|“||She spied on our lives, through the little doll's eyes. And saw that we weren't happy. So she lured us away, with treasures and treats, and games to play. Gave all that we asked, yet we still wanted more. So we let her sew the buttons. She said she loved us... but she locked us up here. And ate up our lives.||„|
|~ The ghost children explaining what the Beldam did to them.|
|“||You may come out when you learn to be a loving daughter.||„|
|~ The Beldam punishing Coraline whilst acting the "mother" role.|
|“||You're sick. Sick and evil and weird.||„|
|~ Coraline to the Beldam (novel only).|
The Beldam (also known as The Other Mother) is the main antagonist of Laika's 1st full-length animated feature film, Coraline, which based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman. She is the demonic button-eyed arachnoid ruler of the Other World. There, she lures victims, mostly bored or neglected children, and sews buttons over their eyes and consumes their flesh and soul until they become nothing but empty ghost-like shells. She frequently disguises herself as her victims' mothers, hence her name as the Other Mother.
She was voiced by Teri Hatcher who also portrayed Ms. Gradenko from Spy Kids.
Differences Between Novel and Film
In the novel, the Beldam was implied to be formerly human, who somehow transitioned as a demonic fae-like creature, presumably after death. She hints this to Coraline when she recounts how she, as a child, buried her mother alive in a grave and pushed her back in when she tried to crawl out. Additionally, in her true form, she has human skin although her blood is likened to black tar. Meanwhile, the Other World, in its true form, is a blank void resembling the sketchings of a child instead of a gigantic spiderweb. Her methods of luring in her victim, unlike the film, are much more straightforward, where she simply needs her rats to lure her victims. After her defeat by Coraline, her severed hand stalks her in the real world for days. Despite her defeat, Coraline is never reported to have told anyone about the atrocities committed by the Beldam.
|“||You probably think this world is a dream come true... but you're wrong.||„|
|~ The Cat exposing the Beldam and the Other World.|
Under her disguise of her victims' mothers, the Beldam appears to be a very loving and charismatic maternal figure, especially for troubled children. Alluding to her archaic background, the Beldam speaks very eloquently, uses relatively old-fashioned language and seeks to maintain a traditional family through loving (this appears to be genuine at first) discipline. She is also very observant and vigilant of the problems and desires her victims have in the real world. Through this, she recreates the Other World into becoming their idealized dreamworlds.
The Beldam is highly skilled in the arts of motherhood. She is very good at cooking and sewing and is eager to play rough and daring games with her victims. Her creations are obedient to her ways and the Beldam frequently encourages them to do whatever they can to convince their victims to stay in the Other World forever. Even though her calm and composed demeanor can creep her victims out, the Beldam is extremely skillful in hiding her ulterior motives, no matter how intelligent or mature her victims are (i.e. Coraline). The Beldam frequently uses wordplay to disguise her ulterior motives and subtly taps her fingers every time to indicate this.
When her true nature is revealed, she instantly drops her loving maternal figure and becomes a cruel and authoritarian figure who is determined to do anything to consume her victims' flesh and souls, no matter how twisted and sadistic these measures are. This includes torturing her creations, especially those who genuinely care for the Beldam's victims, so that they could be driven to do things against their will, such as harming innocent children. She punishes her creations who are unwilling to harm others by mutilating and killing them.
Her sadism comes to its fullest effect when she gouges out her victims' eyes, sews buttons over it without anaesthesia and consumes their flesh and souls until they become empty ghost-like shells. Though she has no qualms in relishing in savagery, the Beldam chooses to maintain her charisma by disparaging her victims in a sweet and motherly tone and an extremely condescending and sarcastic manner. Her love of games takes a darker turn as she challenges those who question her authority to participate in dangerous games to "prove" themselves. However, the Beldam is heavily implied to have planned these games from the very beginning and its presumed that she initially set these games up for her sadistic pleasure and brag about her power.
