside the cycle but rather stay outside. However, if someone accidentally steps into fairy rings, she or he can run around the ring nine times to reverse the penalty.

For more solution to reverse the curse, please see:

Leafloor, Liz. “Do You Dare Enter a Fairy Ring? The Mythical Mushroom Portals of the Supernatural.” Ancient Origins, 28 Aug. 2018.


The fairy and the woodworker

I was having lunch with the informant. He lived in Korea until he was 14 years old, one year from finishing middle school. He then moved to the United States to finish his middle school and high school.

Informant: So, the male is not a farmer, but actually a woodworker. So he just like, cuts down trees.
So, the fairy is taking a bath. And like in a mountain, like a hot spring, for example. And then, the guy sees it. The guy cutting down trees sees it. So he takes the clothes away. And the fairy doesn’t know what happened. So the guy comes out and is like, if you want clothes you’ve gotta be my wife, which is, criminal. And then they become a forced couple, because that’s the guy’s wish. And then the girl somehow sees the clothes in the house and wears it and goes to the sky with her kid. And the guy doesn’t know what happened. That’s how the story ends basically.

The guy and the girl – they both didn’t want to be separated, but I don’t know why the girl wanted to be separated – wait, the girl wanted to be separated. She’s basically going back home.

Interviewer: so it’s the guy trying to find the girl?

Informant: Well, that’s the worst thing. I think, technically the both want to stay because they have a child. But she took the child with her. Then who pays for the child? (smile) That’s like a two-thousand year-old divorce story.

The story is a shortened variation of the Chinese folktale the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl. In the story, a cowherd hides a fairy’s clothes and keeps her as his wife. Then, the fairy finds her clothes and is forced to return to the sky, leaving her children behind. Her mother forbids her from seeing her husband and separates the family by creating the Milky Way. Finally, the family are able to reunite on the Qi Xi Festival (七夕节) on the bridge formed by magpies.
The informant told me that Korea had two separate stories developed from the Chinese folktale. This version is a variation of the first half of the Chinese folktale. The cowherd becomes a woodworker, because forests are abundant in Korea, while fields and cows are common in China.




My informant is a twenty-two year old student at USC. She is originally from Pennsylvania and came to LA to study screenwriting. As a writer, she makes it her business to be familiar with a variety of legendary creatures from different regions and cultures; she is ethnically Jewish.


“This is one of my favorites. There was that Angelina Jolie movie about it, and everything, but that kind of sucked (laughter) so I first heard this from my grandmother sometime in high school, just kind of like, a scary story or something. But I’ve done more research and the basic story shows up across a bunch of different cultures and whatnot. So basically, we think of fairies as like, Tinkerbell, right? Well in most old cultures, fairies were not that fucking benign. Like, at all. Fairies were these sort of horrendous creatures that would sneak into your house and steal your babies and drive you crazy. Like, parents would hang iron over their baby’s crib to keep fairies from getting in and taking their kids. This whole legend grew up around that idea; when people were wondering if their kid was their kid or the fairy replacement, they’d call them ‘changelings.’ Basically, what a fairy leaves behind to mimic your child while the real thing lives on in the fairy realm. Some stories say that these changeling kids were kind of brutal, monstrous little things, and others just say they’re sort of…off, I guess? There’s a lot of variety, which makes it a cool story to build stories off of, if that makes sense. A lot of wiggle room.”


This legend seems almost mythic, in the sense that it’s a story that was created as a means of explaining and understanding the world around us. As Kieryn mentioned, the changeling story appears in a variety of different traditions; it appears here: https://www.britannica.com/art/changeling-folklore and http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/scanchange.html and elsewhere across print and digital resources. Nowadays, you hear stories about a child one day “changing” and becoming “someone else;” all of a sudden, an otherwise sweet baby grows disobedient or angry or difficult. We would usually go straight to an autism diagnosis or some other psychological explanation, but this offers a more spiritual explanation. According to one of the articles above, there were myths about how to have your child returned from the fairy world, many of which included torture. This story in particular speaks to mankind’s understanding and treatment of mental illness and disability.

Maria Makiling

Background: Y.G.M. is a 49-year-old Filipino woman who works at Nye Partners in Women’s Health as the office manager. She was born and raised in Quezon City in the Philippines, and lived there until she was 25 years old. Y.G.M. self-identifies as Filipino, and as a result of her upbringing, Filipino culture is very engrained into her personal beliefs. She attended college at Mirian College, and received a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts. Y.G.M. then immigrated to Chicago, Illinois with her family in 1997, and got her first job working at Citibank in River Forest, Illinois. She now lives with her husband in a suburb of Chicago.


Main piece:

Y.G.M.: So Maria Makiling is uh, one of our mythological um, how do you call – creatures – or no no sorry – she’s one of the fairies, uh, that we believe in.  Fairies they call us diwata, usually they are beautiful women. Maria Makiling, she is associated with one of the mountain ranges in the Philippines up north called Mount Makiling. So she is supposed to be like really beautiful lady and in the Philippine mythology she is the one who actually protects the mountains and volcanos and the forests in the Philippines. She is like the guardian of the mountains and um, responsible for protecting the, you know, the mountain. Sorry. The mountain resembles like the body with two breasts and the face of uh, a woman’s face.


Q: Where did you learn this from?


Y.G.M.: Uh, my Grandma Cion used to tell me this story when I was little. Also, my teacher from 3rd grade told me this story, and… and it was in a lot of children’s books. You know, like books of Filipino legends.


Performance Context: This story would typically be told to Filipino children to teach them more about Filipino folklore and legends.


My Thoughts: I think it is interesting that mythical creatures are such a vital part of the culture, even in making up the landscape of the Philippines. This shows a close relationship between the pride Filipinos find in their landscape and the pride in their culture and folklore.