|“||Sharper than a serpent's tooth is a daughter's ingratitude. Still, the proudest spirit can be broken, with love.||„|
|~ The Beldam|
|“||You know I love you.||„|
|~ The Beldam expressing her twisted love to Coraline.|
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 written by Neil Gaiman.
She is the demonic button-eyed arachnoid ruler of a parallel universe known as the Other World, where she lures in mostly neglected or bored children under the disguise of their mothers. Once lured in, the Beldam sews buttons over their eyes, kills them and consumes their souls and waits for her next victim to arrive. Her methods of luring in children, her background and subsequent defeat vary between the film and novel canons but her goal remains fundamentally the same.
She was voiced by Teri Hatcher, who is well known for her role in the TV series Desperate Housewives, which is also centered around motherhood.
Her origins are very vague and even what she really is is unknown in both the novel and its film adaption. The novel implies that she was once a mortal woman as she had pushed her mother back in her grave when she tried to crawl out and illustrations in the novel portray her having normal human skin even in her true form. The film canon however portrays her as an arachnoid being composed of needles and it even hints that she was some sort of demonic being who has always existed in the Other World long before human contact.
The Other Mother is the ruler of a parallel universe called the Other World, which is in reality a gigantic spiderweb that is located behind a small door in a living room in the Pink Palace Apartments in Ashland, Oregon, in relations to the real world. The only way to access the Other World is by using a black button key to unlock the door, which the Other Mother doesn't recreate for herself on the other side as only one key is required.
Reign of Terror
Around the 1800s, the Pink Palace was initially constructed as a Victorian mansion and as families began to move into the mansion, the Other Mother also became more active. She targeted mostly bored and neglected children and sent button-eyed ragdolls that eerily resemble them into the real world for them to collect.
They serve as spy cameras for the Other Mother so that she could observe every aspect of her victim's life and find out what is wrong within their lives. Once she had an overall idea of what her victim's life was like, she used her magical powers to recreate the Other World from a spiderweb into a dreamworld that rectifies everything that is wrong in the world that her victim lives in.
The Other Mother also creates enhanced button-eyed inhabitants known as "The Others", who resemble the people that the victim lives with in the real world and are presented as fun and entertaining people, in order to assist the Other Mother's bidding of trying to lure her victim.
Sending out her army of rats into her victim's bedroom, the rats lead the victim into the living room where they enter the door that leads to the Other World. There, they find the Other Mother who disguises herself as their own mother, albeit a prettier and more caring and attentive version.
As her victims became satisfied by the pleasures of the Other World, the Other Mother would promise them endless fun and entertainment in the Other World under the condition that a pair of buttons are to be sewn over their eyes. Once the victim chooses to stay in the Other World forever, the Other Mother gouges out their eyes presumably without any form of anaesthesia and sews buttons over the area. After that, she feeds on their flesh and soul to gain "nutrients" necessary for her survival and imprisons the soul in a dark chamber behind a mirror.
In addition, the Other Mother hides their real eyes in the form of marbles and the only way the souls of her victims could escape is by retrieving their real eyes, alluding to how the eyes are symbolically "the window to the soul". The cycle would repeat for her next victim and repeat again and again. Her known victims in the film and novel are the Tall Ghost Girl, Ghost Boy and the Sweet Ghost Girl who are collectively known as the Ghost Children. The Tall Ghost Girl is shown to have a permanent and twisted gaping mouth in her soul form, alluding to the physical and spiritual pain and suffering she experienced in the hands of the Other Mother.
Encounter with Coraline Jones
The Sweet Ghost Girl had a twin sister named Mrs. Lovat, who later converted the Pink Palace into an apartment and became the landlord of it. Mrs. Lovat also had a grandson named Wybie Lovat and fearing that he and other children living around the area would be harmed and killed by the Other Mother, she refused to rent the apartments to couples with children.
In 2009, the Jones family, who have a daughter named Coraline, move into Ashland, Oregon and move into the Pink Palace Apartments despite the rule that forbids couples with children from moving in (although it's been theorized that Mr and Mrs Jones were so desperate to get the apartment, they lied to Mrs Lovat). Coraline is often frustrated with her own parents as they pay little attention and often spends her time exploring the apartments alone. During her stay, Coraline meets Wybie and a mysterious black cat that lurks around the apartment, who is simply known as the Cat, and is annoyed at both of their presences.
In reality, the Cat was trying to protect Wybie and Coraline from the Other Mother since he was the only being in the real world that held immense knowledge of the Other Mother and the universe she lives in, hence becoming one of her biggest enemies to the point that she even refers to all cats as "vermin" and wanted them exterminated and out from the Other World.
Realizing that a new child has arrived, the Other Mother uses the button-eyed ragdoll that she used to spy on the Sweet Ghost Girl and recreates it to resemble Coraline, which is shown in the opening credits of the film, and sends it into Mrs. Lovat. Wybie discovers the doll in Mrs. Lovat's trunk and sends it to Coraline. Coraline notices that the doll could move positions by itself and it ultimately leads her to the door in the living room.
At night, the Other Mother's rats lead Coraline to the door where she finds the Other Mother, under the disguise of her own mother, cooking in the kitchen to invite her in a dinner in the Other World. Despite warnings from the Cat, who can somehow talk in the Other World which even he does not why, and the other residents in the Pink Palace Apartments, Coraline visits the Other World three times where she visits the Other inhabitants which includes the Other Wybie, who unlike the Cat in the Other World cannot talk. Mesmerised by the wonders of the Other World, the Other Mother invites her into staying in the Other World forever.
