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The Beldam (also known as the Other Mother, in reference to her other motherly disguise) is the main antagonist in the 2002 book, Coraline, as well as the 2009 movie of the same name. She is a demonic, shape-shifting entity who lures children into another dimension with the goal of taking their soul. Her original appearance eerily resembles Mel Jones, but her true, sinister form is later revealed to be that of an arachnid form.
- 1 Plot Appearance
- 2 Powers, Abilities, Knowledge
- 3 History, Folklore, Mythology, Etymology
- 4 Quotes
- 5 Trivia
- 6 Gallery
- An excerpt from the main article: Coraline (filmography)
The Beldam is first seen impersonating Mel Jones, going by the alias "The Other Mother," as a ploy to make it seem like Coraline is living in a more lively and vibrant dimension. While The Beldam finishes supper, she instructs Coraline to fetch the other father, but not before dismissing Coraline's initial concern regarding her button eyes. Shortly thereafter, the three of them enjoy a full-course meal, topped with a gravy boat and chandelier smoothie dispenser. The Beldam herself does not eat and ensures it goes unnoticed. Following supper, The Beldam and the Other Father state they have been waiting for Coraline.
The Beldam suggests playing hide-and-seek in the rain. This sparks concern in Coraline as Coraline's real mother despises rain and has no history of playing games with her daughter. Coraline becomes frightened by The Beldam's eerie behavior, and requests to go to bed. To prevent scaring Coraline off any further, The Beldam agrees to Coraline's wishes and shows Coraline her updated and colorful room. The Beldam rubs mud on Coraline's hand to heal the poison oak she contracted earlier that day, then her and the Other Father tuck her into bed and wish her a good night. Coraline wakes up in the real world the following morning.
- An excerpt from the main article: Coraline (books)
- Despite these warnings, Coraline decides to unlock the door when she is home by herself. This time, she finds the brick wall behind the door is gone. In its place is a long hallway that leads to a flat identical to her own, except inhabited by the "Other Mother" and "Other Father," who have black buttons for eyes. The Other Mother is notably taller and thinner than her real mother. Her black hair seems to move by itself, her skin is paper-white, and her nails are long and red. Coraline finds the "Other World" more interesting than her own; the Other Mother cooks food that she actually enjoys, both of her Other Parents pay more attention to her, her toy box is filled with animate toys that can move and fly, the Other Miss Spink and Miss Forcible perform a never-ending act in their flat, and the Other Mr. Bobo performs a mouse circus. She even finds that the feral black cat that wanders around the house in the real world can talk. The cat identifies itself as the same cat that lives in the real world and possesses the ability to travel through the gaps between the two worlds. Although intentionally rude and unhelpful for the greater part of the conversation, it briefly praises her for bringing "protection," then vanishes.
After Coraline returns to the copy of her flat, the Other Mother offers Coraline the opportunity to stay in the Other World forever, but in order to do so, Coraline must allow buttons to be sewn into her eyes. Coraline is horrified and returns through the door to her home. Upon return to her apartment, Coraline finds that her real parents are missing. They do not return the next day, and the black cat wakes her and takes her to a mirror in her hallway, through which she can see her trapped parents. They signal to her by writing "Help Us" on the glass, from which Coraline deduces the Other Mother has kidnapped them. Though frightened of returning, Coraline goes back to the Other World to confront the Other Mother and rescue her parents. In the garden, Coraline is prompted by the cat to challenge the Other Mother, as "her kind of thing loves games and challenges." The Other Mother tries to convince Coraline to stay, but Coraline refuses and is locked within a small space behind a mirror as punishment.
In the small dark closet space, she meets three ghost children. Each had in the past let the Other Mother, whom they archaically refer to as the "beldam," sew buttons over their eyes. They tell Coraline how the Other Mother eventually grew bored with them, leaving them to die and cast them aside, but they are trapped there because she has kept their souls. If their souls can be rescued from the Other Mother, then the ghosts can pass on. The ghost children implore Coraline to escape and avoid their fate.
