Bedtime stories for pest control enthusiasts: The legend of the ‘Tooth Mouse’

There's never just one mouse

Ever wondered how the legend of the tooth mouse came about?

In our previous bed time story blog post, we talked about how annoying bed bugs are, and how they pester us while we are asleep. This bed time story tells the ‘tail’ of how children are actually excited to fall asleep, for a reward of course!

As a kid, it was the most thrilling experience to lose a tooth. The pain of losing my teeth didn’t bother me too much; it was more of the anticipation of what would happen next. One day, my father told me the story of the ‘tooth mouse’, a generous little character that would get word of this tooth-losing business and pay me a visit to collect my tooth.

“You see,” my father said, “when you look after your teeth as well as you do, the tooth mouse will pay you a visit, and reward you”. He went on to explain that the tooth mouse only visits ‘good children’ who brush their teeth every day, so they can use these teeth for building furniture and homes for their family. In exchange, I would then receive an amount of money (in my case, receiving a R2 coin made me a rich little girl – the joys!). Of course after hearing this story, my teeth were vigorously brushed, and later on, I was delighted to find a coin in my pink fluffy slippers!

Interestingly enough, the fable of the tooth mouse is based on the fact that the teeth of rodents grow continuously, which is why rodents have to constantly gnaw on wood, plastic, cables and other hard materials, which can cause significant damage to one’s home. The cynical adult version of me would really like to know how the legend of the tooth mouse would hold any ground. Why on earth would mice care whether a child’s teeth were clean and healthy if they are such vile, filthy creatures?

Realistically speaking, mice carry all sorts of diseases including Salmonella, E.Coli and Weil’s disease, which can be spread through infected urine and faeces. What is even more disgusting is the fact that these excretions are left in places where people are likely to come into contact with them, such as kitchen counters and food preparation areas. Furthermore, in winter time, mice love cosy conditions and move indoors, building nests from whatever they can find, such as shredded newspaper and fabrics. Some people have even found nests behind their fridges!

I have often wondered what happened to the tooth mouse. Lately the ‘tooth fairy’ has become more popular in tackling the tasks that once belonged to the tooth mouse. Some believe that the fable evolved from being depicted as the tooth mouse in an 18th century French language fairy tale to the tooth fairy. In “La Bonne Petite Souris“, a mouse changes into a fairy to help a good queen defeat an evil king by hiding under his pillow to torture him by knocking out all his teeth. Or perhaps it has been effective mouse control methods that have made the job quite difficult for little mice to redeem themselves as the collectors of teeth…

With the rise of rat-catchers in the 13th century and – of course – the pest control experts Rentokil, rodents don’t have much chance of entering homes. And if they do, they have quite an obstacle course through which to navigate. There are many DIY rodent control products available for getting rid of rats and mice in one’s home as well as various measures one can put in place to eradicate a moue problem. With professional mouse control products and services available, mice can be eliminated using rat poison or rat traps.

I am all for telling fables to my children one day, and I’m sure they too will find shiny coins in their shoes or under their pillows, believing it to be attributed to the tooth mouse (a role I would be happy to play) while the pest control experts continue to play the most important role of all – getting rid of rats and mice! A win:win:win situation for us for all! That is one bedtime story less I would have to worry about!


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