|“||Sharper than a serpent's tooth is a daughter's ingratitude. Still, the proudest spirit can be broken, with love.||„|
|~ The Other Mother|
The Other Mother (also known as The Beldam) is the main antagonist of the 2009 stop-motion fantasy horror animated film Coraline, which was based on the novel of the same name written by Neil Gaiman.
She is the demonic ruler of the Other World who disguises herself as her victim's mother and generally acts warm and open minded towards them. The Other Mother satisfies her victim's needs by offering them everything they need which they cannot afford in the real world. Once the victim naively decides to stay in the Other World forever, she takes out their eyes, sews buttons over them, and imprisons their souls behind a mirror for eternity.
The Other Mother was voiced by Teri Hatcher.
Not much of her past is known but she is presumed to be an ancient being as the Other World existed long before she even killed her first known victims. She stated in the novel that she killed her own mother. She is characterized by her arachnid features, black button eyes, cracked paper white skin, ragged polka dot dress and her needle-like fingers and legs. The Other World, in relation to the real world, is located behind a small door in the living room of the Pink Palace, a Victorian-styled apartment in Ashland, Oregon.
Reign of Terror
Somewhere in the 1800s, the Other Mother began to target children who resided in the Pink Palace. However, she targeted children who were bored and frustrated with their own lives. In her sewing room, she would sew button-eyed ragdolls which resembled her chosen victim and sent it to the real world for her victim to pick it up. The ragdolls were used as spy dolls for the Other Mother to observe every aspect of the child's life.
Once she has an overall idea of how what her victim's ordinary life was like, the Other Mother embellishes her realm that satisfies his/her needs. In addition, she creates a small yet sinister cult of ideal button-eyed duplicates of the people who lived with her victim in the real world and also disguises herself as the victim's mother in order for them to trust and even love her.
Sending rats to the victim's bedroom at night, they wake up the victim and lead them to the door in the living room, where it contains a colourful passageway to the Other World. In the Other World, the Other Mother is more warm and attentive than their real mother and everything was ideal as there were delicious food, never ending games, entertainment and a fantastic garden. Despite claiming that she loves her victims, she only loves them as if they were property worthy of being discarded if they ever "bored" her. She also convinces them that their own world is not worth living in and that she would "be there for them forever and always". The Other Mother truly embodies the phrase of "the grass isn't greener on the other side".
After being satisfied by the pleasures of the Other World, the Other Mother asked her victim whether or not they would like to stay here forever. The Other Mother would present them a gift containing a pair of buttons, spool of thread and a needle. She would say to them that in order to stay here forever, they must have the buttons sewn over their eyes, just like the other inhabitants of the Other World. While the victim suspects nothing sinister, the Other Mother takes out their eyes afterwards and sews the buttons onto their eye sockets. It is presumed once their eyes were taken out, their souls were also taken out as a reference to the phrase "the eyes are the window to the soul".
She kept their real eyes in the form of marbles and imprisoned their souls in a dark chamber behind a mirror. The tormented souls gradually have their memories of their real life erased and they wait in torment for a long time until their real eyes could be retrieved, which was the only way for them to enter Heaven. Her victims included the Ghost Boy, the Tall Ghost Girl and the Sweet Ghost Girl and they were also known as the Ghost Children.
Encounter with Coraline Jones
The Sweet Ghost Girl had a twin sister named Mrs. Lovat who eventually became the landlord of the Pink Palace and fearing that the Other Mother will rise again, she didn't allow anyone with children to rent one of the apartments. Years later during the present day (when the film took place), it is unknown why she let the Joneses family move in.
Meanwhile, the Other Mother discovered that a new child has moved into the Pink Palace and collected the ragdoll of the Sweet Ghost Girl and reassembled it to look like Coraline. Wybie, the grandson of Mrs. Lovat, discovered the ragdoll and sent it to Coraline as it looked just like her. However, a black cat that seemed to lurk the grounds of the Pink Palace felt suspicious about the ragdoll. Like the previous victims, Coraline was spied by the ragdoll and at night, one of the Other Mother's rats lured her to the door in the living room to the Other World.
Despite warnings from the black cat and her neighbours, she visited the deceptively fantastic Other World three times and during her third visit, the same black cat that lurked in the real world entered the Other World and suddenly spoke to Coraline about the Other Mother's true intentions. It was revealed that the cat was feared and deeply hated by the Other Mother but Coraline dismisses him and continues exploring the Other World.
