"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 ghosts describing the Beldam's modus operandi.
"You may come out when you learn to be a loving daughter."
- The Beldam punishing Coraline whilst playing 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 dark fantasy 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, a parallel universe. There, she lures in neglected or bored children from the real world whilst disguising herself as their mothers. Once lured in, the Beldam sews buttons over their eyes, kills them, consumes their souls and waits for her next victim to arrive.
She was voiced by Teri Hatcher.
Differences Between Novel and Film
In the novel, the Beldam was implied to be a former human, who somehow became a demonic fae-like creature later on, presumably after death. She hints this to Coraline when she recounts how she buried her own mother alive in a grave as a child. Additionally, in her true form, she has human skin although her blood is compared 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. She also never directly kills her creations, regardless of their disobedience, but instead brainwashes them via torture to do things against their will, for example to harm Coraline. Despite her evil, she holds no personal grudge against the victim's close ones in the real world, only harming them if they obstruct her plan. She even recognises that her "love" towards her victims is purely selfish. After her defeat by Coraline, her severed hand stalks her in the real world for days. Coraline nevertheless is able to overpower the hand easily without much effort or thought.
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 (with the expectation of the Other Father who wanted to really help Coraline to escape the Other World).
"Black is traditional."
- The Other Mother
"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 lies to Coraline about her missing parents
"I thought you'd like him more if he talked a little less. So I fixed him."
- Other Mother about the Other Wybie
"You horrible cheating girl!"
- Other Mother before transforming the floor into a spiderweb.
"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 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.