Despite preaching about how those who disobey must be harshly disciplined, the Beldam breaks the rules of her own games if they are inconvenient to her agenda. This is shown when she outright refuses to acknowledge that Coraline has won the "game" of finding the eyes of the Ghost Children despite previously agreeing (albeit reluctantly) to Coraline's deal of letting her go if she won. This is because without Coraline, she'd starve to death.
Perhaps her most distinctive trait is her "love". At first, the Beldam seems to genuinely love her victims, caring for them and giving them a world that they cannot afford in the real world. When she reverts to her true nature, the Beldam still loves her victims but in a much more perverted and disturbing way. Her love, thus, could be described as how as a parsimonious miser loves his gold or in a more serious and accurate comparison, how a child predator loves his/her victims, considering the ages of her victims.
Her twisted love is much more emphasized in the novel, where Coraline briefly gets Stockholm Syndrome by sympathizing (at the very slightest) and allowing her to care for her as if she were her daughter. It is very parasitic and she sees them as nothing but objects and pets, who are ready to be discarded if they "bore" her. Her self-centred love is eventually what causes her downfall as she seeks to destroy everything, including the world that she rules over, until she could get what she wants-Coraline's soul. To somehow prove that her "love" is all that her victims need, the Beldam convinces them that their parents have neglected and abandoned them and even induces hallucinations of this occurring.
Powers and AbilitiesThe Beldam holds near-omnipotent power over the Other World and is able to manipulate the universe into appearing whatever she wishes. However, she cannot create things out of scratch but rather recreate things that have already existed, implying that she has limited powers in the world she rules in. However, some fans believe that the Beldam has not always existed in the Other World and simply discovered it rather than created it. She is particularly good at sewing as she is mostly composed of needles.
She also has control over the weather in the Other World as she is able to make lightning appear, which appears in the shape of her hand, when she talks to Coraline about the rain and is able to completely cover the entire moon with the shadow of a button and to completely disintegrate into a blank void. The strength of her powers depend on how much "nutrients" she still has from feeding on the flesh and souls of her victims and her powers, which keep the Other World in its "dreamworld" state, fade away, along with the beauty of the Other World, when she starves.
She often makes bargains with her victims in order to obtain their flesh and souls to feed upon similar to how people make deals with the Devil in order to achieve fame, power etc. and is able to steal and imprison souls, which alludes to her demonic nature. The Other Mother is also quite physically powerful as she is able to rapidly climb up a gigantic spiderweb when she chases Coraline and is able to bang on the door so hard that the passageway also pushes forward as she tries to break the door down forwards. Despite not being able to exit the Other World like the other creations (except for her rats), her hand is the only body part that can exit the Other World. It is extremely powerful and can attack people and drag people in long distances and it is presumed that the Other Mother detached her own hand in order to send the button-eyed ragdolls to the real world as her hand acts like a "robot".
The Other Mother is also quite talented in disguising herself to look like a completely different and an otherwise normal-looking human female compared to her arachnoid form in order to lure and deceive her victims. She can shapeshift into any appearance that she desires and can even transform herself into looking like a normal human being from the real world without the button eyes.
The Inhabitants of the Other World
The inhabitants of the Other World are the Other Mother's creations and like her, they have button eyes but they are created out of sawdust like the button-eyed ragdolls that she sends to her victims unlike herself.
The inhabitants depend on the type of people that the Other Mother's victims live with in the real world so they could feel more comforted and be tempted to stay forever. They are albeit enhanced duplicates of the people that her victim lives with in the real world and are fun and entertaining just like the Other Mother. The Other Mother's army of rats are her most loyal creations and are responsible for physically luring her victims into the Other World.
However, as the magic of the Other World fades away as the Other Mother loses her powers and becomes more and more like her real self, so do the inhabitants of the Other World. They are in reality monstrous and rather demonic beings who violently attack anything that goes in their way and often have disturbing and distorted voices and screams, as seen when Coraline grabs the eyes of the Ghost Children from them during the game. They have little free will as their behaviours and actions are mostly controlled by the Other Mother who are programmed to attack and harm her victims even if they don't want to with the exception of the Other Wybie, who seems to have the most free will out of all the Other inhabitants.
