The Tooth Fairy and the Noble Lie
Plato, in his “Republic”, spoke of “noble lies”, which his ideal Republic must tell to exist. But these lies, upon inspection, prove to be crass, self-serving rationalizations of philosopher-king rule. They are also transparent. Plato’s philosopher-kings fool only themselves.
I see nothing noble about such lies. I would call a lie noble only if it costs the teller, and it’s built to be temporary, and it improves the minds of the hearers when the deception inevitably fails. A lie is noble if it creates philosophers.
I therefore commend the legend of the Tooth Fairy. It’s a known falsehood told to the young by their parents; a prank designed to collapse. Eventually, inevitably, the child discovers that there is no Tooth Fairy; so you shouldn’t believe just anything you hear! The Tooth Fairy takes away both baby teeth and baby mind.
The Tooth Fairy is a failed myth, deliberately told by unbelieving adults to their credulous children as an initiation into skepticism. Her liberating miracle is that she does not exist. The Tooth Fairy is to the gods as a vaccine is to disease; a failure coopted into a warning. She is a paradoxical guardian spirit of a doubt-based culture.
As such the Tooth Fairy is much like Santa Claus, whose final and most generous gift of all is sales resistance. They differ in that Santa is communal and seasonal; he comes at a time of year; whereas the Tooth Fairy is personal and developmental; she comes at a time of life.
I am an outsider to the Santa cult, but I did initiate my daughter Hannah courtesy of the Tooth Fairy. See my story “Toothseeker”, on this blog, for more details.