The tooth fairy is a legendary fairy who gives a child money or a gift in exchange for his tooth (also known as a deciduous or milk tooth) that has fallen out.
When a child loses one of its milk teeth, it is put in a safe place (usually under the child’s pillow, but sometimes in an egg-cup or under a carpet), and once he is asleep, the tooth fairy is supposed to replace it with a coin instead or actually turn it into a coin.
In early Europe, it was a tradition to bury baby teeth that fell out to discourage the evil witches from finding the tooth and putting a curse on the child.
The Tooth Fairy tradition came from a story about a “tooth mouse” who was originally depicted in an 18th century French fairy tale called La Bonne Petite Souris (The Good Little Mouse). It was a story about a mouse who changed into a fairy to help a good Queen fight an evil King.
The tradition is still very much alive and well in Europe and North America, where it is common for young children to believe in the Tooth Fairy.
When a child’s sixth tooth falls out, it is customary for the tooth fairy to slip a gift or money under the child’s pillow, but to leave the tooth as a reward for the child growing strong.
Robert Herrick’s poem on ‘Oberon’s Palace’ (1648); he describes this as a grotto adorned with various small and useless objects from the human world, ‘brought hither by the elves’—
… and for to pave
The excellency of this Cave,
Squirrils and childrens teeth late shed
Are neatly here enchequerèd
With brownest Toadstones, and the gum
That shines upon the blewer Plum,
The nails faln off by Whit-flaws: Art’s
Wise hand enchasing here those warts
Which we to others (from ourselves)
Sell, and brought hither by the Elves.
(Hesperides (1648), no. 444)
The first reference to Tooth Fairy appeared in American literature in 1949 when The Tooth Fairy, by Lee Rothgow was published. Since then, the Tooth Fairy has appeared in Peanuts Comic strip (1961) and several books and films. In the horror movie directed by Chuck Bowman, The Tooth Fairy (2014), she is an evil witch that extract the the teeth of the children.