Befriending the Tooth Fairy by Autor Malve von Hassell

Letters from the Tooth Fairy” is the product of an entirely spontaneous and unplanned correspondence between my son and the tooth fairy.  Due to various complicated reasons, my son had a limited number of milk teeth and an abject fear of dentists. Many of his milk teeth needed to be pulled early in his life, and for about two years he had no upper teeth at all aside from a delightful canine. In fact, I still have not figured out how he managed to chomp away happily on corn on the cob in those years.

letters-from-the-tooth-fairyThe first visit to a dentist was a disaster; the dentist, confronted with a diminutive little boy who was grimly determined not to let anybody mess with his teeth, gave up and sent us to a pediatric dentist who specializes in dealing with traumatized children. This gentle and loving pediatric dentist worked with him with endless patience and kindness, so that to my relief and grateful amazement, he lost his fear completely.

Like many children, my son became intrigued by the talk about visits from the tooth fairy. He was quick to grasp that such visits could conceivably produce gifts he might like. The first time this happened was in the aftermath of his having several additional teeth pulled by the dentist. My son received a little present under his pillow the following morning.  This inspired him to write a letter to the tooth fairy a few days later. Fortunately he was in school when I found it; I could laugh without worrying whether he would hear me.

He indicated that he had lost 20 teeth and that he was not able to produce them because they fell into the sink and disappeared. He left no doubt about his expectation for appropriate compensation multiplied by 20. The tooth fairy was amused and could not resist responding.

This was the start of a series of letters, each one in response to long letters from my son who began to think of the tooth fairy as a friend. His questions amazed me, and the correspondence was especially gratifying since my son became increasingly fluent and expressive in his letters. Ultimately, the communication with this imagined being became more important than the initially hoped for cornucopia of presents, which did not materialize. Admittedly, the letters not only entertained my son but also other adults around him. In addition to my wish to guide my son’s interests away from the notion of receiving gifts to the more important exchange of thoughts and ideas, I also hoped that these letters might eventually provide parents with some amusement as they read the letters out loud to their children.

The correspondence continued for a period of two years—long beyond the point where he had milk teeth to lose. The difficulty lay in finding a way to conclude this correspondence; eventually, only information that the tooth fairy had retired and that the tooth fairy postal service would no longer deliver mail put an end to it—to my regret and relief, since I no longer had to stay up at night trying to answer his letters. I might point out that now my son has a healthy set of teeth thanks to wonderful dental care; he wears his braces stoically and with a certain pride.

Malve von Hassell is a freelance writer, researcher, and translator. In addition to “Letters from the Tooth Fairy” (Mill City Press, 2012), she has recently published a translation and adaptation of a German classic for children, published under the title “Rennefarre: Dott’s Wonderful Travels and Adventures” (Two Harbors Press, 2012) and completed a manuscript for a historical fiction book set in the 13th century for young adults, “Falconello.” She is now working on a historical fiction novel set in Jerusalem in the time of the crusades. Von Hassell lives in Southampton, New York.