Tooth Fairy vs Little Tooth Mouse

tooth fairy vs the little mouse

A few weeks ago, I found out that the Easter Bunny doesn’t come to France. And now, I discover that he’s not the only folkloric childhood character who doesn’t come here. His cousin, the tooth fairy, doesn’t visit France either.

The Tooth Fairy of my youth
When I was a child and I lost a tooth, I would put it under my pillow at night. While I was sleeping, a cute little fairy in a pink tutu with a twinkling magic wand would fly onto my bed, gently lift the pillow where I slept and ever so delicately take the tooth. In its place she would leave me a shiny coin. It was a nice trade. But what about the children in France?

If there’s no Tooth Fairy in France, do the French children still get paid to lose their baby teeth?  Yes, they do.  When they lose a tooth, they put it under their pillow at night, just like American children do. But who sneaks into their room at night to take the tooth and leave a coin? That would be La Petite Souris, known in English as “The Little Mouse”. That’s right, French parents allow a mouse to crawl into their child’s bed, wiggle its way under the pillow, and take the tooth!  Am I ever glad I lost my baby teeth in the United States!

tooth fairy vs the little mouse

The French Tooth Mouse
In searching for the origins of the Little Mouse, all of the sources that I found say she is probably based on a 17th century French fairy tale by Madame d’Aulnoy, called La Bonne Petite Souris or “The Good Little Mouse”. I’m pretty sure that the French parents, who tell their children about the nice little mouse who will crawl into their bed at night and take their tooth, have not read this story. I suppose in one sense you could say that the “good little mouse” is good – she does help the people get rid of a very evil king. But the way she goes about it is anything but nice.

She’s actually a fairy who turns herself into a mouse at night and creeps up into the evil king’s bed. While he sleeps she bites one ear. He turns over and she bites the other. He screams in pain and calls everyone in the castle to search for the mouse. In the meantime the “good little mouse” goes to the room of the equally evil prince and does the same thing to him. Then back to the once-again-sleeping king to bite his nose. There is more screaming and mouse searching while the “good little mouse” is nibbling on the princely nose. When everyone is called to the princely chamber to search for her, she goes back to the king and into his mouth where she chews on his tongue, cheeks and lips. Then of course, she does the same to the Prince.

The “good little mouse” in this story causes a lot of havoc in the bed, but she doesn’t take any teeth and she doesn’t leave any money. Well, one time she did cause the king to lose four teeth when she pushed him out of a tree. But she wasn’t in mouse form – she was invisible at the time.

In any case, La Petite Souris is apparently in much better humour these days and of course, since the French children are all good and well-behaved, she wouldn’t do any of these awful things to them. But still, I much prefer the thought of that delicate little pink fairy flitting around my room and reaching under my pillow to the idea of a little mouse running around in my bed… No matter how nice they say she is.

I’ll be sure to take care of my teeth while I’m in France!  Now where’s that floss?

*La Bonne Petite Souris by Madame d’Aulnoy 1697-1698 (in French)
French Holidays & Traditions, Margo Lestz

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18 thoughts on “Tooth Fairy vs Little Tooth Mouse

  1. Even re-imagined, I still prefer the tooth fairy to Le Petit Souris. Luckily for Australian children we follow the English tradition too! I wonder how old the English Tradition is; as the French tradition is less than 400 years old. Paula

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  2. This is great! I always wondered about the background of la petite souris when I first heard about it being the equivalent of the American tooth fairy. And I quite agree, I’m glad I lost my baby teeth stateside as well.

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  3. Having 2 kids still just about in the tooth-losing phase of their lives the tooth mouse has been a regular visitor to our house but I had no idea just how nasty she was! I didn’t know the origins of la petite souris, and I’m certainly glad my kids don’t either! Thanks so much for linking up with #AllAboutFrance Margo, this is a perfect post for it.

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  4. We still stick to the tooth fairy, I tell our children that there are both fairies and mice to share the workload, that way they don’t get confused when their friends at school talk about the mice. Personally I hate mice!!!

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    • Good idea to use both traditions! I guess La Petite Souris looks more like Minnie Mouse than a real mouse so it’s not too bad, but mice in the bed… it’s just not for me. 😉 Thanks for stopping by.

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  5. Our boys got rather confused between the Tooth Mouse here in France and the Tooth Fairy back in the UK. They sort of accepted it was differet things for different countries but then one boy lost a tooth on an overnight ferry …. so we had to invest the Tooth Dolphin! #AllAbout France

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