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|Aliases:||Other Mother, Belle-dame|
|Skin Color:|| White (first form) |
White-light (second form)
Light (third real form)
|Affiliation:|| Pink Palace |
|Voiced by:||Teri Hatcher|
The Beldam, as preferred by the ghost children or otherwise known as the Other Mother as she first introduced herself as, is the main antagonist of the novel as well as the film adaptation. In the film both Mel and she are voiced by Teri Hatcher, and by Amanda Troop in the videogame.
The Beldam was first seen in the beginning of the film as the hands that customized the doll akin in appearance to the Sweet Ghost Girl, Mrs. Lovat's missing twin sister, before dismantling it and sewing it again, making it similar to Coraline Jones's physical appearance before throwing it through what seemed like an opened window into the real world. Later, it was revealed that the Beldam spied on her victims through the little doll's eyes, making note of whatever happened in the real world, and proceeding to make it better.
The Other Mother has no solid identity. However, it is known that she is quite old, considering the children, who Coraline met behind the mirror and the Belle-dame had stolen and killed, had been in the Other World for years, evident by their old-styled speech. The Belle-dame was clearly a mystery, having little information of her origin, which even the Cat does not say anything about. Presumably, he doesn't know anything about her either. However, this does little to detract from the Beldam's terror, further enforced through her anonymous origin and identity.
Other than wanting love and eating lives from victimized children, what the Belle-dame truly wants was never identified in the book. In the film, her intentions to consume Coraline's soul are much more obvious and it's implied that this has always been her nature and her kindness to the children she lures has always been a ruse. In the book, however, it is made clear that the Belle-dame does wish for something to love, and the only reason she kills her children is because she becomes bored with them and stops loving them once she has them for herself.
The Other Mother does want what she believes to be love, although it's more of a possessive, manipulative affection she longs for. Furthermore, she sees everything as objects that she wishes to control which ends up destroying people. In the case of the Ghost Children, once she finally had them for themselves, she later grew bored and ended up taking their souls.
When the Belle-dame told Coraline she loves her, Coraline nodded despite herself because it was true. According to her, the Other Mother truly loved her. But she loved Coraline as a miser loves money, or a dragon loves its gold.
Unlike the real Mel Jones, the Other Mother was definitely more fun and also appeared to be better at cooking, offering Coraline exotic food that she found rather very delicious and tasty. However, after Coraline had told her real mother it was the perfect time to go gardening in the rain (which she only said to have something to say), the Other Mother made her first mistake by suggesting to play in the rain. Coraline noticed her tapping her fingers on the table, which she had found rather suspicious. However, she overlooked it when the Other Mother showed Coraline a better version of her room and cured the Poison Oak Rash. When Coraline visited the neighbors, the Beldam made more entertaining versions of them, showing that the other mother paid careful attention to Coraline's liking.
After Coraline's third visit to the Other World, the Other Mother finally said that Coraline could stay in the Other World forever if she sewed buttons on her eyes. When the Other Father tried to say to Coraline that it wouldn't hurt, the Other Mother was seen kicking the Other Father under the table with a face of displeasure. When Coraline refused and lied about being tired, the Other Mother showed patience and told Coraline, "Soon, you'll see things our way," which was the beginning of the Other Mother's action into changing.
After talking to the Other Father, who seemed to have become rather different and gloomy, Coraline saw the Other Mother in the living room, expecting her. The Other Mother forced Coraline to accept her love to which Coraline refused again, and finally, the Other Mother's appearance began to change and became more like her real one.
While Other Mother appears good at cooking, she is never seen eating. When both Coraline and Other Father have a full plate and eat from it, Other Mother never puts anything on her own plate.
The Belle-dame's appearance had never really been very specific. In the book and film, it is said and shown that she looked like Coraline's mother, which presumably is what she does to lure children. The Belle-dame must have taken the form of the children's mothers in order to gain their trust, fooling them into believing her lies.
When first met by Coraline, the Other Mother strangely had the same appearance of Coraline's mother, Mel Jones. Except: her physical attributes were better than the original, such as, being prettier and healthier, wearing red lipstick and has a beautiful mole right above her lips and she has red nail polish and a lack of bags under her eyes which were replaced by black buttons instead, and more accented curves (mainly due to the lively clothing she wore, unlike the real Mel Jones, whose appearance was rather dull.)
