Tag Archives: tooth fairy

The Tooth Fairy

--Informant Info--
Nationality: White American
Age: 20
Occupation: student
Residence: Orrinda, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Context:

JA is a 20-year-old student from Orinda, California. She recalled this story in an interview.

Text:

JA: I don’t remember when I first learned of it… but the tooth fairy comes to your house the night after you lose a tooth when you’re a kid. You put your baby tooth under your pillow at night and while you’re asleep, the tooth fairy takes it and replaces it with a gift. So, like, in reality, your parents took your tooth and put something there.

But, anyhow, most people use money as the tooth fairy gift, but my parents always gave us these little toys. I think I got a nice marker once. Little toys like that. And I believed it when I was a little kid but I lost my teeth really slowly so by the time I lost my last baby teeth I was pretty old and had my suspicions (laughs.) And then when I lost my last baby tooth that night I felt my dad’s giant hand putting something under my pillow.

I don’t really know what to make of the whole thing, just that it’s a fun game to play to reward your child for the milestone of getting adult teeth. I remember talking about the tooth fairy with my friends in elementary school.

Thoughts:

The tooth fairy is a common legend in America. It is a tradition that marks the transition from childhood to adulthood through the changing of a person’s physiology. As the body changes, the child is rewarded, maybe to allay what Freud calls castration anxiety, or a fear of becoming disincorporated, a fear of alterations in the physical body. The tooth fairy is a way of transitioning kids through that process, celebrating it, and marking it as a significant and positive moment in the life of a child. I remember that my own parents gave me a homemade card for when I had learned how to cut my own nails. This gesture follows the same basic function that the tooth fairy does which is to mark a time of physiological change with a ritual designed to acknowledge mental and spiritual change, to allay the fear of the body being picked apart and to redirect that fear, sublimate it, toward a positive feeling of pride in maturation.

Tooth Fairy

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American (Norwegian heritage)
Age: 55
Occupation: Software Developer
Residence: Woodinville, Washington, USA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/29/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): None

Informant: So. Tooth Fairy. I, actually, was always kinda questioning the Tooth Fairy. So when I was – I think it was probably around the third grade or so, when you lose your molars – I took my last molar, and – for us, instead of under the pillow, we put it in a glass of water, and set it by the bedside.

Me: Why??

Informant: That’s just how it happened. 

Me: They never told you, “You have to do this otherwise the Tooth Fairy won’t come…?”

Informant: That’s just how it was done. You don’t question it. That’s just how it was done. And you’d wake up and there’d be a quarter in the glass of water. 

Me: So… Your parents just fished into glasses of water to find teeth?

Informant: No, the tooth would still be in there. 

Me: You kept your tooth?

Informant: Yeah, got to keep the tooth.

Me: That’s… so different from everything else I’ve ever heard!

Informant: That’s the way we did it. So for my last tooth, I actually put it in the glass of water, and then I hid the glass, so I could prove – ‘cuz if it was smart enough to find it by my bed, should be smart enough to find it someplace else. Yeah. No. Didn’t find it. And I was like “A ha! Gotcha on that one.” 

Background:
The informant is the interviewer’s father. He is in his late fifties, and grew up in a rural farm town in Washington State. He was a child going through the whole thing with the Tooth Fairy in the early 70s. He’s also the youngest of three, with both older siblings considerably older, so his parents had gone through the Tooth Fairy rituals multiple times when he started losing teeth.

Thoughts: 
I also had questions about the Tooth Fairy, as I’m sure many people did, so I also hid one of my teeth and didn’t tell my parents. However, I did not ever put my teeth in glasses of water, or get money in the water. It was always done under my pillow, and everyone else I’ve talked to besides my father put teeth under their pillow too. I have no idea where the glass of water idea came from, and neither does he. I feel compelled to ask my grandparents now, or look into whether or not that was popular in Norway in the olden days, because my family is very Norwegian and adheres to those types of traditions sometimes.

El Raton Perez- A variation of the Tooth Fairy – Myth

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Argentinian
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/13/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Piece: “I remember el Raton Perez, basically it’s the Argentinian equivalent of the tooth fairy. It’s basically a fucking sewer rat, I’m just saying sewer rat out of spite, but that was the base of it, you put your tooth under your pillow and he takes it and leaves you money.”

Background information: The informant is a very comedic student with an Argentinian background. Although he resides in the US, he strongly identifies with his Argentinian roots.

