“There has been a great list of players who cut their teeth in Europe.”
Peter Uihlein, golfer
There are all across Europe small creatures active in the weird business of collecting teeth. These mysterious creatures work under cover and usually strike at night, when everyone is already asleep. Their existence is a secret for most, even if their reputation worth just as much any other famous Christmas characters, popular monsters or well-known superheroes. Some think these creatures are fairies, others argue they are mice, some support they are crows and few even say they are leprechauns. But all of them can remember the times when they were little and when their milk teeth started to fall out. They all remember they had to put their teeth under their pillow, so that a certain Tooth Creature could come during the night, take the tooth and leave money for it…
Fada dos dentes
A Portuguese proverb says “Antes dentes que parentes” which basically means “It’s better to lose teeth than relatives”. If no one would honestly disagree with that saying, one could also add that loosing a teeth actually brings you a new relative: the Fada dos dentes. This Portuguese variation of the Tooth Fairy, comes at night with a small payment to replace a lost tooth placed underneath the pillow. Crazy business!
El Ratoncito Pérez
In Spain, do not expect a kind fairy to come at night and replace lost tooth while you are asleep: this role has been given to a nice mouse instead, whose full name is Ratoncito Pérez. Among all European countries, Spaniards are almost the only ones to actually give a name to their Tooth creature! Ratoncito Pérez first appeared in “Cuentos, oraciones, adivinanzas y refranes populares” (1877), as the husband of “La Ratita Presumida” (The Vain Little Mouse). This character later inspired Luis Coloma, who made him part of the Spanish traditional folklore by turning him into a sort of Tooth Fairy… A true celebrity!
La Petite Souris
France as well has its little mouse! The most likely origin of the Petite Souris comes from a French tale of the seventeenth century by Madame d’Aulnoy: La Bonne Petite Souris. It tells the story of a fairy that turns into a mouse to help a queen defeat an evil king, hiding under the pillow of the king and making him drop all his teeth. As it is so often the case, the tiny French mouse will procure teeth left under pillows, replacing them with either cash or sweets…
The Icelandic Tooth Fairy is not really original. Children put their lost teeth under their pillow at bedtime, the Icelandic tooth fairy, Tönn ævintýri, will come while they are sleeping, take the tooth and leave some money instead. Parents on the island use Tönn ævintýri to recall their children the importance of taking care of their teeth by brushing them every day and to not eat too many sweets…
Tooth Fairy – White Fairy Rat
The Tooth Fairy is a long-lasting tradition in Anglo-Saxon countries. The idea of relationships as well as financial exchanges between people and benevolent fairies has been around for many years, especially in English literature. But during the Middle Ages, there were other superstitions surrounding children’s teeth. Children were for instance instructed to burn their baby teeth in order to save the child from hardship in the afterlife. Children who didn’t consign their baby teeth to the fire would spend eternity searching for them in the afterlife. In the lowlands of Scotland, the tooth fairy can be replaced by a white fairy rat who purchases lost teeth in exchange for coins.
In Ireland, the Tooth fairy is sometimes known as Anna Bogle, who appeared in a recent fairy tale. Anna Bogle is a mischievous young leprechaun girl who was playing in the forest one day and, to her dismay, knocks out a front tooth! She thinks she is ugly and tries everything she can think of to put it back, until she has an idea…to get a human child’s tooth to put in its place. But leprechauns are not creatures who steal, so Anna leaves a piece of leprechaun gold behind for the child whose tooth she takes…
In Norway, children drop their tooth in a glass of water on their nightstand. It is much easier for Tannfe, the Norwegian Tooth Fairy, to find the tooth in clear water than in opaque pillows — her eyes are so very old and tired. In the morning, sunk in the bottom of the glass, children will find a silver coin. Interestingly, the tradition of the Tooth Fairy may come originally from Norway. The character is first recorded in writings as early as the Eddas, which are the earliest written record of Norse and Northern European traditions. The Old Norse term “tannfé“ meant initially a present given as a reward to a baby for its first tooth – not a fairy.
In Sweden, there is no reason that the tradition of the Tooth Fairy be different from Norway. Just as for its direct Norwegian neighbor, the Swedish baby tooth is placed in a glass of water where it is mysteriously replaced overnight with coins. In Sweden, it is common to give children a ten-crown coin as a replacment of the lost teeth. Did you know by the way that Swedes do not “dress to the nines”, but is “dressed up to his teeth”!
Tannfe (and her evil friend Hammaspeikko)
In Finland, the Tooth fairy, the “Tannfee”, shares her celebrity with another funny tooth character: the “Hammaspeikko”. Translated as “The Tooth Troll”, this evil character is a metaphorical device for explaining tooth caries to children. Eating candy lures tooth trolls, which drill holes into teeth and look scary. Brushing the teeth scares them away. It is not clear whether the tooth troll is a single entity, or if there are many. This funny character appeared back in 1949 in a classic of Norwegian children’s book Karius og Baktus written by Thorbjørn Egner.