- After the Other Mother releases Coraline from the mirror, Coraline proposes a game: if she can find the ghost children's souls and her parents, then she, her parents, and the ghost children may go free. If she loses, then Coraline will let the Other Mother sew the buttons into her eyes and become a loving daughter to her. The Other Mother agrees and they both swear on their right hands.
Coraline searches through the Other World and overcomes the Other Mother's obstacles by using her wits and Miss Spink's lucky stone to find the marble-like souls of the ghost children. She also deduces that her parents are imprisoned in a snow globe on the mantelpiece. The ghost children warn her that even if Coraline wins, the Other Mother will not let them go, so Coraline tricks the Other Mother by announcing that she knows where her parents are hidden: in the passageway between the worlds. The Other Mother cannot resist gloating by opening the door to show Coraline that her parents are not there. When the Other Mother opens the door Coraline throws the cat at the Other Mother, grabs the snow globe, and escapes to the real world with the key, and the cat quickly follows. While escaping, Coraline forces the door shut on the Other Mother's hand. Back in her home, Coraline falls asleep on a chair. She is awoken by her parents who have no memory of the events.
That night, Coraline has a dream in which she meets the three children at a picnic. The children are dressed in clothes from different periods and one seems to have wings. They warn her that her task is still not done: the Other Mother will attempt to get her back and will try to get the key to open the door between the worlds. Coraline goes to the old well in the woods to dispose of the key. She pretends to have a picnic, with the picnic blanket laid over the entrance to the well. The Other Mother's severed hand attempts to seize the key, but steps on the blanket and falls into the well. Coraline returns to the house, greeting her neighbors (who finally get her name right), and getting ready for school tomorrow.
- In the DS game, the Beldam appears at the same time as in the movie. The only remarkable changes with the movie are that first there's no transition between the forms, secondly, instead of grabbing Coraline and pushing her into the mirror, she gets her to the front of the mirror first before pushing her, and thirdly, instead of having Coraline to shut the door, the Beldam will instead pursuit her in the tunnel.
This section requires expanding with knowledge derived from the video game.
Powers, Abilities, Knowledge
The beldam demonstrates many abilities but is likely capable of much more, which are elaborated here.
The beldam's appearance wasn't specific until the graphic novel (comic) and the movie. In the novella (book), it is written that she appeared like Coraline's mother but taller and thinner with the notorious button eyes, the graphic novel (comic) reflected on the novella (book)'s description; unlike in the movie, she is identical to Coraline's mother with the exception of a tidier look and the button eyes.
- First Form
- This form resembles Mel Jones, except with a better hair-style and a tidier look.
- Second Form
- After Coraline refused the Other Mother's love and nurturing, she transformed into a longer and scarier version of herself; seemingly the combination of her actual appearance and her appearance as Coraline's real mother. Her rib cage showed and she had an overall more skeletal appearance. Her hair had also become quite unnerving, and the back had turned pointed. Additionally, her fingers became much longer and her nails had become more pointed, her mole increased in size and moved to the edge of her face.
- Third Form/True form
- The third form is her true one. She appears to be a skeletal spider-like creature with a noticeably cracked, seemingly porcelain face and hands made of connected sewing needles. Her hair becomes significantly sharper, and her overall posture is lanky and keen. She also appears to have metallic-spider like legs.
Other Entities, Doppelganger Creation
The Beldam demonstrates the ability to create life; such as other copies of people, which appear to be hand-crafted in the same manner as a sculpture artist and a seamstress does. She created other Wybie from sawdust and other father from a pumpkin.
The Beldam does not appear to have complete control of this created life; some of her creations are capable of disobeying her. Control of her creations appear to be loyalty instilled by either punishment or rewards; she punished Other Wybie for failing to smile all the time by sewing his mouth stuck in a smiling position and had to kick other father's leg to prevent him from accidentally startling Coraline by describing how sharp the button's sewing needle was.
