There have been many legends and fairy tales told to children. Some are works of fertile imaginations. Some have a grain of truth. Some have been forgotten.
Linger for a moment, while I tell you the story of one, long forgotten fairy tale. It’s one you all know. At least you think you know. This is the story of the Tooth Fairy.
How many of your children have been fed this tall tale? How many of them have you deceived? Do you leave them money under their pillows in exchange for a tooth? Something to ease the pain as they grow into adolescence? I would wager you have. And long may you continue to do so, for the Tooth Fairy is not what you think it is.
In the time before reason, people knew of the Tooth Fairy, although it was known by other names. One of these creatures - for there are many - would come to take the teeth from unsuspecting children. This creature crawls and scurries, hops and skitters. This is not the creature of fairy tales that you paint it to be.
When the creature came, it left with a tooth. Ready to come out or not. Many a parent ran to their child’s screams only to find them clutching their bloody, mangled faces. This is not the creature you tell your children about before bedtime.
You discovered the way to satiate this beast. A coin. A coin left by the parent was enough to satisfy this monstrosity. Over the millennia, the reason was lost and the Tooth Fairy faded into myth. Gone, but not forgotten.
“Mum, I think it’s ready to come out!” Morgan burst into the living room, proudly holding out a bloodstained tissue. He parted his lips in a huge grin and wobbled the loose tooth with his tongue. “Can I pull it out mum? It doesn’t hurt.” To prove his point, he twisted the tooth all the way round, then back again. “See?”
His dad winced with imagined pain. “Well, it looks attached for the time being. Perhaps tomorrow?”
“But I’ve already said my prayer to the tooth fairy. I told her it would be out by tonight.” Morgan’s smile had faded. “How will she know?”
“I’m not sure you need to pray to the tooth fairy,” his dad said with a smile. “If she turns up tonight, me and your mum will pass the message on.” Standing, he put an arm around his son’s shoulder and led him back to bed.
“What if she comes and wants the tooth anyway, even if it’s not ready?” Morgan asked, sitting up in bed. “I’ve seen her and she scares me.”
“Seen her?” His dad raised his eyebrows. “What did she look like?” He tried to keep a straight face as he asked.
“Dad!” Morgan could always tell when his dad was teasing him. “I really have! Sometimes I’m awake when she comes.” As he sat in bed, his shoulders slumped, causing his dad to smile as he pictured the teenager his son would become. “She usually kind of hops along the floor. She sometimes struggles to get onto my bed, but I think her little claws help.” He made clawing gestures with his hands.
“I thought the tooth fairy only came when children were asleep.” His dad had to put a hand over his mouth to hide the smile that was attempting to break out.
“I pretend to be asleep. I shut my eyes and lay really still.”
“Well, ok. What does she do when she’s on the bed?”
“I don’t know. I have my eyes closed, remember?” He shook his head slightly. “I think she sometimes jumps up and down on the bed.” He used his hand to indicate the jumping.
“Jumping, eh?” His dad frowned at him. “I thought you said you shut your eyes.” He poked his son good-naturedly in the ribs.
Morgan didn’t feel like playing and leaned back from his dad. “I do have my eyes closed. I can feel her jumping.”
“Does she leave money?” He knew that he and his wife had always left some money under Morgan’s pillow. “That’s what tooth fairies do.”
“No,” he said, “not every time.” His dad frowned as he listened to his son. “My tooth is always gone in the morning, but she doesn’t always leave money.”
“Alright.” He had heard enough. Morgan’s imagination was fertile at the best of times and he didn’t want his son dwelling on something that sounded – even to him as an adult – slightly disturbing.
“I know you don’t believe me, dad,” he said, laying back down, “but I don’t want her to be angry with me. “
“She won’t be.” He smiled and ruffled his son’s hair. “Now, try and get some sleep.”
As he went to leave, Morgan grabbed his arm. “Let me sleep with you and mum tonight. Please?” He looked imploringly at his dad.
“I’ll tell you what, why don’t I sit over here and wait until you fall asleep?” He gestured to the chair across the room. His son shrugged and turned over, pulling the covers almost over his head. His dad sat down and waited.
Morgan’s Dad awoke with a start. He was still in his son’s room, but it looked like his wife had already gone to bed, placing a cover over his legs. His watch showed four am. As he stood and stretched, he realised that he was not alone in the room with his son. Standing on the bed at about chest level, was a dark, motionless shape. Without taking his eyes off the shape, he reached a hand towards the light switch, fumbling to find it. As light flooded the room, he gasped, clapping both hands to his mouth to stifle a yell. Two large eyes stared back at him from the creature on the bed.
The creature was slightly smaller than a cat and was hunched over. Two muscular arms dangled to the bed covers. It snapped its head round to look at him, before turning back to the sleeping child. Frozen in place, he watched as the creature hopped up the bed towards his son’s face. Standing astride Morgan’s neck, the creature thrust its hands into his mouth, prying his teeth apart. His dad moved toward the creature, but before he could get there, the creature ripped a tooth out of his son’s mouth.
Morgan sat up with a scream, his hands covering his mouth. The creature jumped back from the startled boy and turned to his dad, who stepped towards the creature.
As he did, it opened its disproportionately large mouth, revealing several teeth; some crooked, some straight. In the middle, there was a gap where a tooth should have been. A long tongue snaked out of the creature’s mouth, ran over its teeth and poked out through the gap, before returning into its mouth. With a slow, deliberate motion, the creature held out the tooth it was holding and thrust it into its mouth. When it moved the hand away, the gap had been filled, albeit by a tooth that was too small. It bared its teeth once more before hopping down from the bed and skittering underneath.
As his dad dived towards the bed, Morgan began crying. Blood had begun to seep through his fingers and over the back of his hand. His dad scrambled under the bed, throwing out toys and clothes. “Morgan!” He shouted. “Morgan, are you ok?” His son began to scream.
His dad continued to throw things from under the bed. “It’s not here! It’s gone!” He pulled himself from under the bed and looked at Morgan. Grasping his son’s face, he pulled his hands away from his mouth. The gap was bloody and his gums were swollen. Some of the other teeth had been displaced.
Clutching his son to his chest, he said, “What the hell was that?” He could hear his heart thumping in his ears.
Morgan fought to get out of his dad’s grip, pushing him away. As he opened his mouth, blood spilled out and ran down his chin. Clearly angry, he shouted, “I told you! You wouldn’t believe me!”
“What?” Still in a state of shock, his dad stuttered slightly as he repeated his question. “Wh-what was that?”
Morgan stared at his dad. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! That’s the tooth fairy, dad.”
So heed my warning: some of your fairy tales are more than they appear.
And don’t forget that coin.