Danish children put their tooth under their pillow and wait for Tandfeen, the Tooth fairy, to come give them some money. Children are lucky as Danish parents have also another weird traditions: Would you put your baby or toddler outside in the freezing cold for their lunchtime nap? Most Nordic parents wouldn’t give it a second thought. For them it’s part of their daily routine, due to the belief that the cold air actually helps babies sleep and eat better. The Danish National Board of Health even recommends this practice…
Children in Netherlands certainly cannot “sit with the mouth full of teeth” or in its original version “met de mond vol tandem staan“. This funny Dutch expression means to be completely exhausted. On the contrary, Dutch children are all the most existed when they lose their first teeth, they know that the Tandenfee, the Dutch Tooth Fairy, will come at night and put a coin underneath their pillow in exchange of their teeth.
Tandenfee – La Petite Souris
Mice aren’t just big business around Spain and France: the French-speaking Belgians also abandon their teeth to their mouse. According to an ancient belief, when an animal ate a baby tooth, the permanent tooth took the characteristics of this animal. Parents used then to give the lost teeth of their children to rodents in the hope that the children will get hard and sharp teeth. In the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium however, the Tooth mouse is not welcome, and Flemish parents prefer to talk about the Tooth Fairy, Tandenfee, just as in the Netherlands.
Germans recognize that their Tooth Fairy, the Zahnfee, does not come from their country. The German Tooth Fairy originates from the British and American folklore, from which the Zahnfee is said to come at night and leave a gold coin in exchange of a failed milk tooth. Normally, German children collect their baby teeth in a small box – so the Zahnfee may just leave a coin without keeping the teeth! That’s so generous! To remind us of the importance of the tooth fairy for children, there is even an annual day in honor of the tooth fairy since 1980 – it is on 22nd of August!
Besides the tradition of Zahnfee, Austrians used also to have a very peculiar tradition related to children milk tooth. In the past, the tooth could be made into a key ring, or thrown under the house. The tooth was also sometimes buried in the garden or in the field’s surrounding the child’s home. It was done so that a new tooth (permanent tooth) would grow in its place. Another reason for this ritual was the superstition, that if a witch got a hold of the tooth, a curse would be placed on the child. So by burying children’s teeth, this unfortunate curse was prevented from happening. Hopefully…
La Petite Souris – Zahnfee
Without surprise, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, children give their lost tooth to the Little mouse, la Petite Souris. But of course, in the German speaking part of Switzerland, children have more trust in the Tooth Fairy, Zahnfee, to take care of their teeth. In any case, the scenario is the same, the lost tooth is hidden underneath children’s pillow and the Tooth creature comes at night to exchange it with a coin or a candy…
Fatina dei denti – Topolino dei denti
Italians could not choose between the Tooth Fairy and the Tooth mouse. They just kept both! The Fatina dei denti is said to live in a corner of the earth where all nature is pure, lush and full of enchanting scents. This world exists thanks to the imagination of children, so are the children of the world rulers of this magical place. In Italy, the Tooth Fairy has her faithful helper, Topolino dei denti, the little mouse. He lives in a royal palace and directly takes care of the baby teeth of children all over the world, so it is possible that Topolino replaces Fatina and takes your tooth under the pillow or even… under the leg of a table. It is said that, that way, it’s much easier for the mouse to take it! Last but not least, in Veneto, in North-Eastern Italy, the one who collects teeth is, according to the tradition, Saint Apollonia, the patron saint of teeth. St. Apollonia is said to be coming on a chariot made of teeth and pulled by mice!
Czechia – Slovakia
Czech and Slovak parents have to wrack their brain to explain their children what their Tooth Fairy, the Zoubková víla do with the tooth she collects. There are many stories, so it is up to parents to choose the one that suits them best. Most often they say that the lost teeth is used to build castles, some will say the Tooth Fairy make necklace with them, others say it will be placed in shells, and some even say that other children will inherit the lost teeth for them to grow their own tooth… The most important is that children get their little coin or gift at night…
The myth of the Tooth Fairy, the Zębowa wróżka, also arrived on Polish soil, and in particular in children’s literature such as in Joanna Olech’s Dynastia Miziołków. A Pole explains what happened to his teeth when he was younger: “Just as in other countries, in Poland, you put a tooth under the pillow before falling asleep and when you wake up in the morning, you will find a coin, some money or a little gift. And of course the tooth disappears… After a few years you find out that your mother has a whole collection of your milk teeth” For sure it’s the Tooth Fairy who gave them back to his mum…
In Hungary people used to put the baby tooth into a bottle of water or even wine! That way the tooth melted in about two years… But the tooth creature also exist in Hungary, and it’s a mouse there! Actually, children in Hungary may be the only one to have a poem for their Tooth mouse! “Egér, egér, kisegér/ Van-e fogad hófehér/ Adjál nekem vasfogat/ Én meg adok csontfogat!“. These lovely rhymes would be translated with something like: “Mouse, mouse, little mouse/ Have you got snow white teeth?/I’ll give you milk tooth/ Give me an iron tooth in return”.
