|“||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 assuming the mother role in one of her acts.|
The Beldam (also known as "The Other Mother") is the main antagonist of Laika's 1st full-length animated feature film Coraline, which was based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman. She is the demonic button-eyed arachnoid ruler of the Other World. She kidnaps children who move into the pink palace in attempt to eat their lives and imprison their souls. She frequently disguises herself as her victims' mothers, hence her name as the Other Mother.
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 anesthesia 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-centered 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.
Her origins are very vague and even what she really is, is unknown. However, the novel canon hints that the Beldam was formerly human, as evidenced when she recounted her childhood experience of burying her mother alive in. The Beldam even appears to have normal human skin and body parts in her true form. In contrast, the film canon never mentions any of this and its assumed that she's a demonic arachnoid being whose body is mostly composed of sewing needles, except for her face which is made out of cracked porcelain.
The Beldam wields immense power over the Other World, a parallel dimension, which is in reality a gigantic spiderweb surrounded by a blank void. In the novel canon, the Other World in its true form resembles a drawing sketch created by a careless child. However, the Beldam can only twist and modify the Other World to her liking, implying that her powers have limitations or that she wasn't the true founder of the Other World. In relations to the real world, the Other World is located behind a small door in the living room of the Pink Palace Apartments in Ashland, Oregon. The only way to access it was by using a button key.
Reign of TerrorAround the 1850s, the Pink Palace Apartments was initially a mansion, inhabited by several different families.To sustain her existence, the Beldam seized the opportunity to lure in children to the Other World. In her sewing room, the Beldam created button-eyed ragdolls that resembled her chosen victim and sent them into the void outside. The doll would eventually reach to the real world, where her victim would unwillingly collect it. Through this, the Beldam was able to spy on their lives to find out what was wrong with it.
Once she had an overall idea on what her victim lacked in the real world, the Beldam modified the Other World into becoming a whimsical copy of the victim's real world, including its inhabitants, who also have button eyes and are entirely composed of sawdust. Sending her rats into the real world at night, her victim would wake up and follow them downstairs to the door in the living room. Crawling through a colourful corridor, the victim would meet the Beldam, under the disguise of their real mother. Entertained by the Other World's glamour, her victims would be offered the chance to stay here forever, under the condition that a pair of buttons will be sewn over their eyes. Her victims tended to accept the offer, considering how miserable their real life was, and after they accepted, the Beldam painfully gouged out their eyes, sewed buttons over it and consumed their flesh. The doll element is not included in the novel canon and the Beldam lures her victims immediately by sending out her rats, indicating her impatient nature.
Afterwards, the Beldam imprisoned their souls in a dark chamber behind a mirror and relied upon their "soul energy" to survive, which she often drained. She also hid their real eyes in marbles, the only way for their souls to pass onto the afterlife. The Beldam successfully kidnapped and killed several children in the past, including the Tall Ghost Girl, the Ghost Boy and the Sweet Ghost Girl. According to them, they have forgotten their birth names due to their prolonged imprisonment and thus, they are distinguished by these nicknames.
Encounter with Coraline Jones
The Pink Palace Apartments was eventually converted into an apartment by Mrs. Lovat, the Sweet Ghost Girl's twin sister. Fearing that more children would suffer a similar fate like her twin sister, Mrs. Lovat enforced a no child policy, which forbid couples with children from renting the apartment. She especially forbid her grandson Wybie from entering the apartment's premises and whenever he explored near the premises, she would often yell his name and demand him to return home.
In 2009, Charlie and Mel Jones, who have a daughter named Coraline, move from Pontiac, Michigan to Oregon, where they decide to stay at the Pink Palace Apartments, despite the no child policy (although it's theorized that Charlie and Mel simply forgotten to mention their daughter, considering how little they pay attention to her). Coraline frequently explores the apartment alone, especially the garden, due to her parents busily working on their gardening catalog. During her stay, Coraline encounters Wybie and a mysterious black cat, simply known as the Cat, and is annoyed at both of their presences. In reality, the Cat was trying to protect both Wybie and Coraline from the Beldam, due to his detailed knowledge of the Other World, which he can freely enter through various portals. Its also revealed that the Cat can speak, although this ability is restricted to the Other World. Because of this, the Beldam harbours immense hatred towards the Cat and desires to rid all cats, which she refers to as "vermin", from the Other World.
Despite the Cat's attempts, the Beldam retrieves the button-eyed ragdoll she used to lure the Sweet Ghost Girl and modifies it to resemble Coraline (its unknown why she didn't do the same for Wybie). The doll later ends up in Mrs. Lovat's trunk and discovering its eerie resemblance to Coraline, Wybie decides to give it to Coraline as a "gift". Initially creeped out, Coraline nevertheless plays with the doll whilst exploring the apartment. As Coraline explores the living room, she discovers that the doll lying in front of the small door by itself. Requesting her mother to unlock the door with the button key, Coraline is disappointed to discover that the door has been bricked up, most likely by Mrs. Lovat.