In the book, the Other Mother was described as such: She looked a little like Coraline's mother. Only . . . Only her skin was white as paper. Only she was taller and thinner. Only her fingers were too long, and they never stopped moving, and her dark red fingernails were curved and sharp. This in-book appearance has a similarity to her second form in the film.
After Coraline refused her love and said that she was not her mother, the Other Mother, who was sitting in the art room, stood up, and up and up: and she seemed taller than Coraline had remembered and also much more like her real form. In the film, the same thing happened. The Other Mother stood up until she was a longer and terrifying version of herself with her rib cage showing. Her hair had also become quite unnerving, and the back had turned pointed. Furthermore, her fingers became much longer and also her nails had become sharply more pointed and her mole/beauty mark got a little bigger and moved to edge of her face.
The second form is hinted at a scene earlier, when Other Mother picks Coraline up after the Miss Spink and Miss Forcible show. Other Mother's dress shows a hidden abdomen-like part that that even shows red marks like a redback or widow spider.
By the time Coraline had found all the Ghost Children's eyes, the Beldam was finally in her real form. The appearance was much like her second form, but only scarier and more unbecoming. Her paper white face was marred with cracks and her cheekbones were sharper and lost her mole/beauty mark. Her body possessed an excessively thin waist and bone-like chest. Her hands had also become physical needles, which were seen in the beginning of the movie, and she stood taller and hunched with a display that resembled a spider.
At first, the Other Mother is shown to be rather sweet and considerate, greeting Coraline with sentimental and caring persona. Over time however, as Coraline rejects sewing buttons into her eyes, her personality slowly begins to erode and warp, showing a more sinister light in her behavior. She becomes less patient with her, becoming less sweet and more obsessive in her goal to have Coraline for herself. Whether or not her affections for Coraline are genuine is left up for debate.
It is implied that she is very sadistic and cruel to her creations, turning the Other Father into a pumpkin-like creature to scare off Coraline and forcing him to manage the praying-mantis tractor machine to fight off Coraline's search for the eyes, as well as stitching Other Wybie's mouth into a crooked smile as punishment for frowning when "saying goodbye" to Coraline.
A constant in her personality (aside from her obsession with Coraline) is her love of games, allowing Coraline the risk of finding the ghost-eyes and her parents for the sake of the game. She seems to tap her fingers on a surface whenever it is brought up, implying excitement from the idea.
She also seems to hate cats - referring to them as "vermin" - though this could be because of how easily they can benefit from her world.
In the book, it was implied that the Beldam had been a sadist ever since childhood, shown when she swore on her mother's grave.
Powers and Abilities
The full extent of her abilities have yet to be revealed, but it is clear she has near omnipotent (and mild omniscient) power over the Other World and all of its inhabitants. She has the power to create life, ranging from people to animals and fully animate plant-life. How they behave seem to depend, as the animals and plants seem to be under her full control, while certain human-creations like the Other Father and Other Wybie have some kind of free will. It is implied that she hand-made the Other World in the same manner as an artist and a sewer would, every living thing in the Other World possessing button-eyes and other Wybie's hand being made of sawdust beneath his glove.
The Beldam is also apparently able to kidnap and temporarily store the parents of her victims, as Coraline's parents were held captive by the Beldam in the The Snow Globe, and emerged without any memory of the experience.
She has the power to shape-shift, first taking the form of her victim's mother (all-be it more lively and inviting) and slowly transitions into her true form overtime, slowly deteriorating like the rest of her creations. It is shown that her buttons operate as fully-functioning eyes, becoming blinded and relying on her sense of hearing to navigate when the cat clawed them off.
She is also able to possess the souls of those she has claimed, the ghosts of her previous victims trapped in the Other World unable to pass on.
Despite her immense powers, her abilities clearly has their limits. Apart from her creations acting upon their own free-will should they try it - nearly compromising her plans on more than one occasion - she is also unable to replicate the key to the doorway in and out of the Other World, having become trapped when Coraline locked the door forever.
Beldam History and Folklore
Beldam, Balder, or Belle-dame is another word for witch, although the two are not exactly the same thing. A beldam has been referenced in several legends across the globe. A reference to Romanian folklore is made at http://comenius-legends.blogspot.com/2010/07/valva.html :
" 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, however, 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 Balder transforms into a hideous and tremendous monster, she kills the young and eats his heart because only like this she can keep her youth appearance. She came out only at night and she never gets out the forest, so she never attacks the people villages but only those who pass through the forest. "
There is also a legendary figure known as Goody Cole who was said to be a Beldam. The source for the story is here. http://www.sacred-texts.com/ame/lol/lol146.htm.
