Physical Appearance Edit
The Beldam's appearance had never really been very specific. In the book, it is said that she looked slightly like Coraline's mother, just taller and thinner with the notorious button eyes. In the film however, she is almost identical to Coraline's mother, with the exception of her button eyes. This is presumably is what she does to lure children. The Beldam must have taken the form of the children's mothers in order to gain their trust, fooling them into believing her lies.
First Form Edit
This form resembles Mel Jones except having a better hairstyle and no bags under her button eyes. Soon after Coraline decides to leave her 'Other' bedroom after sealing herself in, she engages in a heated conversation with the Other Mother in which the latter transitions into her next form.
After Coraline refused her love and said that she was not her mother, the Other Mother stood up and transformed into a longer and more terrifying version of herself with her rib cage showing and an overall more skeletal appearance. Her hair had also become quite unnerving, and the back had turned pointed. Furthermore, her fingers became much longer and her nails had become more pointed, her mole/beauty mark got a little bigger and moved to edge of her face.
Third Form/True formEdit
The third form is the Beldam's true form, it's much more scary-looking. A terrifying skeletal spider-like creature, whose face is noticeably cracked and hands turned into tiny sewing needles, neatly connected to one another. Her hair sharpened significantly, and her overall posture is lanky and keen. The Beldam also appears to have metallic-spider like legs and powers.
Powers and Abilities Edit
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. She apparently made the Other Father from a pumpkin.
She may have been shown at the beginning of the film sewing the Coraline doll and using buttons for eyes. She uses the doll to spy on the person it resembles. She then creates what the child desires, in order to lure them into her domain.
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 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 (albeit 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 the vibrations of her web and 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 have 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 Edit
Romanian Folklore Edit
One of the child souls captured by the Beldam, described as the "Pioneer 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 is 150 years old, suggest the Beldam to have come into existence between the mid 1800s 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. A reference to Romanian folklore is made at http://comenius-legends.blogspot.com/2010/07/v\alva.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 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 the forest, so she never attacks the people villages but only those who pass through the forest. "
Faerie Folklore Edit
It is also widely speculated that the Beldam may also be some type of faerie, specifically one that is able to make glamour spells (spells that can enchant one thing to appear as something entirely different). In this case, the Beldam would have been using glamour spells to make the other world as well as herself more appealing and welcoming to Coraline and other 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 on how the food seems 'better' in the Other World. This ties 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.
Goody Cole EditThere 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.
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.
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."
- "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 name Beldam might have been taken from the French word belle dame, which means "beautiful woman". 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 "witch".
- It is also possible that the name Beldam 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.
- 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 due to not getting Coraline.
- The Other Mother was #9 on IFC's list of Worst Mothers in movies.
- 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.