At night, Coraline is awaken by a group of rats, who lead her to the door downstairs. She discovers that the bricks have been replaced by a colourful corridor, which she curiously crawls through. In the Other World, Coraline meets the Beldam, currently under the disguise of Mel Jones. She finds her more warm and attentive than her real mother and eventually meets the rest of the button-eyed duplicates of her neighbours, including the Other Wybie, who is mute. Afterwards, the Beldam offers her a chance to stay in the Other World forever by giving her a present.
Coraline opens the present and discovers a pair of buttons, a spool of thread and a sewing needle. Realising what this would gruesomely entail, Coraline refuses the offer and plans to return to home. She tries to leave the Other World in a non-suspicious manner but the Beldam already knows this and blocks all the exits to the real world. Eventually, Coraline confronts the Beldam in the living room to let her go home. However, the Beldam "disciplines" her by throwing her into the dark chamber behind the mirror. Inside, Coraline meets the ghosts of the Beldam's previous victims, who recount their stories and plead her to find their real eyes.
Coraline tearfully promises to find their real eyes moments before the Other Wybie drags her out of the chamber, whose mouth is stitched into a horrific grin by the Beldam for failing to smile. She relieves his injuries and despite being aware of what would happen to him, the Other Wybie sacrifices himself to assist Coraline in escaping, which is ultimately successful. The Beldam, however, overhears them downstairs and finds the Other Wybie, kills him and hangs his clothing on the flagpole on the apartment's rooftop.
Coraline enters the real world in time but finding out that her parents have been missing for the night, the Cat eventually reveals to her that they have been kidnapped by the Other Mother after Coraline discovers two button-eyed ragdolls that resemble her parents, stitched together to possibly taunt her over her loss. Coraline burns the doll furiously and arms herself with an adder stone that was given by her neighbours Ms. Spink and Forcible and follows the Cat's advice of challenging the Other Mother to a game, even if she didn't play fair.
Coraline promises her that if she wins, she would have to free her parents and the Ghost Children whilst if she loses, then she would have to sew buttons over her eyes and imprison her in the Other World forever. The Other Mother reluctantly accepts this deal and gives her clues of where the real eyes of the Ghost Children are located in the Other World moments before vanishing into thin air.
Coraline successfully manages to grab all the three eyes of the Ghost Children with the aid of the adder stone from the inhabitants of the Other World who appear in their true, twisted and demonic forms. As she plays the game, Coraline notices that the moon in the sky is gradually being covered by a shadow of a button to show much time she has left in the game. The inhabitants are killed after she grabs each eye from them as the surroundings around them turn into grey stone. During the game, Coraline notices that the Other Wybie's clothing are hung on the flagpole of one of the Others' apartments, hinting that the Other Mother has killed him for helping Coraline previously escape into the real world.
The Cat ultimately helps her in finding the real eye as the moon is completely covered by the shadow of the button as the Other World disintegrates into a blank void. Coraline and the Cat quickly enter the Other Pink Palace Apartments and shuts the door behind her in time as she sees the Other Mother, in her true arachnoid form, waiting for her in the living room.
The Other Mother then tells her that she must find her own parents in order to escape and burns the adder stone which Coraline used during the game into the fireplace. Realising that the Other Mother has actually refused to acknowledge her victory and that she would be trapped in the Other World either way even if she had won, Coraline distracts her by telling her that her parents are located behind the door. Whilst the Other Mother vomits out the black button key that she swallowed previously, Coraline finds her parents trapped inside a snowglobe sitting on the mantlepiece and grabs it. Proudly declaring that Coraline is wrong and will therefore stay in the Other World forever, Coraline throws the Cat onto her face and in a swift act of karma, her button eyes are promptly ripped out.
Blinded, the Other Mother furiously accuses her of being "a horrible, cheating girl" and transforms the floor of the living room into the gigantic spiderweb, which consists of what is left entirely of the Other World. As the Cat escapes back to the real world, the Other Mother tries to hunt down Coraline like prey in the spiderweb but fails as Coraline quickly enters the door and into the passageway inside that leads to the real world. The Other Mother screams at her for "disobeying" her but Coraline kicks her in the face, briefly splitting her face in half.
With the assistance of the Ghost Children, Coraline manages to slam the door shut onto the Other Mother's hand, severing it. Locking the door with the black button key, the Other Mother realises her own doom and screams horrendously that she would die without Coraline as she tries to break down the door. Her powerful actions of attempting to break the down the door cause the door and the passageway itself to be shaken and pushed forwards towards the real world but Coraline locks the door from the side of the real world in time, which causes various furniture to be knocked down and the snowglobe to break, freeing her parents.
DefeatRelieved that her parents returned home safely, even though they seemed to have no memory of what happened to them, Coraline dreams of the Ghost Children, who are finally freed and have their normal eyes back in the afterlife. They tell her that the Other Mother is angry at her and is looking for the black button key, the only way she could have access to her and possibly other victims in the future. Coraline plans to throw the key in a well in the garden of the Pink Palace Apartments as she believes it is a place where the Other Mother would never find it but as she walks to the well, the Other Mother's severed hand emerges from the door and follows Coraline.