"Goodwife Eunice Cole, of Hampton, Massachusetts, was so "vehemently suspected to be a witch" that in 1680 she was thrown into jail with a chain on her leg. She had a mumbling habit, which was bad, and a wild look, which was worse. The death of two calves had been charged to her sorceries, and she was believed to have raised the cyclone that sent a party of merrymakers to the sea-bottom off the Isles of Shoals, for insulting her that morning. Some said that she took the shapes of eagles, dogs, and cats, and that she had the aspect of an ape when she went through the mummeries that caused Goody Marston's child to die, yet while she was in Ipswich jail a likeness of her was stumping about the graveyard on the day when they buried the child. For such offences as that of making bread ferment and give forth evil odors, that housekeepers could only dispel by prayer, she was several times whipped and ducked by the constable.
At last she lay under sentence of death, for Anna Dalton declared that her child had been changed in its cradle and that she hated and feared the thing that had been left there. Her husband, Ezra, had pleaded with her in vain. "'Tis no child of mine," she cried. "'Tis an imp. Don't you see how old and shrewd it is? How wrinkled and ugly? It does not take my milk: it is sucking my blood and wearing me to skin and bone." Once, as she sat brooding by the fire, she turned to her husband and said, "Rake the coals out and put the child in them. Goody Cole will fly fast enough when she hears it screaming, and will come down chimney in the shape of an owl or a bat, and take the thing away. Then we shall have our little one back."
Goodman Dalton sighed as he looked into the worn, scowling face of his wife; then, laying his hands on her head, he prayed to God that she might be led out of the shadow and made to love her child again. As he prayed a gleam of sunset shone in at the window and made a halo around the face of the smiling babe. Mistress Dalton looked at the little thing in doubt; then a glow of recognition came into her eyes, and with a sob of joy she caught the child to her breast, while Dalton embraced them both, deeply happy, for his wife had recovered her reason. In the midst of tears and kisses the woman started with a faint cry: she remembered that a poor old creature was about to expiate on the gallows a crime that had never been committed. She urged her husband to ride with all speed to justice Sewall and demand that Goody Cole be freed. This the goodman did, arriving at Newbury at ten o'clock at night, when the town had long been abed and asleep. By dint of alarms at the justice's door he brought forth that worthy in gown and night-cap, and, after the case had been explained to him, he wrote an order for Mistress Cole's release.
With this paper in his hand Dalton rode at once to Ipswich, and when the cock crew in the dawning the victim of that horrible charge walked forth, without her manacles. Yet dark suspicion hung about the beldam to the last, and she died, as she had lived, alone in the little cabin that stood near the site of the academy. Even after her demise the villagers could with difficulty summon courage to enter her cot and give her burial. Her body was tumbled into a pit, hastily dug near her door, and a stake was driven through the heart to exorcise the powers of evil that possessed her in life."
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 writing of Coraline may have taken some essence of this legendary figure into the construction of the antagonist.
- "Maybe they got bored with you and moved away to France."
- "Black is traditional."
- "But if you prefer pink, or vermillion or chartreuse..."
- "Sharper than a serpent's tooth is a daughter's ingratitude. Still, the proudest spirit can be broken, with love."
- Beldam: "I swear it on my mother's grave."Coraline: Does she even have a grave?"Beldam: "Oh yes. I put her there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back."Coraline: "Swear at something else so I can believe you."
- "In each of three wonders I've made just for you, a ghost eye is lost in plain sight."
- "You may come out . . . when you've learned to be a loving daughter."
- "Don't leave me! Don't leave me! I'll die without you!"
- The name Beldam might have been taken from the French word belle-dame, which means "beautiful lady". However, there are other connotations such as belle-mere which literally translates as "beautiful mother" but also means "step mother," and the archaism that means "hag."
- The Seamstress in the film 9 was a nod to the Other Mother in Coraline. Both films were created by Focus Features.
- In Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, on the DC Universe perspective, a doll of the Joker can be seen. Like the Coraline doll that the Belle-dame is shown creating at the start of the film, the Joker doll has buttons for eyes.
- 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 due to not getting Coraline.
- The Other Mother was #9 on IFC's list of Worst Mothers in movies.
- Teri Hatcher describes The Other Mother as the perfect opposite of Mel Jones, she can cook and do many other things Mel can't. Teri said it was fun playing a character who starts out nice then becomes not-so-nice.
- Whenever the Other Mother 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. 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.