Decoder Ring

Who Owns the Tooth Fairy?

The Tooth Fairy’s freak flag is still flying.


Episode Notes

We pride ourselves on being grounded, rational beings, but flitting amongst us is a mystery: the Tooth Fairy. This flying piece of folklore is alive and well in the 21st century, handed down to kids in whatever way their parents see fit.

In this episode, with the help of Tinkerbell, Santa Claus, and some savvy humans who are trying to exploit this strange creature’s untapped intellectual property, we’ll explore the origins of this childhood ritual, its durability—and its remarkable resistance to commercialization.
This podcast was written by Willa Paskin, who produces Decoder Ring with Katie Shepherd. This episode was edited by Jamie York. Derek John is Slate’s executive producer of narrative podcasts. Merritt Jacob is our senior technical director.

Thank you to Charles Duan, Jim Piddock, Purva Merchant, Hannah Morris, Laurie Leahy, Torie Bosch, and Rebecca Onion. Also, a big tip of the hat to Rosemary Wells, the dental school instructor who in the 1970s began exploring the Tooth Fairy’s, ahem, roots . Much of Wells’ work is out of print, but you can find one of her pieces in a collection called The Good People: New Fairylore Essays.

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About the Show

In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

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