After she was done exploring, the Other Mother asked her if she wanted to stay here forever by telling her that a pair of buttons will have to be sewn over her eyes. Disgusted by the concept, Coraline attempts to flee the Other World but it is revealed that the Other World is a tiny creation surrounded by a blank void. The cat walked with her and told her that the Other Mother wanted something to eat. Confused, they both end up where they started and the cat later eats one of the Other Mother's rats.
Entering the living room of the Other Pink Palace, Coraline demands the Other Mother to let her live with her real parents but she furiously rejects her demand and gradually transforms into her true self. A slender version of the Other Mother throws Coraline into the dark chamber behind the mirror, where she meets the tormented souls of the Ghost Children.
Saddened by their stories, Coraline promises that she would retrieve their real eyes but she is suddenly taken out from the mirror by the Other Wybie. He takes her back to the real world, where Coraline finds her parents nowhere to be seen. It is revealed that her parents were kidnapped by the Other Mother and she plans to go back to the Other World to find her parents and retrieve the eyes of the Ghost Children.
Arming herself with various weapons and a mysterious triangular stone with a hole in the middle, which was given to her by Miss Spink and Forcible who lived in the basement, Coraline was determined to begin her quest. The cat follows her and advises her to challenge the Other Mother, even if she didn't play fair. Suddenly, the cat is nowhere to be seen and Coraline can hear a voice of her real mother calling her.
Entering the Other World, Coraline discovers that it was simply the Other Mother disguising herself as her real mother. The Other Mother orders one of her rats to collect the only key to the Other World and she swallows it. After that, she enters the kitchen and cooks breakfast for Coraline. Coraline later tells her about the quest of finding her parents and the eyes of the Ghost Children and that if she lost, she would promise to stay here forever. The Other Mother agreed to her plan and gave her a hint that the three eyes were located in "the three wonders she made just for her". Afterwards, she disappears after Coraline asks her a hint of locating her parents.
Initiating her quest, Coraline realised that she had a time limit as shown when a shadow of a button slowly covered the moon. Having no time to lose, Coraline was determined to find all the ghost eyes but suddenly, she is attacked by several demonic creatures and the now deranged inhabitants who attempt to stop her from finding the eyes. However, she uses her triangular stone to find the eyes and grabs it from the inhabitants as soon as possible. Each time she retrieved an eye, the surroundings around her hardened into grey stone. Ultimately, the Cat aided her in retrieving the final eye, which was stolen by one of the Other Mother's rats, moments before the shadow of the button entirely covered the moon, which caused the entire Other World to disnitegrate into a blank white void, signalling the Other Mother's anger over Coraline winning over her. Coraline and the Cat enter the Other Pink Palace quickly to avoid being trapped in the void.
The rooms of the Other Pink Palace unravelled into thread except for the living room, where the Other Mother waited for her in her true arachnid form. Knowing that the Other Mother will not honour her victory, Coraline told her that her real parents were hidden behind the small door. Being distracted by coughing out the key she swallowed earlier, the Cat showed Coraline a snowglobe on the mantelpiece, where her parents were imprisoned. Unlocking the door as the Other Mother gleefully told her that her parents were nowhere in sight and now she would have to stay here forever, Coraline furiously hurls the Cat onto her face. The Other Mother attempts to get rid of the Cat but after a few struggles, the Cat eventually rips out both of her button eyes. While her eyes her ripped out, Coraline placed the snowglobe in her satchet in time.Blinded, the vengeful Other Mother transforms the floor into a gigantic spiderweb and traps Coraline inside. Coraline tries to climb up but her foot gets stuck, which causes a vibration, making it easier for the Other Mother to track her down. She makes it in the doorway in time but the Other Mother yells at her for "disobeying her". Coraline kicks her head away and with the assistance of the Ghost Children, she manages to slam the door onto the Other Mother's hand, severing her. Locking the door in time, the Other Mother suddenly screams horrendously stating for Coraline to not leave her and that she would die without her as she tries to break down the door, causing the door to be pushed further and further to the other end. Coraline manages to escape as the banging door suddenly causes the furniture in the real world to collapse and she locks the door behind her.
Relieved that her parents returned home safe and sound, they finally have the time to hang out with her and at night, Coraline dreamt of the Ghost Children, who were now finally in Heaven. However, they warn her that the she has not truly won unless she throws away the key to the Other World, which would prevent the Other Mother from contacting and hunting down more victims, therefore ending her reign of terror. Coraline decides to throw it down the well. Meanwhile, the Other Mother's severed hand emerged from the small door in the living room and followed her outside.Just before she was about to throw away the key, the severed hand jumped onto Coraline and briefly strangled her which made her trip and the hand attempted to drag her back into the Other World. However, Wybie comes to the rescue on his motorbike and grabbed the hand away. However, the hand blocked his view which made him lose balance. Falling off his motorbike, Wybie nearly fell into the well and tries to climb out. The hand attempts to make him lose his balance but Coraline smothers it with her towel while the hand begins to rip it apart.
