The History of the Tooth Fairy

February 27, 2017

The Tooth Fairy is a coy character. Unlike Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, we don’t know much about where she came from.

Somehow, she still managed to command America’s attention, enough that February 28 is National Tooth Fairy Day. To celebrate her, we’ve written a brief account of her origin.

How Things May Have Started

In 19th century Italy and France, children were visited by magical beings who would leave them gifts, coins, or treats under their pillows. An ancient British custom has passersby leaving “fairy coins” for sleeping servant girls, while in Ireland “fairy changelings” had significance.

A fairy changeling occurred when a fairy would switch one of their own kind with a sleeping human baby. When the human parents noticed strange behaviors in their children, they thought fairies were behind it all. Keeping a tooth buried nearby was a good way to thwart the fairies’ efforts.

She Started as an Actress

In a French play called “The Good Little Mouse,” we see a close parallel. In this children’s story, a mouse transforms into a fairy to help a kind queen. This occurs after the evil king has imprisoned his wife.

After the fairy appears, she knocks out the king’s teeth and hides them under a pillow before tricking the king to his death and releasing the queen from jail

Her Timeline Progresses

Later, in the 1920’s, the play is released in English. In 1949, Collier’s magazine publishes a story about the Tooth Fairy, and in 1979, she is reference in The World Book Encyclopedia.

In the 1950’s, things really take off for her. Tinkerbell and The Fairy Godmother gain popularity when Disney’s Cinderella and Peter Pan hit the theaters. This time period is the aftermath of WWII, when Americans had prosperous amounts of income and took an active role in their children’s lives.

Evolving to Keep Up

These days, no American childhood is complete without this winged tooth collector. She takes inflation seriously. Before the year 1975, kids got an average of 15 cents per tooth, while today they get about $3.70.