Quint Education

Tooth Fairy: Different cultural versions

Losing baby teeth is a significant milestone for kids everywhere, and something that is rightfully celebrated. In the United States, the legend of the Tooth Fairy is as well-known as the story of Santa Claus. Just as other countries have wacky wintertime holiday traditions, do they also believe in a winged creature trading cash for pearly whites? A few do, but most have fun and interesting traditions of their own. Here are some variations on the tooth fairy around the world.

Tooth Fairies Abroad

Tinker Bell would be happy to know that the United States isn’t the only country that believes in fairies. In the United Kingdom, Australia and Denmark, children leave lost teeth under their pillow for the tooth fairy to collect overnight. And just like in the United States, they usually wake up a few dollars/pounds/euros richer.

The Tooth Mouse

Now for a different kind of tale: Several countries have baby tooth beliefs involving rodents. In many Spanish-speaking countries, kids will leave their tooth under their pillow, but instead of a fairy, Ratoncito (“little mouse”) Perez comes to collect it and leaves behind some cash. But the story in Argentina is a bit different. Instead of putting the tooth under their pillow, Argentinian kids put it in a glass of water at their bedside. Ratoncito Perez comes in the night, takes the tooth, drinks the water (ew) and leaves a small gift or some coins in the empty glass.

France also believes in a “little mouse,” Le Petite Souris, who handles baby tooth management — again collecting them from under pillows and leaving money in return.

In both Russia and Afghanistan, rodents are involved in a very different way. Children in these countries leave their tooth in mouse or rat holes, in the hopes that the rodent will give them a new one that’s as strong as its own teeth.

Tooth On the Roof

While Indonesians are throwing their teeth over the roof, kids in other countries are throwing them directly onto the roof. In Korea, India, Haiti, Taiwan, Botswana, Sri Lanka and Greece, children throw their baby teeth onto the roof of their house. Some of them ask a rat (Haiti), a squirrel (Sri Lanka), a bird (India and Korea), or even the moon (Botswana) to bring them a new, strong tooth.

In China and Japan, the kids are more specific about which teeth go where. They put any upper teeth they lose on the ground and throw any lower teeth they lose onto the roof.

Burying Teeth

The loss of a tooth is still a loss, and kids in some countries give their teeth a proper burial. In Nepal, Turkey, Malaysia and Tajikistan, children or their parents bury lost baby teeth in the ground. Nepali people believe if they don’t bury the tooth, a bird might find it and eat it, which means a new one won’t grow in its place (Don’t overthink it.).

While kids in the other countries may just bury their tooth wherever’s convenient, the burial location in Turkey is anything but arbitrary. Turkish parents bury their child’s tooth in a place that reflects what they want for their future. For instance, if they want their kid to grow up to be a doctor, they’ll bury the tooth near a hospital. If they want their child to be a soccer player, they’ll bury it under a soccer field.

Where did the story originate from?

Where did Lillian Brown get the idea for the tooth fairy in the first place? It’s possible that the tooth fairy tradition traces its roots back nearly a millennium to the 10th century Norse peoples of Europe.

In the “Eddas,” the earliest recorded writings of Norse and Northern European traditions, a tradition called the “tand-fe” (translated to the “tooth fee”) is noted. In this tradition, adults and parents would pay children a small fee when they lost their first tooth.

Why? There were various superstitions surrounding children’s teeth in Norse countries during this time. They were thought to be valuable and to bring good luck, and some warriors would even fashion necklaces out of multiple teeth to protect them and keep them safe during battle.

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