The Tooth Fairy: Perspectives on Money and Magic

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Tad Tuleja


As an embodiment of magical munificence, the tooth fairy is second only to Santa Claus in the folklore of American childhood. Juvenile belief in the figure is as widespread and durable as belief in old Saint Nick, and the iconic elements of the accompanying ritual-the pillow, the unseen visitor, the transformation of the tooth into money-are as stereotyped in popular culture as the stocking by the chimney or carrots for the reindeer. So firmly does the tooth fairy dominate juvenile fantasy life, in fact, that discovering the "truth" about this shadowy benefactor constitutes a major negation rite in the prepubertal passage out of innocence: to say that someone "still believes in the tooth fairy" defines him as quaintly naive. 


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