Dream Creatures: the Mouse Pérez and the Tooth Fairy
The best parts of childhood were those that had to do with magical beings who visited us from time to time: Santa Claus, the Easter bunny ... We always felt that illusion when we went to sleep, we even tried to catch them off guard at times, but sleep always beat us.
When they started falling out baby teeth, some new little creatures appeared: the Tooth Fairy and the Tooth Fairy, who collected our teeth and gave us money, sweets or even toys in exchange. But, Where and when do these two beings emerge from the dream?
The origin of the Ratoncito Pérez
It is Tooth Fairy, Ratón Pérez or Ratón de los Dientes (yes, it has many names) is the most famous rodent in Spanish-speaking countries.
It is said that the myth arises with the story The Good Little Mouse (1697) from Baroness d'Aulnoy, a French noblewoman known for her little tales and stories. However, in this particular tale, the mouse did not collect children's teeth, so many believe that the only thing that this narrative influenced in the creation of the legend was that it was a little animal that visited humans.
Another indication of the existence of the Pérez Mouse (or at least of its myth) is in the work The one with Bringas (1884) by Benito Pérez Galdós, set in 1866, in which a greedy and stingy character is compared to the mouse Pérez, so this indicates that this popular myth already existed in the mid-nineteenth century.
However, the origin with which more people agree dates back to Royal Palace of Madrid in 1894, when King Alfonso XIII was still a child, with the affectionate nickname “Buby”. When her son lost his first tooth, the queen asked Luis Coloma (a writer and journalist) to write a story as a gift for Buby. In it (entitled Perez mouse), a little mouse dressed elegantly, takes a trip next to rey Buby transformed into a mouse, in search of the latter's fallen tooth.
His legend is so well known that, at the metro stop 'Bank of Spain ’of Madrid, there is a small door for the little mouse, and in Arenal street (where it is said in the story that he lived) a commemorative plaque to Pérez.
The origin of the Tooth Fairy
In the rest of the countries the Tooth Fairy, who, after all, does the same job as the Tooth Fairy: picking up the children's teeth in exchange for gifts.
This myth is much older than the other: believed to have arisen in the X century, in the Nordic countries. In the Eddas, many of the Scandinavian traditions of the time are collected, and among them is tand-fe.
Tand-fe (translated to tooth fe, which sounds very similar to 'tooth fairy’, which is "tooth fairy" in English) was a tradition that consisted of parents gave their children a gift in exchange for their first teeth, because there was the superstition that baby teeth were lucky and they protected in wars (so much so that warriors made necklaces with their children's teeth).
Much later, in 1908, this Fairy is reintroduced, through an article of the Chicago Tribune, in which it is comically commented the strategy that many parents followed to tell their children that if they let them remove their teeth that were about to fall out, a fairy would give them a little present at night.
But why teeth?
As already mentioned with the ritual of tand-fe, in the Middle Ages there were innumerable superstitions surrounding teeth of children's milk.
On England, for instance, burned teeth when falling to avoid misfortunes to the child in his life, since it was said that whoever did not burn them as a child, upon reaching the afterlife, would be condemned to seek his teeth forever.
They also used to bury teeth to hide them from witches, because it was believed that if a witch ended up in possession of a single tooth, she would have complete control of its owner.
In newer versions, like La leyenda de Toof (The Legend of Toof, 2021), a children's book that tells the adventures of a little fairy, tells that dust inside your teeth was very necessary for the Tooth Fairies because they used it to fly faster, and also important for the Pérez Mouse and his descendants because it served to heat their little houses during the winter.