Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Down the Research Rabbit Hole

Word Count
Total-- 4,469

Like most responsible writers, I try to do basic research on various subjects that become part of my books. I freely admit that much of my research is done on the internet with an occassional dip into my library for the really arcane stuff. And I also go one further and admit that it IS basic. As one of my writing instructors said, "When I ask you what time it is, don't tell me how to make the watch. Show me the watch face." Well I like to at least be able to tell time, just in case the other guy can't.

In my current work in progress there is a tooth faery. Now you might think that there is a plethora of material about tooth faeries. You might think that, but you would be wrong. Wrong I tell you! There is nothing out there about tooth faeries. Not even in a book about faeries. Or the book about magical critters. Or...

There are a lot of websites that would willingly sell me a tooth faery box. Or a tooth faery pillow. Or a tooth faery book. But for the real nitty gritty on tooth faeries, I located five or six sites that all had the same information (mostly copied word for word from each other--I thought that was called plagarism, but what do I know?)

But the basic information is: 1)Vikings had a tooth fee. 2) Asians have a tradition of throwing the tooth over the roof or under the house depending on the original position of the tooth. 3) In the medieval ages teeth were buried or burned to prevent witches from using them for nefarious purposes. There are some very minor variations which struck me as the authors stretching out the info to make it look like more. Notice that none of the them actually mention faeries.

What to do? After some more pondering with the aid of a mocha latte followed by a teeny glass of wine accompanied by a chocolate bar, I settled on a solution. Make it up as I go. Hey! I'm a writer and I'm supposed to make up stories, right? So, I'll come up with my own origins for the tooth faery. Now that I've thought about it, maybe the tooth faery belongs to a UNION! And there has to be more than one, because how would they get around to all those teeth that fall out?

I have heard some pretty scary stories about the escalating exchange rate for teeth these days. It seems that if there was a tooth faery union, then parents should be able to negotiate for a fair exchange rate with set limits. After all, what is fair about some kid that gets thirty dollars when their little friend receives fifty cents?

And why should a faery be stuck with wings? Really, have you thought about how difficult it must be to sleep on your back with wings poking out? What about swimming or riding a bike. What do you do with the wings in the shower? How the heck do you dry them? And clothes? Please, let's not go there.

And why should faeries be stuck with honey and nectar. Ewww! I say give 'em a steak. And chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

As you can tell, I've really taken this entire thing to heart. My philosophy is if you're going to make it up, then make it believable. Think out all the details. Plan ahead so you don't paint your faery into a corner.

Tomorrow my second book, Dancer's Delight will be released from Cerridwen Press. In the book which mostly takes place in a mysterious valley, there are some pretty strange beings. I'm posting a quick little introduction to some of them for your enjoyment.


Merlyn had taken the morning to show him around the village, introducing him to the villagers as they encountered them and answering his questions. The packits padded along behind them, acting exactly like they were intently listening to the conversation. Finally, nervously, Dancer nodded toward the two animals and asked, “Why are they following us? They look like they’re eavesdropping.”

“Probably because they are,” Merlyn replied mildly. “Packits are sentient creatures. If they choose, they can mind talk with you.” He smiled at Dancer’s shocked face. “On the oldest part of the Talking Wall, they are one of the listed sacred beings, with the charge to protect and revere them. There’s a long tradition of some individuals adopting particularly talented young men and serving as advisors and guides.”

“Stop.” Dancer plopped down on the bench in front of the bakery and crossed his arms, hugging his chest. “Just stop a minute. What exactly is a Talking Wall?”

With a soft laugh, Merlyn joined him on the bench and stretched his long legs out in front of him. “The Talking Wall is an enormous hanging wall, about sixty feet high and maybe a hundred feet long. It’s a good three day walk from here at the other end of the valley. Small glyphs the size of my palm are inscribed over the entire surface. It contains history, laws and instructions for living. At the moment, less than a third of it has been translated, so we don’t know what other information it may contain. Dai and I have been hoping that there’s something on there that explains the passages into the caves from the out-valley. There’s a whole raft of archivists that do nothing else except work on the wall.”

“And the packits are listed on the wall?”

“Uh-hmm. Packits, dintis, firkas and drangs…though Dai has never seen a drang and he thinks they’re probably extinct.”

Dancer sighed deeply, pinched the bridge of his nose and asked, even as he knew he shouldn’t, “What is a drang? And those other two things you mentioned?”

Merlyn grinned at Dancer’s obvious frustration, remembering his own incredulity when he and Jade had arrived in the valley. With a certain amount of anticipation, he relished Dancer’s reaction as he elaborated, “Dintis resemble very large, very long-haired dogs. Their older females occasionally adopt a promising young lady. Twice a year they present themselves to the dinti keeper and shearer to get their hair cut. The hair is carefully preserved and used in the bonding blankets Tyger weaves.” He paused when a vague choking sound escaped Dancer, then, after a moment he continued, “Firkas look sort of like gerbils or hamsters. Eppie has a family of firkas living in her garden, so if you see something that looks like a mouse, don’t kill it. Most gardens have firkas. They eat garden pests and certain weeds, but once you tell them a plant is off limits, they never touch it.”

