Thursday, 5 March 2009

La Petite Souris strikes again.

We have been visited by mice Chez Nous; they came, like rodent thieves in the night, in search, not of cheese but of teeth.
Ah yes and bien sur, It has certainly been a busy week for the tooth mouse here. Both boys having dropped a dent , one from natural causes and one rather more reluctantly with a bit of help and a lot of brute force from the dentist ,a nice chap, camp as a row of boy scout tents ,with a chin stud, its him who has the chin stud not the tents, and alas a great deal of blood and tears (from middle not the dentist).
Here in France as in Italy, Spain and parts of South America children do not have anything as namby pamby as a fairy to collect their tumbling teeth, oh no, they have a little mouse. Traditionally the recognised currency for a tooth in France is a small toy, hence you put your tooth under the pillow and in the morning hey presto, or as it is France “Bam”, you awake to find the tooth gone and as if by magic, a matchbox car or its Gallic equivalent has appeared in its place, and very possibly permanently embedded itself in your ear. Since having a supply of suitable small toys involves a lot of forward planning, and in the case of it being embedded in ears a bit of medical intervention, over timethe international currency has altered so that generally the mouse whips the tooth and its gummy giver gets a Euro coin.

They say that the tooth mouse originated in France ( well the French would say that wouldn’t they?)and first showed up in an 18th century French fairy tale “La Bonne Petite Souris” in which a good fairy helps a poor brow beaten queen in distress by turning herself into a mouse, hiding under the kings pillow and smashing his teeth out, thus teaching him to behave more kindly. Apparently the same tradition is found in parts of Lowland Scotland where it’s a white fairy rat that does the business. Sounds horribly like a Glaswegian bedtime story to me, well you've heard of a Glasgow kiss haven't you?
Of course the questin arises that, if one happens to be teh family tooth mouse what doe sone do with all those teeth? After all you really can not be too careful with teeth. Before the mystical arrival of the mouse with attitude, milk teeth were buried when they fell out with a plant n top to keep them safe. In almost every culture across the globe, Teeth are recognised as valuable things , and not just because without them it makes eating pork and crackling a trifle difficult, you can’t leave them lying about for just anyone to find, after all witches might steal them and thus gain power over your body and soul. Interesting that since not too many years ago they discovered you can extract DNA or something from discarded baby teeth and grow cells form them which gives them the potential for treating all sorts of horrible things that the now grown up owner of the tooth might develop in later life.
Each of our kids have their own personal tooth fairies, I know, I know they should be mice as we live in France and the kids are more French than English but old habits die hard. You can’t expect a fairy to morph into a mouse mid childhood it would be like Father Christmas having a sex change. Eldest one is called Flossy but since Eldest has all her grown up teeth we don’t use her services anymore. Anyway, Flossy would have to use a pair of wire cutters to get any more teeth out of that mouth as its wired up with a brace, hence Flossy, who in her prime I seem to remember had fluorescent pink hair, has gone into retirement.

Middle has a small dark scruffy haired butch sort of fairy called Molar Gumbo and smallest has Dentina who is without doubt a dainty little thing on gossamer wings. Molar Gumbo has to be big and tough because middle is a right softy and doesn’t give his teeth up without a lot of blood and waling so needs a great hunky tooth fairy on hand for moral support and a positive role model. Youngest needs a soft caring creature as mother here,very cruelly ,did not pass on her enamel to her baby ( doubly remiss of me as I seemed to have managed to pass him the gift of dyslexia which he could well have done without) several of his baby teeth had to be removed at a very tender age and she does a nice line in telling him how brave he has been.Our little tooth fairies send letters to their charges, tiny things in spidery writing on minute rectangles of paper, reminding them politely to brush their teeth and be good to their sibings and aged parents. Sometimes, if written late at night after the surprise uprooting of a tooth and too much wine being imbibed by parents ,the writing is even more spidery and indecipherable than normal. Occasionally the tooth fairies get letters sent back with a thank you or as in this week missive from youngest, with demands for information such as

“How big is a tooth fairy? “(Bigger than a speck of dust and smaller than a mouse)
“Where do you live?”” (Here there and everywhere)

“What do you do with the teeth? (Mind your own bloody business and go to sleep otherwise you don’t get the euro comprendre?)