The range of control of this created life seems to stem from the intelligence a creation has; for example, plants and flowers were completely controlled by The Beldam, whereas sentient creations appeared to have a choice; other Bobinsky, other Spink, other Forcible sided with The Beldam when other father, other Wybie sided with Coraline. The only obvious factor to this decision is how attached the other creation is to the child victim.
The Other World, Nigh-Omnipotence
The Beldam demonstrates some but not complete control of the other world. The cat, an arch-enemy of sorts, has the courage to wander in the other world with no fear of the beldam, despite the beldam's disfondness for the cat, that is until a passageway to the real world closes as a result of the beldam. The beldam appeared to rely on the key to the Pink Palace Apartments' door to either open or close the door leading to the other world. When the key is located in the real world with the door locked; the beldam uses her devices to recover it, but these methods can be prevented which would leave the beldam sealed in the other world. The beldam also used the doll to spy and coordinate, in addition to rats, disguised as jumping mice from Bobinsky's mouse circus to direct and lead, Coraline to open the door to the other world for her, early in the movie.
The beldam shows signs of having weather-controlling powers, as seen when she suggested that they play hide-in-seek in the rain, she conjured lighting and rain.
Victims, Soul Extraction
The Beldam is shown to kidnap and store the parents of her victims, as Coraline's parents were held captive by her in the snow globe. When freed, seemingly due to being removed from the other world and returned to reality, they emerged without any memory of the experience and their appearance slowly reverted to the original.
She is also able to claim the souls of her victims, such as the spirits of the three ghost children, whose souls were trapped in the other world, bound to their eyes which now belonged to the beldam. This prevented them from moving on.
The beginning of the film also shows that The Beldam could possibly predict the future. When she changes the doll to look like Coraline, it looks brand new and when Coraline gets the doll, it looks aged and worn out a lot. The Beldam sends the doll back to the real world as soon as she's finished changing it to look like Coraline, so it's likely Wybie's grandma owned it for a while before Coraline was probably even born.
History, Folklore, Mythology, Etymology
One of the child souls captured by the Beldam, the tall ghost girl, is most likely the first victim due to her characteristics stemming from the early 1900s. This, in addition to that Charlie Jones, claims that the Pink Palace Apartments building is 150 years old, suggests the Beldam came into existence between the mid -800s to early 1900s.
Beldam or Belle-dam is another word for witch or hag, although the two are not exactly the same thing. A beldam has been referenced in several legends across the globe..
"God gave Beldam (Muma Pădurii) the designation to stand for the forest and inhabitant away from people unkindness. The Beldam is a spirit of the forest in a very ugly and old woman's body. Sometimes she has the ability to change her shape. She lives in a dark, dreadful, hidden little house. In time, though, the Beldam started to hate foolish people increasingly because they have destroyed what she was trying to defend. If she primarily scared and ran them out, altogether she got to kill indiscriminatingly those who she has met walking in the forest. The Beldam had a girl, The Forest Girl (Fata Pădurii). She is a demon who attracts the young people in the forest, where she kills them. She has two appearances: for the first time when she appears to them, she is a young and very beautiful woman. After the victim is charmed by her beauty, the Beldam transforms into a hideous and tremendous monster, she kills the young and eats his heart because only like this she can keep her youthful appearance. She came out only at night and she never gets out of the forest, so she never attacks the people villages but only those who pass through the forest. "
The Beldam also shares similarities that of faeries, specifically one that is able to make glamour spells (spells that can enchant one thing to appear as something entirely different). In this case, she would have been using glamour spells to make the other world as well as herself and her creations more appealing to appear welcoming for Coraline and previous victims.