Dancer bent over and moaned.

Chuckling, Merlyn just patted his back. “Now drangs are an entirely different thing. They’re small dragons. According to the Wall, a drang will appear and adopt an individual who is exceptionally important to the valley, serving as a mentor for the rest of that individual’s life. No one in the valley has seen a drang in living memory, so…”

“They’re extinct, or there hasn’t been anyone important enough for a drang,” Dancer concluded sourly. “Maybe you can answer another questions for me… Why does Eppie have a small dragon identical to mine on her left shoulder? She’s named Epona for the horse goddess. Why not a horse?”


  1. And what happens if you ding your wings? I mean, do they get holes so you can't fly until they heal? And if you're dating a faerie and get him all excited, do they buzz happily without him realizing it? Do they have to spread de-icer on them in the winter and what happens if someone slams the door behind you? Does it damage the wing?

    I like how it took you mocha latte, wine, and chocolate to come to a solution. I mean, without it how they heck were you supposed to find answers, right? Just a all your faerie searching, did you ever think to try spelling it "fairy" in order to google? Cause that's the only way I've ever seen it spelled for the tooth variety of the little buggers.

  2. all I will say is you are both very odd...

  3. You must not have enough to worry about, Anny - and I myself must not have much imagination because I just accepted the Tooth Fairy (along with Santa and the Easter Bunny) and never questioned it's origins or motivations.

    Here's more than you wanted to know, according to Wikipedia:

    In a variety of cultures, the shedding of the first baby tooth became a kind of ritual. This rite of passage has been documented in numerous ways. Many of these ceremonies included verbal incantations and wishes, along with actions. Variations on this custom were most likely passed along through oral communication.

    The most commonly accepted belief by academics is the fairy's development from the tooth mouse, depicted in an 18th century French language fairy tale. 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 torment him and knocking out all his teeth. Also, in Europe, baby teeth used to be fed to mice and other animals in the hopes of getting duller, more mouse-like teeth in the future[citation needed].

    This combination of ancient international traditions has evolved into one that is distinct in the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, and other Anglophonic cultures. Folklorist Tad Tuleja suggests three factors that have turned this folk belief into a national custom: postwar affluence, a child-directed family culture, and media encouragement.

    Pioneering scholar Rosemary Wells, a former professor at the Northwestern University Dental School, found archival evidence that supports the origin of different tooth fairies in the United States around 1900, but the first written reference to one specific symbol in American literature did not appear until the 1949 book, "The Tooth Fairy" by Lee Rothgow. Considered the world's tooth fairy expert, Dr. Wells even created the Tooth Fairy Museum in 1993 in her hometown of Deerfield, Illinois. But according to the local library, it evaporated after her death when her husband liquidated all her memorabilia.

    The fairy's first major appearance in popular culture in the United States came in the Peanuts comic strip. In a March 1961 strip, new character Frieda asks if the prices are set by the American Dental Society.

    The "Ratoncito Pérez" character was created around 1894 by the priest Luis Coloma (1851-1915), a member of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language since 1908. The Crown asked Coloma to write a tale for the 8 years old Alfonso XIII, as one of his teeth had fallen out. The child in the story was called Bubi, which is what Alfonso was nicknamed by his mother the Queen Doña María Cristina.

  4. Kelly, Yes I googled/searched/etc. using every spelling I could think of. Thank you for the thought.

    Janet, we've always been odd...are you just now noticing? Or is it a case of the pot calling the pan?

    Jennifer, Thank you for that answer. Unfortunately that's all there is out there. I was shocked to find so little of substance on the tooth fairy. Although I do like the idea from the Peanuts strip.

    Thank you, one and all.

  5. You could always read Junie B.Jones: Toothless Wonder for a different interpretation of the topic :)

  6. Oh, yeah? Thanks, I'll look for that!

  7. Hey, Anny--The tooth fairy doesn't need a union. There's only one! If Santa can make his rounds in a single night, stopping at every single house in the world, surely the tooth fairy can handle just the homes with a tooth under the pillow. I mean, really, she's magic, right?

    Magic means you don't have to worry about things like timing and the practicalities of having wings.

  8. I'm not odd Anny I am unusal and unique - completely different to odd

  9. Anny and I entertain you with that belief, Amarinda.

  10. Jealousy is a terrible thing Kelly Kirch...never mind one day you will be just as unique as me

  11. But think how lonely only one tooth faery would be, Elissa. Surely she would need some friends? Even a magic faery would get lonely and bored just collecting teeth. And by the way, what does she do with all those teeth? Anybody know?

  12. Again, never entered my mind to care what she did with them so long as I had those quarters in my hand. Junie B. Jones opened a can of worms for my daughter though (now in prime tooth fairy age) I told her that the fairy makes stars out of them. She seemed happy with that :)

  13. Who's to say she doesn't hang out with the Easter Bunny, the Boogy Man, or the Flower Fairies? Just because she specializes in teeth doesn't mean she doesn't have friends among the other fairies.

    She grinds up all those teeth and makes potions out of them. She's really not a nice person at all: they're all nasty potions that taste like cod liver oil and syrup of ipecac, and they do things like make your nose fall off, cause road rage, and make people fall out of love.