Finally, Wybie climbed out of the well, grabbed a nearby stone and crushed the hand into pieces. Wrapping the remains of the hand, the stone and the key with the towel, they throw it into the well together and cover the well with its lid. The Other Mother eventually met her inevitable doom as there was no way for her to escape and reach to Coraline or any other child for their flesh. The film does not state her exact fate, though it is presumed that she starved to death alone in the Other World, just like how her previous victims suffered in her own hands.
Under her disguise as Coraline's mother, the Other Mother is an affectionate, loving and tender person. She is the epitome of the perfect mother, both in physical appearance and personality. In addition, she also goes through extreme lengths to impress Coraline to stay in the Other World forever. However, when Coraline rejects her offer to stay here forever when the Other Mother offers her to have buttons sewn over her eyes, the Other Mother slowly reveals her true nature and gradually deteriorates into a destructive and unmerciful being.
In reality, the Other Mother is anything but a mother, she is a Beldam, a witch who murders children and feeds off their souls to survive. She is also suggested to be a powerful demon as she has near omnipotence in her realm and has the abilities to lure her victims to the dark side and steal their souls. Given the Jones family moving into the Pink Palace the Other Mother has murdered three children and seeing how it has been decades since she last fed, it's understandable why she was quick to break off her disguise. The Other Mother's real appearance is very arachnid-like and, like all inhabitants, she has black button eyes.
The Other Mother also has a twisted sense of morality as she believes that she is the most perfect and caring mother in the world and she believes that every time her victims try to run away, they are disobeying her. She then punishes them by locking the door to the real world "to teach them a lesson". She is also very self-righteous as she brainwashes her victims into thinking that their real parents and people in the real world in general are neglectful and want to abandon them and that she is the only mother in the world that could properly care and entertain them. Even after Coraline tries to escape from the Other World in the climax of the film, the Other Mother yells at her ,"YOU DARE DISOBEY YOUR MOTHER?"
She is revealed to be extremely abusive towards the other Inhabitants of the Other World, she doesn't allow the Other Father to speak when she wasn't around and kicked him in the leg once. She also turned him into a pumpkin (implying a love of ironic punishment) and then forced him to try to stop Coraline in the garden while she was hunting for the Ghost Children's Eyes. The Other Wybie and the Other Mother don't have much time together but she removed his ability to speak (as Coraline preferred him that way) and when he "pulled a long face" she stitched a smile on his mouth, proving that she was immensely sadistic. When the Other Wybie had helped Coraline escape, she killed him and flagged his clothes as a grim reminder.
She has proven to be an avid lover of games and when Coraline used that as an opportunity to find the eyes of the Ghost Children and her real parents, her love of games went to the point of extremism as she tried to make the games as difficult as possible for Coraline and presumably even enjoyed her suffering during the games. She was a cheater and a hypocrite, the Other Mother would never have let Coraline leave the Other World and then chastises her by calling her a "horrible, cheating girl."
The Other Mother also hated anything that would make Coraline try to escape from her, even if it meant mutilating her own creations such as the Other Wybie. This has also caused her to burn the magic triangular stone Coraline used during the games and call the Cat that helped her "vermin", hinting her genocidal nature towards the cat species.
What's interesting is that after the Other Mother reveals her true personality to Coraline, she still acts like a mother, speaking in the same honeyed tone and even tells Coraline that "you know I love you" only for Coraline to respond "you have a very funny way of showing it."
Powers and Abilities
The Other Mother holds all-powerful, omnipotent control over the pocket dimension known as the Other World. She is able to alter the appearance and properties of this world however she sees fit, and is even able to create life. She does not seem to be able to create things from scratch, resorting to replicating (from the locations to the people) and turning them into altered, more pleasant versions of themselves. It is implied that it all is handmade like dolls and quilts. The book even implies that she did not create the Other World so much as discovered it, implying her abilities may be skill-based.
She is able to create objects, food and living beings. Her living creations (with the exception of the doll) are unable to leave the Other World themselves, though inanimate objects like Coraline's clothes are able to pass through into the real world unaffected.
