“Grandma! Look! I lost a tooth!”
These words, though innocent in little Emma’s mind, sent a bolt of fear through Grandmother Cleo.
“Hush, child! Don’t say such things aloud. They’ll hear you.”
“Who will hear me, Grandma?”
“The bone fairies.”
Emma’s eyes grew at the promise of another tale, and she quickly sat at her grandmother’s feet.
“Who are the bone fairies?”
“Dark fairies that lived here long before humans existed. They would take bones from other living creatures and use them to become stronger, but it twisted their minds and made them hungry for more.”
“What happened next?” Emma asked as she huddled close to her Grandmother for comfort.
“Well, when the humans began colonizing the land, the fairies found an unlimited source for their magic. They began harvesting us in the night, taking whatever bones they fancied. Entire bloodlines were wiped out because of them.”
“Because the fairies took their bones?”
“Exactly. Some took minor bones, like teeth, but others took spines, sternums, and even the occasional skull. Back then, those were bones you couldn’t live without.”
Emma gripped the still-bloody tooth in her hand, noticing its smoothness. She shuddered.
“How did you stop it?”
Grandma Cleo let out a sigh. “The village elders used a pile of teeth as bait to lure one of the bone fairies into an iron birdcage. Once it was trapped, they made it swear that the bone fairies would no longer steal bones from living humans. Instead, they could take the bones of the dead, along with any bone offerings willingly given.”
Emma opened her palm and looked at the tooth in question.
“So, when I put my tooth under my pillow, that’s an offering?”
“Right. The bone fairies aren’t as prevalent as they were back then, but offering them a tooth every once in a while is a good way to maintain the peace between us. But don’t look at them. They’ll take all your teeth if you do.”
The look in Grandma Cleo’s eyes made Emma laugh.
“Grandma! You’re making this up, aren’t you?”
“Maybe. But if you put that tooth under your pillow tonight, you’re inviting a Bone fairy into your room. Are you ready for that kind of commitment?”
Emma fell silent as she thought about it.
“I think so.”
Grandmother Cleo smiled at Emma’s somber response.
“Good. Put your tooth in a small bag and leave it under your pillow tonight, and the Bone Fairy will collect it once you’re asleep.”
“Ok. Goodnight, Grandma!”
Emma hugged Grandmother Cleo and ran off to prepare her offering.
“What stories are you telling her this time, mother?”
Emma’s father, Joe, poked his head out of the kitchen. Cleo smiled.
“She lost a tooth, and I was telling her about the Bone Fairies.”
“That old superstition?” Joe laughed as he finished drying a bowl. “I remember when you first told me that story. It’s a wonderful bit of folklore, but they aren’t real, and Emma needs to know that.”
Grandmother Cleo gazed at the long scar that ran the length of Joe’s forearm.
“They’re more real than you think.”
This story was inspired by two things: my daughter losing her first tooth and grilling us about the tooth fairy, and this Tumbler post.
Your prompt today is to take an old legend or superstition and make it new again!
This is my interpretation. What’s yours?