Lithuanian children keep their teeth as a souvenir. Parents make the teeth into keepsakes of a sort. Either necklace charms or earrings, or put it in a special box. But the tradition of the tooth mouse exists also in Lithuania where children are advised to throw their lost tooth behind the stove and say: “Mouse, mouse, take from me the wooden one, bring me the iron one”.
There is also a Tooth Fairy for Latvian children! And she is called Zobu feja there. Dziesma, a Latvian bloger, found back the heartful letter she wrote to the Tooth fairy when she was a child. She shares her discovery: “Dear Fairy, Because this is one of my last teeth, I would like more than 25 cents (75 cents would be good). Thank you very much, Daina“. It couldn’t be cuter!
In Estonia, the Tooth fairy is translated as Hambahaldja – one can already feel the magic in her name! This Tooth fairy is very meticulous in Estonia. Each tooth is washed and polished very carefully until it is all bright and white. The Tooth Fairy collects many teeth and put all the teeth into a bag. She has then all the material needed to build magical castles in Estonia and elsewhere…
We don’t know much about the tooth tradition in Belarus. It is commonly said that children in Belarus put their lost teeth in mouse holes in the hope that the mouse will give them a strong tooth as a replacement. The tradition also says that teeth can be given to the mouse everyday of the year except on Christmas day. If the tooth is given on Christmas day, the mouse is doomed to die…
In Ukraine, in a corner of your home which light cannot find, you tuck your tooth in a tissue and leave it in the darkness. You whisper, “Take my old tooth and give me a new one,” but you are not sure to whom you are whispering. It is said that the tooth shall remain there so as to let time for the new tooth to grow. This amazing tradition still continues nowadays. Children don’t get any coin or sweets, but it’s maybe better like this…
Romania – Moldova
In Romania and Moldova, children have a very funny tradition to comply with when they loose their tooth. They throw them over the roof of their house, and say: “Crow, crow, take away this milk tooth and bring me a steel one!” (“Ia cioara un dinte de lapte si adu-mi unul de otel“). Nobody never said if it works… Unless maybe, Jaws, the bad guy with steel-capped teeth in James Bond’s movies…
In Slovenia, a mouse called Zobna Miška replaces the baby tooth under the pillow with a candy at night. A Slovenian company is selling online small bags to put the teeth inside and facilitate the work of the mouse when she comes at night. It even says that the Tooth mouse will be safe and won’t risk an aggression from the dog of the house. Sleep well children, the mouse takes well care of your teeth in Slovenia.
Croatia – Serbia – Bosnia-Herzegovina
In Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Tooth Fairy is called Zubić vila (pronounced: zoo-beach vee-lah). The NGO SOS Children village gives the testimony of a young Bosnian from Sarajevo after the visit of the Tooth Fairy: “I had a loose tooth for several days. Mum took me to the dentist who got it out,” says eight-year-old Tajra. That evening, she carefully place the tooth under her pillow before she drifted off to sleep. In the morning she woke to find her tooth replaced with a delicate box that was filled with beads. “I made a necklace with the beads the tooth fairy gave me,” says Tajra.
Bulgaria – North Macedonia
феята на зъбките
What a funny tradition! Bulgarian children simply throw their tooth on the roof of their house. And when they throw the tooth, they say: “На ти Вранке костен зъб, дай ми железен” which means “Great Raven, I give you my bone tooth, give me an iron tooth!” Throwing up the tooth is actually a symbol of walking up, progress, good future and prosperity… ¨Give me an iron tooth¨ means here that the children wish not to have problems with his/her new tooth, that it shall be strong like iron. But children’s in Bulgaria are not given money or candy in exchange… What a selfish raven!
We don’t know much about the Albanian tooth fairy, or at least, the Albanian tooth tradition. We just have its name, Zanash dhëmb. It is said that the Albanian children have the same tradition as in Bulgaria and Greece by throwing their lost tooth on the roof of their house and recite a little poem saying “Take my tooth and give me an iron one”. If you have more information on the Albanian tooth tradition, please contact me!
νεράιδα των δοντιών
Children in Greece throw their teeth on the roof for good luck. Then they make a wish that their adult teeth will be healthy and strong. They also recite a little rhyme which comes out to something like, “Take sow my tooth and give me an iron one so that I can chew rusks.” In some regions of Greece, it is a mouse not a sow which is invoked. Greeks have also adopted in the last few years their own version of the American Tooth fairy. But there, we know already the story…
The parents of children in Turkey believe that their child’s lost tooth holds within it their future. If they want their child to become a great soccer player, they will bury the tooth in a soccer field. If they wanted their child to become a surgeon, then they would bury the child’s tooth around a hospital.