The Other Mother herself is able to shapeshift however she wishes, usually taking on the form of her victim's "Other Mother", and can even simulate actual human eyes when she sees fit. When her hand comes off at the wrist, she is able to control it from a great distance.
It is implied that she sustains life on the souls of the children she traps, not needing food to sustain herself.
While she is powerful, her powers do have their limits. She possesses her hatred of cats because they are the only things that can come and go through her world as they please, trying and failing to keep the Cat out all of the time. While she has control over the shape of the people in her world, they themselves possess wills of their own and only serve the Other Mother out of sheer fear of her. She can recreate virtually anything with the sole exception of the key to the door, becoming trapped in the Other World forever after Coraline locks the door and dumps the key in the well.
The Inhabitants of The Other World
The inhabitants of the Other World resemble the victim's inhabitants in his/her real world and in order for the Other Mother to entice her victims to stay here forever. She recreates better button-eyed duplicates of the victim's inhabitants in the real world in order for them to feel pleased but also feel connected to home. They serve as the secondary antagonists but they are merely creations manipulated by the Other Mother and ready to be discarded/killed once they're done serving her. She treated the inhabitants as property as she would twist them in the most cruel manner if they ever failed to lure her victim to stay in the Other World forever.
In Coraline's case, the Other World's inhabitants were the Other Father, the Other Mr. Bobinsky and the Other Spink and Other Forcible. The Other Wybie was also created but he techinally wasn't an antagonist as he was truly oppressed under the Other Mother's rule, just like Coraline and he wanted to help her whenever he could. Unlike the real Wybie, who was talkative and quite annoying, the Other Wybie was satisfyingly mute. However, this was the opposite for the black cat as he could speak in the Other World, which didn't require the Other Mother to create another duplicate for the cat.
During Coraline's first visit, the Other Father and the Other Mother look like happily married couple who tried to hang out with her as much as possible unlike her real parents. However, the Other Mother only married him to deceive Coraline into staying here forever and in reality, he was her slave. The Other Father also showed off his impressive musical talents to Coraline in his study room but the song that he sung for her foreshadowed the Other Mother's true intentions. They also tucked her in her bedroom filled with talking toys and pictures and flying decorations but Coraline was disappointed that she woke up in her real bedroom the next morning until Coraline discovered about the truth of the Other World.
During Coraline's second visit, the Other Mother introduced a new friend named the Other Wybie to Coraline and she thought that she would like him better if he was mute. Befriending each other quickly, they attend the Other Mr. Bobinksy's amazing mice circus and the Other Miss Spink and Forcible's theatre performance during the third visit. After leaving the theatre perfomance, Coraline went back into the Other Pink Palace, where she found out the true intentions of the Other Mother.
When the Other Wybie showed signs of disobedience towards the Other Mother, she mutilated his mouth to make him "smile". Before he was mutilated, he told the cat everything about the Other Mother. He eventually attempts to make Coraline escape but unfortunately, he cannot escape with her as he is just another creation the Other Mother made to lure her. The Other Mother later caught the Other Wybie and murdered him and hanged his clothes on the rooftop pole of the Other Mr. Bobinksy's apartment.
Meanwhile, the other inhabitants gradually reverted to their true, demonic forms and they gave in less effort to lure Coraline to stay in the Other World forever. The Other Mother already knew that Coraline will challenge to her to a game one day since the first time Coraline ever visited the Other World, hinting that she is some sort of psychic.
Having that knowledge, the Other Mother went to each of their places and twisted their bodies in a gruesome manner and hidden them in sight along with the ghost eyes. She also added a few extra evil creations and traps in order to make the game more difficult for Coraline. However, Coraline succeeded the game with the aid of a magical triangular stone and ultimately the black cat. The stone was eventually caught by the Other Mother and was burnt in the fireplace.
Although Coraline had inadvertently killed all the inhabitants of the Other World, as her surroundings turned into grey stone which eventually disintegrated into nothing, the Other Mother already knew it was time to discard the inhabitants in order to create another Other World for her new victim. She killed all of the inhabitants at once through natural means instead of weapons as she controlled most of the natural phenomena (the disintegrating of the Other World and the shadow of a button covering a moon) of the Other World.
In other words, the Other Mother renewed her realm by destroying the former version of the Other World and killing the inhabitants in the process to recreate another version of the Other World and its inhabitant to suit the needs and desires of her next victims. However, she stopped making new inhabitants after her eventual defeat.
