Advertisement

Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 265–280 | Cite as

The Tooth Fairy: Psychological Issues Related to Baby Tooth Loss and Mythological Working Through

  • Donald CappsEmail author
  • Nathan Carlin
Article

Abstract

In this article, we focus on the Tooth Fairy legend that emerged in the United States and Britain in the nineteenth century and on the bedtime rituals associated with it. Drawing on various children’s books, we present this legend and these rituals as among the many legends and rituals found around the world for dealing with the loss of baby teeth in early childhood. Our particular concern is with some of the psychological issues that are associated with the development of teeth in the second stage of infancy. We also draw on the clinical observations of Erik H. Erikson, as we focus especially on the role that teeth play in the loss of the original unity between the infant and its mother. We take note of Erikson’s suggestion that this is, ontogenetically speaking, the experience that is portrayed in the biblical story of the Fall and expulsion from the Garden in Genesis 3. We view the rituals associated with the Tooth Fairy legend as a mythological means of enabling children to address and work through these psychological issues.

Keywords

Tooth fairy legend and rituals The tooth fairy The tooth mouse El Ratón Pérez Baby teeth Children’s books Psychological issues Infant-mother relationship Erik H. Erikson Rosemary Wells Guilt Working through 

References

  1. Beckford, A. (2010). The tooth fairy. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.Google Scholar
  2. Beeler, S. B. (1998). Throw your tooth on the roof: Tooth traditions from around the world. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  3. Beers, M. H. (Ed.). (2003). The Merck manual of medical information. New York: Pocket Books.Google Scholar
  4. Bell-Rehwoldt, S. (2007). You think it is easy being the tooth fairy? San Francisco: Chronicle Books.Google Scholar
  5. Berenstain, J., & Berenstain, M. (2012). The Berenstain bears and the tooth fairy. New York: Harper Festival.Google Scholar
  6. Bourgeois, P., & Clark, B. (1996). Franklin and the tooth fairy. New York: Scholastic Inc.Google Scholar
  7. Brill, M. T. (1998). Tooth tales from around the world. Watertown: Charlesbridge.Google Scholar
  8. Butler, S. (2010, April 5). How much does the tooth fairy pay? CBS Money Watch. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505144_162-37041800/how-much-does-the-tooth-fairy-pay/. Accessed 28 Nov 2012.
  9. Capps, D. (1990). Reframing: A new method in pastoral care. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.Google Scholar
  10. Capps, D., & Carlin, N. (2010). Sigmund Freud and James Putnam: friendship as a form of sublimation. Pastoral Psychology, 59, 265–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Capps, D., & Carlin, N. (2011). Sublimation and symbolization: the case of dental anxiety and the symbolic meaning of teeth. Pastoral Psychology, 60, 773–789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Carlin, N., & Capps, D. (2011). Freud’s wolf man: a case of successful religious sublimation. Pastoral Psychology, 60, 149–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dr. Mac (1991). The tooth fairy legend: How the custom came to be. Manhattan Beach, CA: Storybook Publishing.Google Scholar
  14. Durant, A. (2003). Dear tooth fairy. Cambridge: Candlewick Press.Google Scholar
  15. Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  16. Erikson, E. H. (1958). Young man Luther: A study in psychoanalysis and history. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  17. Flaitz, C., & Carlin, N. (2011). Living in limbo: Ethics and experience in a conversation about persistent oral lesions. Texas Dental Journal, 128(5), 427–437.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Hall, K. (2003). The tooth fairy. New York: Children’s Press.Google Scholar
  19. Hill, S. (2006). My wobbly tooth must not ever never fall out. London: Grosset and Dunlap.Google Scholar
  20. James, W. (1987). The varieties of religious experience: A study in human nature. In W. James & B. Kuklick (Eds.), Writings 1902–1910 (pp. 1–477). New York: The Library of America.Google Scholar
  21. Kovacs, D. (1992). The tooth fairy book. Philadelphia: Running Press.Google Scholar
  22. Laínez, R. (2010). The tooth fairy meets El Ratón Pérez. Berkeley: Tricycle Press.Google Scholar
  23. Long, J., & Meyer, C. (2002). The tooth fairy legend: The touch of kindness. Round Top: L & M Creations.Google Scholar
  24. Lorand, S., & Feldman, S. (1955). The symbolism of teeth in dreams. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 36, 145–161.Google Scholar
  25. Luppens, M. (1991). What do the fairies do with all those teeth? Trans. J. Brierley. Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada: Scholastic Canada Ltd.Google Scholar
  26. Maguire, G. (2007). What-the-dickens: The story of a rogue tooth fairy. Somerville: Candlewick Press.Google Scholar
  27. The tooth fairy leaving less money (2011, July 26). UPI.com. http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2011/07/26/Survey-Tooth-fairy-leaving-less-money/UPI-44011311665400/#axzz2DKsz63KM. Accessed 26 November 2012.
  28. The tooth fairy lore extracted (1984, February 2). Toledo Blade. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=FkdSAAAAIBAJ&sjid=vQIEAAAAIBAJ&pg=3809,192140&dq=tooth-fairy&hl=en/. Accessed 26 November 2012.
  29. Wells, R. (1997). The making of an icon: The tooth fairy in North American folklore and popular culture. In P. Narváez (Ed.), The good people: New fairlylore essays (pp. 426–446). Lexington: University of Kentucky Press.Google Scholar
  30. Wikipedia (2012). Tooth fairy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tooth_fairy. Accessed 13 Oct 2012.
  31. Wing, N. (2003). The night before the tooth fairy. New York: Scholastic, Inc.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Princeton Theological SeminaryPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.McGovern Center for Humanities and EthicsThe University of Texas Medical SchoolHoustonUSA

Personalised recommendations