Realising that the Other Mother would sew buttons over her eyes if she chose to stay forever, Coraline becomes horrified and rejects the offer adamantly and attempts to leave the Other World, but to no avail as the Other Mother has blocked all exits to the real world. The Cat proceeds to tell Coraline about the true nature of the Other Mother as she tries to run away from the Other World. They eventually walk into a blank dimension of the Other World, which is the space that the Other Mother hasn't used for the recreated dreamworld that she made to tempt Coraline, and walk back into the same place they've started, implying that the Other Mother has limited powers.
Regretting her decision to enter the Other World, Coraline demands the Other Mother to let her return to her real family but this only infuriates her as she turns into a taller, slender and more grotesque version over herself and imprisons her in the dark chamber behind the mirror, where she meets the Ghost Children. The Ghost Children tell her that as a deal to help her return to her own parents, she must find their real eyes in return. Coraline accepts the deal moments before the Other Wybie, whose mouth was mutilated by the Other Mother for supposedly "disobeying" her, grabs her out and helps her escape into the real world.
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 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. 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.
Relieved 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.
Under her disguise of her victims' mothers, the Other Mother appears to be a very loving, caring, attentive, sympathetic, thoughtful, and charismatic maternal figure who meets all the needs and desires that her victims cannot afford in the real world. The Other Mother appears to speak rather eloquently and behaves in a traditionalist manner as she is seen praying before meals during Coraline's first visit to the Other World unlike her real parents who are often fussy and in a hurry in the modernized and more secular world, which emphasizes the archaic nature of her character. She is also seen to be very skilled at cooking and wants to entertain her victims with as much games as possible and orders her creations to do the same thing.
However, when her true nature is revealed, she is revealed to be a completely evil, satanic, sadistic, ruthless, cruel, powerful, manipulative, cold, heartless, ravenous, and delusional complete monster of a being who desires nothing but the flesh and souls of her victims, even having to break the rules of the game that she sets out for her victims, especially with Coraline, in order to achieve her goals, revealing that she is also a massive hypocrite as well. Rather than accept victories, she arrogantly refuses to acknowledge them as seen when Coraline presents her the three eyes of the Ghost Children. She mainly feeds on the neglect and broken family relationships that her victims experience in order to manipulate them so that they could eventually give in into have buttons sewn over their eyes and have their flesh and soul consumed by the Other Mother. In addition, the Other Mother even tries to convince her victims that their real parents have abandoned them and that she is the only person her victims can call "their mother" and sometimes kidnaps their real parents to "prove her point".
Despite having her own creations doing her bidding, the Other Mother behaves in a lone wolf-like manner and has no qualms in mutilating and killing her creations if they disobey or "fail" her. The Other Mother doesn't seem to mind if others around her suffer and is seemingly self-absorbed in acheiving goals that benefit herself only.
She is also implied to be a psychic as during Coraline's visit, she tells that she would play a game with her and sets out the game before Coraline could even challenge her to the game, hinting that the game wasn't for Coraline to resolve deals with the Other Mother but rather to pleasure her as shown when she does not give the slightest concern of Coraline's victory in the game. Her sadism is further emphasized when she gouges out the eyes of her victims and sews buttons over it without applying any form of anesthesia (seen when one of the ghosts of her victims have their mouths permanently gaped open from the pain).
Her major personality trait is the supposed love that shows towards her victims. Coraline had agreed that the Other Mother had truly loved her in the novel but in the film, Coraline cowers with discomfort when she hears about the Other Mother's love and remarks that she "has a funny way of showing that". The Other Mother had loved her but loved her like how a miser loved his gold and to a more accurate and serious comparison, like how a pedophile loved his/her victims. She viewed her victims as objects and pets to exploit and destroy once they "bore" her.
Her personality can be summed into the phrase "the grass is not always greener on the other side" considering that she literally lives on the other side of the real world and often presents herself and the universe she lives in as the "better" alternative when in reality, it is an empty and hellish void for her victims and ultimately for herself.
Powers and Abilities
The Other Mother holds near-omnipotent power over the Other World and is able to twist and recreate the universe accordingly to her victims' idealized perception of a dreamworld. In the film and novel, 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 Other Mother 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 & Other Forcible and the Other Wybie. The Other Wybie is the only Other inhabitant who is not completely deranged and not willing to harm her and is the most sympathetic out of them all.
|“||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 DARE DISOBEY YOUR MOTHER!||„|
|~ 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!||„|
|~ 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 Beldam was origionally the oldest (both from a "character's age" and "studio" standpoint) Laika villain (the role being taken 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 was initially constructed.
- Whenever the Beldam 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, foreshadowing that she will eat Coraline soon. 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.
- The song that the Beldam hums while she is in the kitchen is the same song that played during the opening credits.
- In Chinese translation, the film's titile is known as “鬼妈妈” (gui-ma-ma, the ghostly mother) that refers the Other Mother/Beldam insetad of Coraline.
- In the novel, it is hinted that the Beldam was once a mortal being as it was mentioned that when her mother tried to crawl out of her grave, she pushed her back in, implying that the Beldam was a sadist since childhood. It is possible that she was the original owner of the Pink Palace as her age corresponds to the age of the Pink Palace itself.
- 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 the Beldam's victims can't escape.