Every year we have a little visitor to our house. Sometimes he makes many visits and sometimes only a few. He’s small and furry and has an important job to do. This tradition that we follow with our children came from my husband’s family in Guatemala. The visit of the “tooth mouse,” as my children know him, is always a fun event. When they lose a tooth, they leave it under their pillow and the “ratoncito” or “tooth mouse” takes it during the night and leaves them some coins. We recently had several visits and I made some new little tooth mouse pillows, but before I tell about that, let me tell you a bit more about this tradition. I knew the basics, but since looking it up on wikipedia I found out some more interesting details:
“The Ratoncito Pérez or Ratón Pérez is a figure popular in Spanish and Hispanic American cultures, similar to the tooth fairy, originating in Madrid in 1894. As is traditional in some English-speaking countries, when a child loses a tooth it is customary for him or her to place it under the pillow, so that Ratoncito Pérez will exchange it for a gift. The tradition is almost universal in Spanish cultures, but takes different forms in different areas. He is known as “Ratoncito Pérez” in Spanish speaking countries, with the exception of some regions of Mexico, Peru and Chile, where he is called “el Ratón de los Dientes” (The Tooth Mouse), and in Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay and Colombia, he is known simply as “El Ratón Pérez”.
A mouse named Ratón Pérez first appeared in “Cuentos, oraciones, adivinanzas y refranes populares” (1877), as the husband of “La Ratita Presumida” (The Vain Little Mouse). This character would later inspire Luis Coloma, who would make him part of the Spanish traditional folklore by turning him into a sort of Tooth Fairy.
In 1894, Coloma was contracted to write a story for Alfonso XIII, who had just lost his tooth at the age of 8. Coloma’s story follows Ratoncito Pérez who lived with his family in a box of cookies in Madrid, but frequently ran away from home through the pipes of the city, and into the bedrooms of children who had lost their teeth. The story details how Ratoncito Pérez cunningly misleads any cats in the vicinity who may be lurking, and includes his interaction with King Buby (Queen Maria Cristina’s nickname for Alfonso XIII).
The city council of Madrid paid tribute to Ratoncito Pérez with a commemorative plaque outside the warehouse where the mouse was said to have lived. The plaque reads: “Here lived, in a box of cookies, Ratoncito Pérez, according to the story that the father Coloma wrote for the young King Alfonso XIII. Ratoncito Pérez thus became the first fictional character honored with a plaque by the Madrid City Council. Coloma’s original manuscript, with his signature and a dedication to King Alfonso XIII, is now located in the vault of the Royal Palace Library.“
This last week, we supplied 3 baby teeth for El Ratoncito!! I yanked one out one day and Grandpa tugged one out and one twisted itself out during lunch one day! It was a little gross at lunchtime, but was accompanied by many squeals of delight and surprise by all of us! heh heh.When the first tooth came out, I was in the middle of sewing a small quilt for Barbies, and so I thought it would be cute to sew a small pillow to keep Tassy’s tooth in. Little did I know that Diego would lose a tooth a few days later and would ask for a pillow, too. I really had to scramble to make up these little pillows before bedtime!! But they were fun little projects. Here’s one:For:and this one:for:Today I said, “Look kids, I took a photo of the tooth mouse!” and showed them this picture:They were not fooled. Tassy said that couldn’t be him because he doesn’t have a crown on (I don’t know where that idea came from!) and doesn’t have clothes on. She refuses to believe for certain that El Ratoncito is a boy mouse, even though we’ve explained it over and over….I think she’d like to believe that the mouse that takes her teeth is a little mouse dressed up like the tooth fairy!! 🙂 Now we know that he does wear clothes, and even a hat, and lives in a box of cookies! 😉