They cannot escape the Other World as they are made out of sawdust and it is heavily implied that the sawdust serves as their "life energy" that is sustained by the powers of the Other Mother, which are fully manifested in the Other World. If they move out of the Other World, they lose most of their "life energy" hence would die quickly just like how fish out of water die quickly, explaining why the Other Wybie refused to escape with Coraline when he had the chance. The rats are the only creations that can leave the Other World since they use less of their "life energy" due to their smaller size. It is unknown why the Other Mother cannot escape the Other World despite not being made out of sawdust.
Once the Other inhabitants are done doing the Other Mother's biddings, she "recycles" them for her next victim, with the exception of Coraline during the game where she inadvertently kills all the inhabitants.
In Coraline's case, the Other World inhabitants are Other Father, the Other Mr. Bobinsky, the Other Spink, the Other Forcible, and the Other Wybie. The Other Wybie is the only Other inhabitant who is partially deranged and unwilling to harm her and is the most sympathetic out of them all (with the expectation of the Other Father who wanted to really help Coraline to escape the Other World).
|“||We've been waiting for you, Coraline.||„|
|~ The Beldam's foreshadowing quote.|
|“||Black is traditional... But if you prefer pink, or vermilion or chartreuse... though you might make me jealous.||„|
|~ The Beldam, about the button eyes.|
|“||Soon you'll see things our way.||„|
|~ The Beldam hinting what she'll do to Coraline.|
|“||You know I love you.||„|
|~ The Beldam expressing her twisted love to Coraline.|
|“||Gosh, I have no idea where your old parents are. Perhaps they got bored of you and run away to France.||„|
|~ The Other Mother lying to Coraline about her missing parents.|
|“||I thought you'd like him more if he talked a little less. So I fixed him.||„|
|~ The Other Mother about the Other Wybie.|
|“||In each of three wonders I've made just for you, a ghost eye is lost in plain sight.||„|
|~ The Beldam's clue to Coraline about the location of the eyes of the Ghost children.|
|“||So... you're back. And you've brought... vermin with you?||„|
|~ The Beldam, upon seeing Coraline with the cat.|
|“||YOU HORRIBLE CHEATING GIRL!||„|
|~ The Other Mother before transforming the floor into a spiderweb.|
|“||They say even the proudest spirit can be broken... with love.||„|
|~ The Other Mother to Coraline.|
|“||You're wrong Coraline, they aren't there... now you're going to stay here forever.||„|
|~ The Beldam declaring her victory.|
|“||NO! Where are you?! You SELFISH BRAT!!!||„|
|~ The Beldam, after Coraline avoids being crushed by her.|
|“||YOU DARE DISOBEY YOUR MOTHER?!||„|
|~ The Other Mother to Coraline.|
|“||DON'T LEAVE ME! DON'T LEAVE ME! I'LL DIE WITHOUT YOU!||„|
|~ The 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 word "Beldam" is also an archaic word meaning "Witch" or "Hag".
- The Beldam was originally the oldest (both from a "character's age" and "studio" standpoint) Laika villain (the role being surpassed by Raiden the Moon King).
- Ashland, Oregon, the town that the Pink Palace is located in, was founded in 1852, approximately the same time the Pink Palace Apartments was initially constructed. Its also implied that the Beldam is as old as the apartment itself.
- Whenever the Beldam prepares regular human food, it is shown that unlike Coraline and the Other Father, she is not shown to eat any of it, either having an empty plate or having no plate at all, preferring to keep her attention on Coraline, foreshadowing that she will eat Coraline soon. The only time she is ever shown eating in the book or film 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.
- The song that the Beldam hums while she is in the kitchen is the same song that played during the opening credits.
- If you notice carefully, the door on the side of the Other World doesn't have a doorknob on it, which is done so that it cannot be easily unlocked/opened once locked, trapping her victims forever.
- The Seamstress in the film 9 was a nod to the Other Mother in Coraline, due to their metallic hands. Both films were created by Focus Features.