Here’s everything you need to know about the French tooth fairy in France, who’s actually a mouse called “la petite Souris,” French for “the little mouse,”. You might be surprised to learn it’s loosely connected to Nordic mythology.
Say hello to La Petite Souris: The Little Mouse.
“Look, mommy, I have a loose tooth.”
“Regarde Maman, j’ai une dent qui bouge!”
As Catherine pushed, wiggled, and twisted her first lose tooth in ways no tooth should ever move, I winced and my stomach did a little backflip.
Not wanting to look mortified, I put on my most convincing expression of amazement and threw in a few “Ah là là!’s” for good measure.
When her loose baby tooth finally fell out later in the day, my daughter ran up to me and proudly exclaimed:
“My tooth fell out. I can’t wait for “The Little Mouse” to come tonight. “
“Ma dente est tombé! J’ai hâte que La Petite Souris passe ce soir.”
The next morning, Catherine was even more excited to find a shiny two Euro coin under her pillow that the Little Mouse left in exchange for her tooth.
There’s no tooth fairy in France.
Throughout documented history, every human culture has had rituals around the disposal of a child’s lost baby tooth.
It’s a universal right of passage all children go through.
In most Anglo-Saxon and Germanic cultures, after children go to bed, a magical tooth fairy sneaks into their bedroom and whisks their baby teeth away from under their pillow in exchange for money or a small gift.
But did you know, the tooth fairy is not the most popular tooth tradition around the world?
The most commonly practiced ritual is the tooth mouse, not the tooth fairy:
In France and most Francophone countries, when a child loses a baby tooth “dent de lait,” instead of the tooth fairy, children look forward to a visit from “The Little Mouse (La Petite Souris).
This tooth mouse also exists in some Spanish and Hispanic cultures under different names.
- el Ratoncito Pérez (little mouse Perez)
- el Ratón (Little Mouse).
- el Raton de Los Dientes (Tooth mouse)
- el Ratón Pérez (Perez the mouse).
In some cultures, the tooth mouse and tooth fairy coexist.
- The Tooth Fairy is named Fatima
- The mouse is called Topolino (Little mouse); this is also the name for Italian Mickey Mouse.
- Swiss French, it’s la petite souris
- Swiss German, it’s Zahnfee.
- French-speaking Belgium, it’s la petite souris
- Flemish (Dutch) and German parts of Belgium, the tooth fairy is Tandenfee.
There are other tooth traditions around the world.
- In El Salvador, children put their teeth under their pillow, but a rabbit hops in their room while they sleep to exchange money for the tooth.
- In the Dominican Republic, children throw their teeth on the roof and hope that a mouse will take it away and bring them a new one that is stronger like the mouse’s teeth.
- In India, Jamaica and Greece, some children also throw their teeth on the roof.
- In China, kids put their upper teeth at the foot of their beds and their lower teeth on the roof. The children believe that this will make their permanent teeth grow in faster and straight up and down based on where they put them.
- In Egypt & Some Middle Eastern Countries, children wrap their teeth in a tissue, throw their wrapped tooth at the sun and ask it to take their tooth in exchange for a better tooth.
The Tooth Fairy and Tooth Mouse Tradition Can Be Traced Back To Ancient Nordic Traditions
While the Tooth Fairy and tooth mouse persona’s are a relatively modern invention (from around the 17th to 19th century), their origins are rooted in ancient myths and traditions related to teeth that evolved over time.
One of the earliest recorded references to tooth traditions in western culture was in a mythological Norse poem from the Edda.
The Edda consists of the ‘Prose Edda’ and the ‘Poetic Edda which were put together from older texts during the 12th century, in Iceland.
Most of our knowledge of Norse mythology, religion, gods, elves, poetry, cosmogony, and history of Scandinavians and Proto-Germanic tribes comes from the Edda.
In verse five of the Norse poem called Grimmismol in the poetic Edda, the Æsir (Scandanavian gods) give Freyr the entire Alfheim (Elf-Realm) for his first tooth. Freyr is the main fertility god in Norse mythology who lived in Álfheimur, the supernatural world of the Elves of light.
Did you know that J.R.R Tolkien’s elves are originally from Scandinavia?
Tannfé = “Tooth Fee” to tooth fairy
This part of Freyr’s mythology in the book of Edda is based on the old Norse word and medieval Scandinavian custom of tannfé or tandfé ( tooth fee): giving a gift to a child when they lose their first tooth.
Fé: The English cognate of Fé is “Fee”.
The old Norse word Tandfé (tooth fee) has transcended time and now means tooth fairy in most Germanic languages, with slight spelling variations.
The sound changes and different spellings in these Germanic languages are known as Grimm’s law.
(Grimm’s law, also known as the First Germanic Sound Shift away from other branches of Indo-European language, which is the prehistoric language, spoken in the Neolithic which all Indo European languages are descended from.
Tooth fairy in Germanic languages.
