HT Localization Presents Language Translations for Real Life: Localization of Popular Legends - The Tooth Fairy, El Ratón Pérez or La Petite Souris?

Segment 10 - Localization of Popular Legends - The Tooth Fairy, El Ratón Pérez or La Petite Souris?

My 7 year old daughter recently came home from her tennis lesson with her front tooth in her pocket.  Very excited she shouted, “Yay, I get money tonight!”, while waving her front tooth wildly in the air.  international translation agency

Yes, even 7 year olds understand the value of a fallen tooth. That night, as we prepared the tooth in her special golden cloth pouch, and placed it under her pillow, an intriguing conversation unfolded...

  •  She asked me “So is a Tooth Fairy or a Tooth Mouse coming tonight?” 
  • I responded, “Humm, not really sure, why do you ask?” 
  • She thought, and then responded, “Well, my friends at school say it is a mouse, El Ratón Pérez, and my teacher says it is La Petite Souris, but you always talk about the Tooth Fairy.”  
  • I replied, “Yes, they do things differently here in Spain, what do you think?” 
  • She thought again, and then said “Well, the Tooth Fairy has magic, so she could just get the tooth from under the pillow using her magic wand, like Harry Potter. But the mouse has little hands, so it could easily get under the pillow and get the tooth too.  I’m not sure.”  
  • I responded, “So hurry up and go to bed, and maybe you might see him or her. And if you do, let me know in the morning who it is, ok?”

Frankly, I grew up knowing all about the Tooth Fairy, but I never knew anything about a Tooth Mouse.  I was taught that the Tooth Fairy is this great Fairy Princess Lady with a magic wand, who flies around the world (at least in the U.S.), looking for kids who are fast asleep with a fresh fallen tooth under their pillows.  Then magically with her wand, she zaps the tooth into a quarter…BAM!  The kid wakes up the next day twenty-five cents richer!  Well, with inflation and all, I think the Tooth Fairy is a bit more generous nowadays (i.e. I read somewhere that American kids averaged about $3.00 per tooth, up 15% from 2011).

So now, my child tells me there is a Tooth Mouse here in Spain.  How did this come about?  

This concept of a mouse is based on a 17th century French fairy tale "La Bonne Petite Souris" (The Good Little Mouse) by Madame d'Aulnoy in 1697.  I find the French story intriguing because it is about this little mouse that changes into a fairy to help a good Queen defeat an evil King, by hiding under his pillow and knocking out all his royal teeth.  Some believe that’s how the Anglo version of the Tooth Fairy came about.

While, El Ratoncito Pérez was created by the Spanish writer and member of the Real Academia Española,  Luis Coloma, in a children’s book for Alfonso XIII in 1894 (apparently when the royal child was 8 years old).  Coloma invented the story of a small mouse who gave a present to the poor children of Madrid when their teeth fell out. This little guy is famous and known internationally as El Ratoncito Pérez or El Ratón in Spanish speaking cultures.  Even international businesses have localized their campaigns using this fellow.  El Ratoncito Pérez was used by the Colgate-Palmolive Company in marketing campaigns for Venezuela and Spain. Delta Dental teamed up with El Ratoncito Pérez to promote preventive dental care among Hispanic children in Miami, Florida.

It’s interesting, how childhood legends are localized, adapted and evolved through the generations and by the cultures that share the stories. 

  • The tooth mouse is known as El Ratoncito Pérez or El Ratón in Spanish speaking countries 
  • The tooth mouse is La Petite Souris in French speaking countries (ie. France, Belgium, Switzerland, Morocco, Algeria and Luxemburg)
  • The Tooth Fairy in English speaking countries and in northern European countries:  Annabogle in Ireland.  Zahnfee  and Tannfe, the German and Norwegian tooth fairies, respectively.
  • Both the Tooth Mouse and the Tooth Fairy are shared with children in Canada and Italy (ie. in Italy, Topino for the Tooth Mouse and Fatina for the Tooth Fairy)
  • In some parts of Scotland, kids wait for the “fairy mouse”

In other parts of the world, it’s not about a mouse or fairy at all:

  • Children in some Asian countries, like India, Vietnam and Korea, are told to throw their teeth onto the roof or put them in the space underneath the house. The child is also instructed to wish for the tooth to be replaced with the tooth of a mouse.
  • Many Middle Eastern children from Iraq, Jordan, Sudan, Egypt and Palestine are taught to throw their teeth to the sun.
  • In Finland, there’s the Tooth Troll, Hammaspeikko, who visits candy sweetened teeth, and then drills cavities.  

Some folk legends claim that a tooth eaten by an animal will be replaced by a tooth of that animal.  Since mice have very strong teeth that continue to grow throughout life, why not have a magical, fairy tooth mouse! 

Once we watched the movie, El Ratón Pérez, and we learned a lot about this Tooth Mouse thing.  I love the version where he takes the children’s teeth, makes pearl necklaces in his factory run by mice, and sells the necklaces for a handsome profit, from which he uses to pay the kids under the pillows. (Unless I’m simply imagining this all); El Ratón Pérez is a globalized business mouse – very well localized and international!

… Stay tuned for the next Segment of HT Localization Presents Language Translations for Real Life Series, where we’ll explore …10 Themes that You Just Can’t Find the Words to Translate

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This article was written by Rachanee Thevenet, Co-Founder of HT Localization.  Rachanee is an Asian-American expat living in Spain with her family.  She loves all things international including food, art, literature, culture, languages and people.  She has years of product marketing expertise and global expansion experience.

HT Localization, LLC. is a worldwide translation & localization agency providing a full range of professional language translation services, including social media localization, marketing translations, website translations, software localization, eLearning materials, documentation translations, etc.  With locations in the US, Spain, Zambia & Thailand, and coverage across all languages and most industries, HT Localization is well positioned to provide around the globe services for all translation needs.  

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