As I am working on a children’s book I like to read and listen to old children’s stories and fairy tales that I loved as a child. It may sound a bit odd, but there is nothing more relaxing than settling down with a hot chocolate or glass of red wine (I am a grown up now) and listening to Story Nory podcasts. Jackanory was one of my favourite series as a child because who doesn’t love to escape into a good story.
One French fairy tale that I recently rediscovered is via The Evil Mouse on Story Nory. It is about an evil fairy who turns into a mouse and gets a girl to become an arsonist. Good stuff. It is based on a similar story that all French children will know – The Good Little Mouse.
Fairytales are often quite dark and creepy. This story it is based on the one that inspired the French version of the tooth fairy, for obvious reasons. Here in France, the tradition is that children are told that when they leave their escaped milk tooth under a pillow a cute little mouse comes and takes it away. The mouse leaves behind a gift of money or milk – “une dent de lait”. The idea is that this will comfort children because a mouse is cute and rodent teeth are strong and keep growing – kooky much? Like in The Evil Mouse she is actually a fairy who has turned into a mouse and this seemingly cute tradition comes from a not so adorable story.
Like in The Evil Mouse she is actually a fairy who has turned into a mouse and this seemingly cute tradition comes from a not so adorable story. The story of The Good Little Mouse (La Bonne Petite Souris) is a 17th Century fairy tale by the Countess d’Aulnoy. I it the fairy befriends the Queen and protects a Princess by turning into a mouse to help get rid of the King and start a revolution (how French).
She does this by crawling into his bed and biting his ear. When he turns over, she bites the other one and he wakes up and calls for help. She then goes into the equally evil prince’s bed chamber and nibbles his nose. Eventually, she climbs into the King’s mouth and bites off his tongue, cheeks, and lips, before biting the Prince’s eye. It’s like an old fairy tale version of a Silence of the Lambs or a Luther episode basically. I am not sure little French kids are told the whole story when they leave their teeth under their pillow though.
When I was little, I would stay with my Nan during the holidays. My Nan, my little sister and I would sleep in a big bed. One night I’d lost a milk tooth so I left it by the bed for the fairy to collect. My little sister hadn’t quite grasped the whole tooth fairy routine because, as I mentioned, she was little, so in the morning she woke up first and very excited. She grabbed my Nan’s false teeth out of a jar by the bed and shouted ‘The fairy left you a new set of teeth!”. I later wrote this story down and shared it at school, much to my sister’s delight.
The traditions and rituals around milk teeth shedding vary from country to country and are pretty fascinating insights into different cultures. It comes to show that the stories that enchant, and sometimes scare you, as children stay with us into adulthood. The more I work on writing a book that will hopefully take children into a magical place, the more I get to rediscover the magic that is a child’s imagination and the stories that inspire it.
That is is a pretty good job. Oh, and by the way, I got 50 pence for that tooth (score) and later a full set of grown-up teeth.
Of course, I dedicate this post to my little sister who has great teeth.