Old Dogs

Gwendel's Magic

Gwendle1_1Fairies.  What parent doesn't tell their children of the tooth fairy? The promise of money makes pulling a tooth more palatable to some children.  I suppose some don't celebrate this event, but my parent engaged in this ruse, and so have I, particularly as of late with my daughter.

Researching the origins of the tooth fairy, I found out that the legend is rooted more in pagan tradition than you might think.  Unlike the rather benign and even admirable folklore surrounding Santa Claus (which at least has to its credit a bit of fact as well), this myth is a stranger one.  This tooth-toting sprite is sometimes said to originate in the Scandinavian myth of the tomte, or nisse, a mythical creature said to take care of a farmer's home and barn and protect it from misfortune, particularly at night.  Cultural historians say such stories have always surrounded teeth and that they have been viewed in the past as valuable in warding off witches and demons.  Others say that the fairy developed from the 18th century French story of the tooth mouse, "La Bonne Petite Souris," in which a mouse turns into a fairy in order to help a good Queen defeat and evil King by hiding under his pillow to torment him and knocking out all his teeth.  In fact, in Spain the tooth mouse still comes, not the tooth fairy.  I don't know, but the idea of a mouse under the pillow that can knock out all my teeth is not one I'd share with a small child.

All in all, the fact that so much is made of teeth is a bit odd, isn't it?And what on earth are Christians doing celebrating a pagan-derived myth?  I suggest it's simply a form of imaginary play with children and quite useful in developing their imagination, much as the Santa Claus and Easter Bunny myths continue to have a hold on young minds.  More than this, such myths can point us to the "true myth," as C.S. Lewis would say, the gospel. 

Such myths encourage a faith in things unseen, a belief in the incorporeal, and, ultimately, an understanding of the difference between the real and the imaginary.  Depending on how you shape the myth and utilize it, it can be either good or bad.  I suppose it could lead to a belief in occult practices, magic, and witchcraft, but I suspect that is uncommon.  None of my childhood friends took that plunge.  On the other hand, myths can lead to a greater understanding of the true myth.  Such a myth can defamiliarize the biblical idea of an unseen God, something many Christian kids hear from Day One.  They can sharpen the too-familiar truth that God, like the mythical tooth fairy, is real, though unseen and incorporeal (without body).  Then, at the right time, a child can come to understand that while the tooth fairy is not real, God is, an ever-present helper though unseen.

For now though, I'm just having fun with my daughter who has lots of questions about the tooth fairy, like what her favorite color is, how tall she is, whether she has wings, and more -- and, of course, the ultimate question of whether she will show herself to my daughter (which she follows by saying "I won't blab.")

So, the truth is the Tooth fairy rocks!  Let the above soothe your guilt ridden conscience.  Don't disparage the tooth fairy, or you may get a tooth mouse!  And that's the tooth!