On Monday night youngest built his fairy a fine little house from white paper complete with windows, shutters and a door and was terribly saddened and disappointed that she didn’t take it with her. Luckily swift witted mother said she probably wanted to leave it by his bed to use as a holiday cottage or a stopover on long haul flights. Of course had Dentina taken the small house that might well have been wrong too. Life is never simple in fairyland. He had wanted to make her a small set of clothes as well but it was getting late and Mummy wanted to go to bed even if he was happy to stay up to prepare her a trousseau, so after much foot stamping, by me, he settled for a sleeping bag instead , hastily made by him from from a cotton wall balls and one of his sisters hankies, his being far to rough and masculine for one so dainty, not to mention of course he can never find one when he needs one.
Sadly the Dentist has decided that Middle needs 3 more teeth removed in order that he too may have a mouth full of wire like his sister, and eventually one hopes a dazzling smile. which I suppose means that poor old Molar Gumbo may be kept quiet busy for a while. I wonder if Dentina might consider sub letting him her sleeping bag and tiny paper house ? I can see another flurry of letters to the tooth fairies in the offing. I suspect it would be a lot easier if we had settled for a French tooth Mouse with aggresive tendancies I am pretty sure they don't charge half as m,uch as the Dentist !
Ah well ,better go and practise my spidery writing .


Suffolkmum said...

You do make me laugh; I vaguely remembered that the French had a mouse and not a fairy, loved the bit about small toys embedding themselves in your ear. Some interesting mythological history thrown in too! How great that your three have their own personal fairy; mine would feel very short changed if they knew that - especially since I recently wrote about the tooth fairy going out on the tiles chez nous and neglecting her duty.

Pondside said...

I bought my nieces a book about tooth fairies and tooth traditions all over the world - they loved it.
Poor young man with the wired mouth - I hope it settles down for him.

Fennie said...

Oh the wired mouth! The plate that smelt, that so unedifying slab of pink - why always pink? - plastic.
Not that there's anything wrong with pink, its the NHS version of that colour that would revolt even a tooth mouse.

I find myself wanting to ask what they do in Belgium - for one of the few things I know about teeth is that the Golar Mumbos of their day tramped over the field of Waterloo on 19 June 1815, pulling the teeth from any carcase they could find.

These were later set into leather pads, hinged and kept in the mouth with a spring. Quite horrid, but what you get if in those dim and distant times you ate too many sweets or didn't brush your teeth. Anyway the story frightened me.

My tooth fairy always used to bring a sixpence with which you could buy two first class stamps (and still have a penny change) or, later, a Mars bar, if you still hadn't learned your lesson. I can't help feeling therefore that French postal prices being as they are, two euros would be the going rate these days.

muddyboots said...

l love the idea of the tooth mouse so much more exciting than a mere fairy,as for wire in mouth, ergh shudder and oh the pain!

KittyB said...

A tooth mouse - how charming. We have a fairy of indeterminate sex, H has heard its wings fluttering apparently, and it definitely leaves fairy dust all over, which looks suspiciously like silver eyeshadow.

A note to the wise about spidery writing. Father Christmas left a note in our house on Christmas Eve, signed in red felt-pen with a flourish, and placed it by H's bed (bearing instructions not to wake parents before 7am but to play with a lovely new Ninetndo game in the meantime). H found the note and commented that FC must use Sharpie pens to sign his name as it smelled just like the red one in our kitchen drawer.


bayou said...

UnPeu, you enchanted me with this description. Not only have we here in Belgium the "code Napoléon" to live with, we have also la petite souris. It's great that your mice have all names --- remembers me of Bernard et Bianca.
If I don't forget, I will put up a photo of our mouse soon.
I really enjoyed this, thanks for writing it down in such a wonderful way.

ChrisH said...

Being a horrible mother, I didn't do tooth fairies so tooth mice might have appealed to me more. I just handed over 50p whenever they lost a tooth - mothering skills somewhat lacking!

Sally's Chateau said...

An amusing slice of family life, at first I really thought you had been invaded by mice but regaining my composure ploughed on and enjoyed your tale.

Scriptor Senex said...

A great piece of writing - thoroughly enjoyed it.

(And thanks for your comments on my blogs - always welcome).

Wordtryst - Liane Spicer said...

The French have a tooth mouse? Here in my corner of the Caribbean it's a rat. A rather no-nonsense one at that.

lampworkbeader said...

Would you like my, slightly disabled, wood mouse as a resident tooth fairy? Free to a good home, complete with brand, spanking new, hand made cage.

Frances said...

Bon soir, Un Peu, on Easter night ... not the same thing as Easter Eve.

I have read this post so long after you wrote it, and it conjures up so many thoughts.

Looking back to my tooth exchanging years, I loved the idea of the Tooth Fairy. I also loved the idea of Santa Claus, and almost any other figure that was kindly and recognized needs or wishes of children.

Like your child with the braces, I also had four "adult" teeth pulled before those painful braces were attached to my teeth. Think the notion was to give me a prettier smile, and perhaps a better draw for Prince Charming.

Well. Prince C still has not quite arrived, but the careful re-allignment of my teeth did give me a resultant better "bite" that may have led to my having very few cavities since the age of ... was it 13?

Drifting back a bit to your topic, I do want to encourage anything you can do with your lovely children to encourage their imagination, lengthen their childhood, and keep them thinking that all things are possible.

I keep thinking just how lucky are your children. xo