It is also implied that she remakes and recycles her creations much like the doll, altering their appearance in order to better suit their purpose, simply creating new ones should they rebel in some manner.
|“||Black is traditional.||„|
|~ The Other Mother|
|“||Gosh, I have no idea where your old parents are. Perhaps they got bored of you and run away to France.||„|
|~ The Other Mother lies to Coraline about her missing parents|
|“||You know I love you.||„|
|~ The Other Mother to Coraline|
|“||You horrible cheating girl!||„|
|~ Other Mother before transforming the floor into a spiderweb.|
|“||I thought you'd like him more if he talked a little less. So I fixed him.||„|
|~ Other Mother about the Other Wyborne|
|“||Don't leave me! Don't leave me! I'll die without you!||„|
|~ Other Mother's last words|
- The name 'the Beldam' is a reference to a fairy-tale being, also known as 'La Belle Dame sans Merci' ('the beautiful lady without pity') from the poem of the same name by John Keats. The poem tells the story of an unnamed knight wandering in a barren and haggard land, who encounters a beautiful and mysterious woman with bright and wild eyes who draws him to her secret grotto with claims of love, then puts him into an enchanted sleep. The knight dreams of ghostly beings who warn him that he is under la Belle Dame's thrall; when he awakens, the woman and her home have vanished, leaving him back on the barren hillside.
- The Other Mother is currently the oldest (both from a "character's age" and "studio" standpoint) Laika villain.
- Whenever the Other Mother prepares regular human food, it is shown that unlike Coraline and the Other Father, she is not shown eating any of it, either having an empty plate or having no plate at all, preferring to keep her attention on Coraline. The only time she is ever shown eating in the book or movie is when she eats a live cocoa beetle(s). This could allude to her spider-like qualities, having an interest in bugs and viewing Coraline as her willing prey.
- Her ultimate fate is similar to Samara Morgan as both are trapped in a well after trying to manipulate the heroines into becoming part of their family. The Other Mother wants to be the mother of Coraline while Samara wants to be the daughter of Rachel Keller.
- Near the end of the film, when Coraline finds the three eyes of the Ghost Children, the Other World is revealed to be an endless void which may indicate that it may be parallel universe that can be accessed through the well. This is further proven as it was shown to be nighttime whenever we see the Other World throughout the entire film, and Wybie saying that if you reach the bottom of the well and look up, you'll only see stars.
- Even though the audience is shown that the Other Mother is a demonic, arachnid and man-eating monster, she still acts as if she were a loving and motherly figure, keeping a sense of realism to her character, further increasing her disturbing nature.
- The reason why the Other Mother quickly reverted to her true form after Coraline revealed her true intentions and didn't attempt to be even nicer was because the Other Mother was starving. Considering the time period between the last time she took the eyes of her latest victim and the time she first met Coraline, it was understandable why the Other Mother was furious at her after she tried to escape.
- The song that the Other Mother hums while she is in the kitchen is the same song that played during the opening credits.
- The reason why she still sounded like Coraline's real mother near the end of the film, despite being in her true form, is because her powers are weakening and she knew that she would die soon of hunger, hence giving in less effort to lure Coraline. However, she quickly reverted to her evil and bloodthirsty self after Coraline managed to outsmart her by telling her that her real parents were hidden behind the small door.
- She also shares similarites to Satan as both are demonic rulers of their own realm and tempt greedy and rebellious children to stay in the Other World forever. This made Coraline vulnerable to the Other Mother's temptations as she was also greedy and rebellious towards her parents (just like the other victims) and wanted more and more of the Other Mother's fun and games, despite warnings from her neighbours and the cat of possible dangers. Like Satan, the Other Mother has limited power and can only remodify the Other World and she deeply hates the Cat as he exposes the truth to Coraline. The Cat symbolises God as Coraline ignores his warnings, similar to how people don't listen to God today but ultimately, saves her from destruction.
- She also shares many similarities with Yubaba from Spirited Away as both are magical witch-like villains that control over a fantasy world and both abuse children. They both attempt to keep the main character (who happens to be a young girl) and her parents trapped in the world forever. A difference, however, is that Yubaba is an honorable villain who honors her deals as shown when she allows Sen to leave with her parents, but the Other Mother is not and would have never let Coraline go.
- The Other Mother is also a major hypocrite as she cheats her way to make Coraline lose the game and even becomes a typical sore loser when Coraline actually wins the game. After throwing the cat on her face, the Other Mother calls Coraline "a horrible cheating girl".
- The Beldam may once have been a mortal woman. As in the book she is based off of, she claimed to have killed her own mother.