- Tannfe: Norweigian, Finland (Swedish speaking parts)
- Tandfé: Sweden
- Zahnfee: German, Austrian, Swiss (German-speaking part)
- Tannfeen: Denmark
- Tönn ævintýri : Iceland
- Tandenfee: Dutch
- Tandfee: Frisian
- Tson feye (צאָן פייע): Yiddish
Afrikaans is Germanic but the word for tooth fairy is tandemuis (tooth mouse)
The French word for tooth fairy is Fée des dents. Are the similarities in the French word and Germanic words a coincidence?
La Petite Souris: The Tooth Mouse In France traditions and facts.
There really isn’t much difference between the tooth fairy tradition and the French tooth mouse tradition, except that one is a mouse and the other is a fairy.
In both traditions, kids leave their teeth under their pillow in hopes that there’ll be some money or a small gift left by the tooth mouse when they wake up.
What does the French tooth Mouse look like?
Unlike Santa Claus, there is no universal image or uniform that the tooth mouse wears.
Most of the time, la petite Souris is depicted sneaking around completely naked, exchanging teeth for money, but sometimes the little mouse wears clothes, sometimes just a shirt but naked on the bottom or vice versa.
The little mouse doesn’t have wings, a wand, or special fairy dust like the tooth fairy.
The little tooth mouse definitely has magical powers of some sort, but what exactly they are is unclear.
Glows in The Dark. Perfect kid's room decoration so the tooth fairy (or mouse) can come in and take lost tooth.
What’s the going rate for a tooth in France?
How much do you give your four, five or six-year-old child for a lost tooth? An age when children don’t need much.
It’s an age-old question in every culture with a magical tooth tradition.
It’s like asking how much tip to give your server in France.
The answer is unique to every family, but in general, it’s safe to say most parents in France give a one euro coin or a two euro coin.
I’ve heard some parents like to give a paper bill; the smallest denomination is a 5 euro bill. Some parents offer a small gift instead of money, such as a book or toy.
The first tooth is the biggest deal for French families
Any time a child loses a tooth is a big deal, but the first tooth is always the biggest deal for French parents.
Sometimes parents give more for the first tooth and less for all the remaining teeth. Or they’ll offer money for the first tooth and a small gift for all the remaining lost teeth.
What does the French tooth mouse do with children’s teeth?
No one knows why the tooth mouse pays for teeth, and what it does with the teeth is a mystery. Blackmarket, necklaces, mini tooth house, to build fires, or to eat?
Some French parents tell their children that la petite Souris builds a giant white castle with the teeth she collects each night. That’s why the teeth need to be white and solid—motivation for the children to brush their teeth.
Origins of the “The French tooth mouse”: The tooth fairy story
Some believe the modern-day “tooth fairy” was inspired by a 17th-century French fairy tale called “La bonne petite souris” The Good Little Mouse” by Baroness d’Aulnoy.
Summary of the 17th-century story The Good Little Mouse “La Bonne Petite Souris.”
The story of the Good Little Mouse is about a magical fairy who turns into a mouse to help a kidnapped queen and her infant daughter, Delicia, escape an evil king. The evil king from “Land of Tears” captured the queen and her daughter after defeating and killing her husband in battle.
Originally the savage king wanted to execute the queen and her child but decided to let them live so that the infant could marry his equally horrible son when she came of age, but only if she grew up to be beautiful.
The king called upon a magical fairy who confirmed that the queen’s infant daughter would grow up not only beautiful but also fortunate, so he kept them alive with barely any food in a barren room in one of his towers.
The imprisoned queen asks the fairy, who first appears to her as a mouse, to take her daughter and raise her as her own. The fairy mouse agrees, and the queen makes a rope and a
The fairy disguises herself as an invisible mouse and follows the king up the tree and pushes him. The king survives the fall but loses four of his teeth. The story goes on, and eventually, the queen finds her daughter years later.
How this transformed into its current-day tooth mouse tradition is beyond me. Maybe it’s also the inspiration for the tooth fairy?
Fun Fact: Madame D’Aulnoy also invented the word “Fairy Tale.”
If you’re not familiar with Baroness d’Aulnoy, the author of “The Good Little Mouse,” you can thank her for the term “Fairy tale.”
Baroness d’Aulnoy is best known for her short stories, “Conte de fées” (fairy tale). In naming her short stories fairy tales, she inadvertently coined the term for the entire genre, which ironically was not meant for children originally.
How to say tooth fairy and related vocabulary in French
Here are a few vocabulary words related to the tooth fairy and the tooth mouse and a video on pronouncing them.
Tooth Fairy =Fée des dents
The Little Mouse= La Petite Souris
Fairy Tale = Conte de fées
Baby tooth = dent de lait (literally, this means “milk tooth.’
A coin = une pièce
Pillow = Oreiller
My tooth fell out = Ma dent est tombé
Look, mommy, I have a loose tooth = “Regarde Maman, j’ai une dent qui bouge!”
My tooth fell out. I can’t wait for “The Little Mouse” to come tonight.
“Ma dente est tombé! J’ai hâte que La Petite Souris passe ce soir.”