Do you know how myths become myths? Remember the tooth fairy? Remember when we were kids and a tooth would fall out? We would cry a little – or a lot, it’s okay if you’re a crier- and then our parents would say: “don’t forget to put it under your pillow or the tooth fairy won’t come!”
Remember? Well, I didn’t get a shiny fairy BUT I got a nice mouse who brought gifts. Well, me and another million children in Latinamerica who believed in him.
I think this popular and kind of global character has a curious story that is very rooted in Spain, especially Madrid.
It’s time for you to get your storyteller side activated. I bet your future nephews, nieces or kids would love to hear it out. Plus, you would know all the details that kids love.
Who is the “Ratoncito Perez”?
The “Ratón Pérez” is a fantasy character known for picking up children’s primary teeth and leaving a gift or money in exchange. Just like the Tooth Fairy in other countries, when kids loose their teeth, they put them under their pillow for the mystery character to come at night and leave them a present.
Julia, a friend from Barcelona, described the character as fundamental in her childhood. She told me about a time when she lost a tooth while eating and got so frustrated that a teacher helped her dig into her spaghettis to get it back. At the end of the day, she went back home super excited ‘cause she knew that THAT night the “Ratoncito Perez” was making a visit.
What’s the Original Story of “Ratón Pérez”?
What is the story you know about magical beings? Personally, my parents just told me to put the tooth under my pillow and wait. Of course, I did so. I would get a nice 1€ the next morning.
But, the original story goes beyond one night. Well… it even goes beyond an inspired writer, the myth of “Ratoncito perez” began as a “private” story.
Before it became a national and global character, the “Ratón Pérez” was simply a Spanish children’s story published at the end of the XIX century. This was the beginning of the Spanish Tooth Fairy.
The date is pretty recent, right? Well, at least for me is too recent for it to be the phenomenon a lot of kids believe in today.
The original “Mouse Perez” was published in 1894 by Luis Coloma in Madrid. It tells the story of a very young boy, King Buby from Spain, who loses one of his primary teeth. His mother, the Queen, advises him to write a letter and put it with the tooth under his pillow, so the “Ratoncito Perez” could bring back a gift.
The “Ratoncito Perez” goes to the king’s palace to retrieve the tooth, and Buby sees him. The story goes on about a short adventure between both characters. In which King Buby learns about poverty and promises to help poor children and mice.
A Story for King
By now you might be wondering, “what do you mean a story for a king?”. Well, the story was written as a gift for King Alfonso XIII.
When the former King was 8 years old, he lost some of his primary teeth and the Queen decided a personalized tale would please him. I mean who wouldn’t want an author to write something especially for you!
King Buby was obviously Alfonso XIII. The name of the child character was the real nickname given to the king by Queen Maria Cristina (aka his mother).
The author was commissioned with the tale as a gift for King Alfonso’s first loss of his primary tooth. The story was meant to show him important values about his future role as a monarch.
The story also gave him an imaginary tour through the streets of Madrid. “Ratoncito Perez” lived in a box of cookies from the “Pastelería Prast” (a real bakery back then) in calle Arenal. With his imagination, the king wandered through the streets of Madrid, which is something he could have never done on his own.
The Author Behind “Ratoncito Pérez”
So, who was responsible for this fantasy? I mentioned him before, but let’s go a bit deeper- just a bit- into his life. Luis Coloma or father Coloma was a writer, journalist, and Jesuit who worked as the spiritual advisor for Queen Maria Cristina.
At the age of 12 years old, Coloma registered in the Naval School but left to become a lawyer. After he graduated, he worked for some years until an unlucky event changed his life. Coloma was shot and his recovery was considered miraculous. This event led him to become a priest, a path that took him to serve the Spanish crown.
Besides “Ratoncito Perez”, Coloma wrote two other children’s books titled “Pelusa” (Fluff) and “Pequeñeces (The Small Things). When he died in 1915, he didn’t even have a clue of the powerful character he had created. A myth that almost every Hispanic- speaking child believes in.
Is “Ratoncito Pérez” Only a Spanish Tradition?
Of course not! Our little mouse is international! I wish I could attribute the whole tradition to Coloma, but there were other people writing about a mouse teeth collector.
So, what countries believe in the Spanish “Ratón Pérez”?
Most countries in Central and South America share our tradition. In places like Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela he is known under the same name. Mexican kids give the name a little twits, but the concept remains the same. They call him “Ratón de los Dientes” or Tooth Mouse.
Kids in France, Luxemburg, Belgium and Switzerland also believe in a tooth mouse, but not the same as ours. Their character comes from the story “La Bonne Petit Souris” from Madame d’Aulnay. In her tale, the tooth fairy becomes a mouse, so…they have a mix of both worlds.
English-speaking countries and three more
English- speaking countries don’t believe in a magic mouse, they have their fairy. Kids from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and Canada believe in a magical fairy that visits at night to pick up their lost teeth. The other two non-english speakers that believe in the tooth fairy are Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands.
Where is “Ratoncito Pérez” Today
So where is “Ratón Pérez” nowadays? The myth does no longer live only in Coloma’s book or the minds of children but has actually been cast for the cinema and has its own museum.
“Ratoncito Perez” is the lead of his own movie “The Hairy Tooth Fairy” by Juan Pablo Buscarini. The animated film actually won a Goya Award (a big deal in Spain) for Best Animated Film in 2006. Gonna go ahead and link the trailer for you
“The Rise of the Guardians” by Peter Ramsey is another movie in which “Ratón Pérez” was part of the cast. But, and this is very sad for every Hispanic child, he was only given a minute of glory. Compared to the previous film, “The Rise of the Guardians” is American, and “Ratoncito Pérez” is considered the European Division of the tooth fairies. He is not even given a voice!!!
Okay… resentment left aside. In Madrid, the city where this great children’s character was born, we have a small museum and- get ready for this- the door to his house!
Yes! You read it right.
The “Casita- Museo Ratón Pérez” is located in the same street where he lived in the story, Calle Arenal. It is a nice activity for kids if you are ever traveling with one to Madrid. If you are curious about it, this is the link to the museum.
Tip for the visit! There is no sign that guides you to the “Casita- Museo Ratón Pérez” and is pretty hidden from the unknown eye. I think I stood in Calle Arenal for 10 minutes before asking someone for help.
As you can see in the picture, the name of the place is written in small words on the door frame. And, the plaque on the wall is covered by tree branches. For the pictures below I had to climb some stairs from the store in front of the “casita”. So, if you ever go visit…Look up!
Another fun activity is to look for the miniature door that belongs to “Ratoncito Perez’s” house. This one is located on the sidewalk of the metro station in Banco de España**.**
Don’t you think it is a curious story? Most of these children’s myths are believed by generations. Maybe they come from Medieval times- I am not exaggerating, some of them do- and are passed down from parents to children. But, and stay with me for a moment, “Ratoncito Perez” was a children’s book from the XIX century dedicated to a king. How did it become so famous?!?
What I am trying to say is that the character became so important to children and families in Spain that it is now a global myth. Is just part of our childhood. I mean… not every day a book character becomes a tradition. “Ratoncito Perez” is only one of many traditions we have in Spain and I believe is a fun one to have when you are kid.