Tooth Mouse, tooth fairy

Dan Goodman dsgood at VISI.COM
Mon Jul 26 05:14:59 UTC 2004

 From the archives of the Stumpers list (A list primarily for library
personnel faced with questions they can't answer):

Subject: dental doings: toothbrushes and tooth fairies

admonishments for care of the mouth: `One should rise early in the
morning and brush one's teeth. The tooth brush should consist of a
fresh twig of a tree or scrub free from any knots, 12 fingers in length,
shall correspond with the season of the year. . . . Each day one should
use a tooth cleaning paste made of honey, oil, and other substances.
Each tooth should be individually brushed . . . and care must be
exercised not to injure the gum. . . ."

Now, as for the tooth fairy, I'm sorry to be so long in replying.
Dennis Lien (I believe), as usual, provided an excellent starting point,
_Ethnodentistry and Dental FOlklore_ (1987) by William J. Carter, et al,
there is a chapter on "shed tooth rituals" (pp. 72-82). "There are
literally hundreds of adages, customs, ceremonies, and prayers that have
been associated with the loss of primary teeth" (p. 72). A section on
"tooth fairies" (pp. 77-82), suggests that around 1900 in France,
Britain and the U.S., the tooth fairy came to replace "more traditional
tooth mouse rituals." ". . . the recent history of these rituals is
poorly documented for all these countries except France." Apparently in
France, it's still as likely that a mouse will provide the reward as
that a fairy will.

"The earliest well documented American tooth fairy ritual dates from
1919, when a source from Utah said a fairy would come in the night and
leave a candy bar, penny nickel, or dime for a lost tooth . . ."

"The word tooth fairy probably did not become popular in the United
Sates until 1949, when Lee Rogow publused a short story by this name in
Collier's Magazine (124:126). The first appearance of `tooth fairy' in
an encyclopedia was apparently ALan Dundes's article in the 1979 World

I do not recall who first asked for the information about the tooth
fairy. Whoever you are, please feel free to request this book by ILL,.

Dan Goodman
Journal or
All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies.
John Arbuthnot (1667-1735), Scottish writer, physician.

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