In Many Hispanic Countries, The Tooth Fairy Is A Mouse

By Karen Harris
A house mouse sitting on the glove of a biologist (Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images)

In the United States, the Tooth Fairy buys children's teeth for who knows what horrific purposes, but the tooth-collecting entity of some cultures doesn't even try to maintain a facade steeped in little girls' fantasies. El Ratoncito Perez, or the Little Mouse, is the Latin American rodent version of the Tooth Fairy.

The Little Mouse

El Ratoncito Perez, literally Perez the Mouse, was born in a collection of children's stories published in 1877 by Fernan Caballero, where he was just a timid mouse who was somehow married to an ant. In 1894, when Luis Coloma was commissioned to write a children's story for the eight-year-old King Alfonso XIII of Spain to celebrate his first lost tooth, Coloma remembered Caballero's book and embellished his story about the little mouse, housing him in a cookie box in a Madrid alleyway when he wasn't traveling through a network of pipes to the bedrooms of sleeping children who had recently lost their teeth.

The young king loved the story of El Ratoncito Perez, and soon, so did all of Spain. Parents around the country urged their children to place their lost baby teeth under their pillows at night for Perez to find, Coloma's original manuscript was given a place of honor at the Royal Palace Library of Madrid, and the city even erected a plaque where El Ratoncito Perez was supposed to live. The tradition quickly spread throughout the Spanish-speaking world, including in Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Argentina, Peru, and Venezuela.