Moments before she could throw the key down the well, the Other Mother's hand latches onto her neck and briefly strangles her as it tries to drag her back into the Other World. Wybie arrives in his motorbike and blares the horn, stopping the hand in its track. He grabs the hand off her neck but the hand attacks his face, causing him to stumble off his motorbike and nearly fall down into the well. Coraline manages to smother the hand with her towel but the hand rips it apart as Wybie crawls out of the well and smashes it into pieces with a rock just in time.
They throw it together into the depths of the well and cover the well with a lid, ultimately sealing the Other Mother's fate. Both the film and novel don't specify her fate although the Other Mother is presumed to have starved to death alone in the Other World in torment- just like what she done with her victims.
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. These powers also keep the Other World in its whimsical state, and the less "nutrients" she has, the more twisted it becomes.
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 behaviors 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).
|“||You're just in time for supper, dear!||„|
|~ The Beldam's first word to Coraline.|
|“||We've been waiting for you, Coraline.||„|
|~ The Beldam's foreshadowing quote.|
|“||See you soon ...||„|
|~ The Beldam as Coraline goes to sleep.|
|“||Welcome back, darling.||„|
|~ The Beldam to Coraline during her second visit to the Other World.|
|“||You do like it here, don't you, Coraline?||„|
|~ The Beldam asking Coraline if she likes the Other World.|
|“||You could stay here forever... if you want to.||„|
|~ The Beldam telling Coraline she can stay in the Other World forever.|
|“||There's one tiny little thing we need to do.||„|
|~ The Beldam revels there is something Coraline has to do before she can stay in the Other World.|
|“||For you ... our little doll.||„|
|~ The Beldam reveling that Coraline must sew buttons over her eyes in order to stay in the Other World forever.|
|“||Black is traditional... But if you prefer pink, or vermilion or chartreuse... though you might make me jealous.||„|
|~ The Beldam, about the button eyes.|
|“||Oh, but we need a yes ... if you want to stay here.||„|
|~ The Beldam almost demanding Coraline sew the buttons on her eyes.|
|“||There now; it's your decision, darling. We only want what's best for you.||„|
|~ The Beldam feigning care for Coraline.|
|“||Well of course you do, darling... I'll be happy to tuck you in.||„|
|~ The Beldam offering to tuck Coraline into bed.|
|“||You're welcome. And I-we aren't worried at all, darling. Soon you'll see things our way.||„|
|~ The Beldam hinting what she'll do to Coraline.|
|“||Is that any way to talk to your mother?||„|
|~ The Beldam after Coraline demands that she be sent home.|
|“||Apologize at once, Coraline!||„|
|~ The Beldam to Coraline after she says she is not her real mother.|
|“||I'll give you to the count of three. One... ...two... ...THREE!||„|
|~ The Beldam to Coraline after she refuses to apologize.|
|“||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've grown bored of you and run away to France. (Coraline: They weren't bored of me. You stole them!)||„|
|~ The Other Mother lying to Coraline about her missing parents and Coraline not buying it.|
|“||Now, don't be difficult, Coraline. Have a seat, won't you?||„|
|~ The Beldam to Coraline, before swallowing the key.|
|“||Shhh! The garden squash need tending, don't you think, pumpkin?||„|
|~ The Beldam to the Other Father after he says to much.|
|“||(Coraline: Why don't we play ... a game? I know you like them.) Everybody likes games.||„|
|~ The Beldam admitting to liking games.|
|“||What kind of game would it be? (Coraline: An exploring game. A finding things game.) And what is it you’d be finding, Coraline? (Coraline: My real parents.) Too easy. (Coraline: And the eyes of the ghost children.)||„|
|~ The Beldam asking Coraline what she’d be finding for their “game”.|
|“||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.|
|“||So? Where are they - the ghost eyes?||„|
|~ The Beldam asking Coraline to hand over the ghost eyes.|
|“||(Coraline: We aren't finished yet, are we?) No, I suppose not. After all, you still need to find your old parents, don't you? Too bad you won't have this.||„|
|~ The Beldam before burning the triangle candy in the fireplace.|
|“||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 "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. It's also implied that the Beldam is as old as the apartment itself.
- The Beldam's desire to consume Coraline's soul is foreshadowed during the initial dinner scenes. Whilst Coraline and the Other Father eat regular food, the Beldam has nothing on her plate and instead, looks at Coraline with delight. The only time the Beldam is shown to eat is when she eats live coca beetles. This not only indicates that the Beldam only wants human souls but that she prefers to eat them whilst they're (her victims) are still alive.
- The song that the Beldam hums while she is in the kitchen is the same song that played during the opening credits.
- In the film, the side of the door facing both the real world and the Other World do not have door knobs. It was most likely built this way because once locked, it would effectively trap the victims forever (given that the key is hidden).
- 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.
- The Beldam is one of the two Laika villains to be Pure Evil, alongside Archibald Snatcher.