Context: This is a myth that he heard as a kid. Instead of knowing the tooth fairy as the “tooth fairy”, he came to know it as el “Raton Perez”, which translates to “Perez the Rat”

Personal Analysis: I was first introduced to the “tooth fairy” by my parents. Being of Hispanic descent, the “tooth fairy” was first introduced to me as “El raton de los dientes” which translates to “The teeth Rat” more or less, the tooth fairy, even though it’s not an actual fairy. I’ve never heard the Argentinian version of the tooth fairy so I was especially intrigued to hear a common last name given to the rat. (Perez) The use of a last name is unique to the Argentinian adaptation because most Latin American countries classify the “tooth fairy” as just, and only that. No specific identity is used.

 

 

The Tooth Fairy

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 50s
Occupation: Event Planner
Residence: Excelsior, Minnesota
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/14/2015
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): None

Informant: “When [my children] were growing up and their teeth fell out, we would tell them to put the tooth under their pillow, and during the night the tooth fairy would come and leave a dollar under their pillow and take the tooth.”

Collector: Where did you first hear about the tooth fairy?

Informant: “Well, I first heard it from my mother when I was little. My mom told me to take the tooth and put it in this little pouch with a picture of a tooth on it, and when I woke up there would be a quarter in there. I guess the tooth fairy has upped the amount of money she gives up nowadays [laughs].”

Collector: Do you know why the tooth fairy wanted teeth?

Informant: “Oh that’s actually a really good question, I’m not really sure… Wow, that’s weird, we’ve been doing this for who knows how long, and no one’s ever asked what she does with the teeth. I guess I just never thought to ask because for me it was always just you wake up and ‘ooh! A Quarter!’ and then not really think about it. I’m not even sure if she actually needed the tooth, I remember one time I actually physically lost my tooth, and I was really bummed because I wouldn’t get my quarter, so my mom told me to put a white bean under my pillow instead, and that was supposed to work because the tooth fairy would think it was a tooth or something. Actually, now that I think about it, I think I remember hearing that she used the teeth to string necklaces or make stars or something like that”

Informant is a middle aged mother of three who lives in the suburbs in the Midwestern United States. She identifies as of “American” heritage, which she bases on her admission that she never particularly looked into her family’s European heritage. The informant’s daughter is a recent college graduate.

Collector Analysis: This particular folklore is actually (in the collector’s opinion) fairly widely spread in the United States, and in fact this collector actually heard a similar story growing up. The most curious aspect of this story is that most of the people who have heard of the tooth fairy have little to no idea why this fairy is collecting teeth. Of course, the experience of losing one’s baby teeth as a child is a nearly universal aspect of human life, and it is quite possible that this story originated as a way to encourage children to report their lost teeth to their parents, who of course would be interested in the dental health and developmental progress of their children. It also may have been meant as a way to encourage children to remove their loose teeth, as it is possible that keeping a loose tooth in one’s mouth for too long could potentially cause health and/or hygiene complications.

Ritual – Beverly Hills, California

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 23
Occupation:
Residence: Beverly Hills, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: March 17, 2007
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

“I never got dollars from the tooth fairy- I always got coins… special coins though, like silver dollars. It was always a surprise to see what coin I would get… they were always coins that are never used though, so I had a box that I saved them in… As I got older, I learned that my mom actually saved my teeth…”

The tooth fairy comes to almost everyone I know, and as a kid it was an honor to loose a tooth, it was a prize to be able to show off a gap in your smile and then on top of that you got a present from the tooth fairy. Eric is a 23-year-old USC graduate. He grew up in Beverly Hills and now continues to work in Los Angeles as an accountant. We were talking about teeth one day at my house because I had a dentist appointment over spring break. As we were on the topic of teeth, I remembered that when I was little I opened a drawer in my mom’s dresser and found my teeth. Of course I was devastated because I thought the tooth fairy had my teeth, but my mom calmed me down by explaining that what the tooth fairy actually does is take the teeth from under my pillow and replace it with money and then put my teeth under my mom’s pillow. Apparently, the tooth fairy did the same for Eric when he discovered that his mom also had a collection of his teeth. However, there was difference between Eric and I, I got some money, usually a $2 bill and a little stuffed animal while Eric usually got some collectable coin. Eric first heard about the tooth fairy from his parents who had to explain to him about loosing a tooth and then how to put it under his pillow and wait for the tooth fairy’s surprise.

Eric and I were laughing about how seriously we took the tooth fairy and how other kids we knew also cherished her. Loosing teeth is a natural stage in life but making it into something magical and mystical because of the fairy makes loosing teeth monumental. Almost everyone has a tooth fairy story but each one is unique which is why I think people love to share their own version.