It is emphasized in the original book that eating the food the other mother serves is highly dangerous, and eating it makes Coraline's head feel fuzzy and make her less able to see through The Beldam's illusions. There is no reference to this in the movie; but it is worth noting that Coraline stresses how the food seems 'better' in the other world. This correlates to faerie folklore; as it is believed that eating food from the faerie world is terribly dangerous, and consequences range from being trapped in the faerie realm forever, turning into some sort of animal, or never being satisfied with the food of the human realm ever again. The fact that the first thing the other mother did upon Coraline's arrival was to serve her a meal only proves this point further, as the food may give the other mother certain power over Coraline.
The adder stone that Miss Spink made for Coraline also comes into play. Such stones with holes in it are also known as hag stones, witch stones, and faerie stones. These stones are believed to ward off evil and, in the book, reference is made to this when Coraline clutches the stone into her hand to protect herself. Looking through the hole of an adder stone also is believed to grant the user the ability to see through false illusions and find real things, something Coraline did to search for each of the lost children's souls and her parents.
There is also a legendary figure known as Goody Cole who was said to be a beldam.
It would appear that the location for the film could be an adaptation of a valley in Yosemite, which can be connected to the image in this story, as found on the link provided.
These references shared themes with the story. Themes include shape-shifting, child destruction, and being buried in a pit (well).
- The title; beldam, may have been taken from the French word belle dame, which means "beautiful woman". There are other connotations such as belle-mere which literally translates as "beautiful mother" but also means "stepmother," and the archaism that means "witch".
- It is also possible that the title was influenced by John Keats' poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci (The Beautiful Woman Without Mercy), in which a knight is seduced by a beautiful woman, who appears to feed off of him. The knight is told by her "death-pale" past victims that he has fallen for her facade. This is comparable to how the other mother gives Coraline the life she wants and attempts to trick her into staying so that she can take Coraline's soul to keep her alive.
- "Bedlam" is a word that is very similar to an anagram of "Beldam". "Bedlam" means "mad man, lunatic (obsolete)", "an asylum for the mentally ill", and "a place, scene, or state of uproar and confusion".
These quotes are all said in chronological order.
- "You're just in time for supper, dear!"
- "We've been waiting for you, Coraline."
- "Black is traditional...but if you prefer pink, or vermilion or chartreuse...though you might make me jealous."
- "They say even the proudest spirit can be broken, with love."
- "Is that any way to talk to your mother?"
- "You may come out when you've learned to be a loving daughter!"
- "Everyone likes...games.
- "In each of three wonders I've made just for you, a ghost eye is lost in plain sight."
- "So... you're back. And you've brought...vermin with you."
- "You know I love you..."
- "You horrible cheating girl!"
- "Don't leave me! Don't leave me! I'll die without you!"
- The other mother was #9 on IFC's list of Worst Mothers in movies.
- In the graphic novel (comic book), The Beldam claims she put her own mother in a grave and then put her back in when she tried to crawl out.
- The Seamstress in the film 9 was a nod to the other mother in Coraline. Both films were created by Focus Features.
- It could be possible that, since her creation, The Beldam relies on the souls of the children to continue existing, to the point that she becomes increasingly desperate and more impatient to get Coraline to sew the buttons on her eyes. This is shown when she screams that she will die without Coraline.
- Whenever The Beldam prepares seemingly normal human food, it is shown that, unlike Coraline and the other father, she eats none of it. Either having an empty plate or having no plate at all, she prefers to keep her attention on Coraline. The only time she is ever shown eating in the book or film is when she eats a live cocoa beetle(s) or regular bugs. This could allude to her spider-like qualities, having an interest in bugs. It is worth noting that Coraline wears a small dragonfly hairpin, further alluding to the fact that the other mother thinks of her as food.
- It could be possible that The Beldam is a shapeshifter as she can transform into the child's mother. she was also able to transform into Coraline's real mother to trick her before quickly transforming into her second form.
- The Beldam probably had to exchange her decaying body parts for things such as needles to stay alive
- It is possible that The Beldam slowly transforming into her true form is the magic slipping away from the world