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 by Neil Gaiman.
In the 2009 film, she's voiced by Teri Hatcher.
She is the demonic button-eyed arachnoid ruler of the Other World. She kidnaps children who move into the pink palace in attempt to eat their lives and imprison their souls. She frequently disguises herself as her victims' mothers, hence her name as the Other Mother.
Her origins are very vague and even what she really is, is unknown. However, the novel canon hints that the Beldam was formerly human, as evidenced when she recounted her childhood experience of burying her mother alive in. The Beldam even appears to have normal human skin and body parts in her true form. In contrast, the film canon never mentions any of this and its assumed that she's a demonic arachnoid being whose body is mostly composed of sewing needles, except for her face which is made out of cracked porcelain.
The Beldam wields immense power over the Other World, a parallel dimension, which is in reality a gigantic spiderweb surrounded by a blank void. In the novel canon, the Other World in its true form resembles a drawing sketch created by a careless child. However, the Beldam can only twist and modify the Other World to her liking, implying that her powers have limitations or that she wasn't the true founder of the Other World. In relations to the real world, the Other World is located behind a small door in the living room of the Pink Palace Apartments in Ashland, Oregon. The only way to access it was by using a button key.
Around the 1850s, the Pink Palace Apartments was initially a mansion, inhabited by several different families.To sustain her existence, the Beldam seized the opportunity to lure in children to the Other World. In her sewing room, the Beldam created button-eyed ragdolls that resembled her chosen victim and sent them into the void outside. The doll would eventually reach to the real world, where her victim would unwillingly collect it. Through this, the Beldam was able to spy on their lives to find out what was wrong with it.
Once she had an overall idea on what her victim lacked in the real world, the Beldam modified the Other World into becoming a whimsical copy of the victim's real world, including its inhabitants, who also have button eyes and are entirely composed of sawdust. Sending her rats into the real world at night, her victim would wake up and follow them downstairs to the door in the living room. Crawling through a colourful corridor, the victim would meet the Beldam, under the disguise of their real mother. Entertained by the Other World's glamour, her victims would be offered the chance to stay here forever, under the condition that a pair of buttons will be sewn over their eyes. Her victims tended to accept the offer, considering how miserable their real life was, and after they accepted, the Beldam painfully gouged out their eyes, sewed buttons over it and consumed their flesh. The doll element is not included in the novel canon and the Beldam lures her victims immediately by sending out her rats, indicating her impatient nature.
Afterwards, the Beldam imprisoned their souls in a dark chamber behind a mirror and relied upon their "soul energy" to survive, which she often drained. She also hid their real eyes in marbles, the only way for their souls to pass onto the afterlife. The Beldam successfully kidnapped and killed several children in the past, including the Tall Ghost Girl, the Ghost Boy and the Sweet Ghost Girl. According to them, they have forgotten their birth names due to their prolonged imprisonment and thus, they are distinguished by these nicknames.
The Pink Palace Apartments was eventually converted into an apartment by Mrs. Lovat, the Sweet Ghost Girl's twin sister. Fearing that more children would suffer a similar fate like her twin sister, Mrs. Lovat enforced a no child policy, which forbid couples with children from renting the apartment. She especially forbid her grandson Wybie from entering the apartment's premises and whenever he explored near the premises, she would often yell his name and demand him to return home.
Role in film Edit
In 2009, Charlie and Mel Jones, who have a daughter named Coraline, move from Pontiac, Michigan to Oregon, where they decide to stay at the Pink Palace Apartments, despite the no child policy (although it's theorized that Charlie and Mel simply forgotten to mention their daughter, considering how little they pay attention to her, if not Michigan laws). Coraline frequently explores the apartment alone, especially the garden, due to her parents busily working on their gardening catalog. During her stay, Coraline encounters Wybie and a mysterious black cat, simply known as the Cat, and is annoyed at both of their presences. In reality, the Cat was trying to protect both Wybie and Coraline from the Beldam, due to his detailed knowledge of the Other World, which he can freely enter through various portals. Its also revealed that the Cat can speak, although this ability is restricted to the Other World. Because of this, the Beldam harbours immense hatred towards the Cat and desires to rid all cats, which she refers to as "vermin", from the Other World.
Despite the Cat's attempts, the Beldam retrieves the button-eyed ragdoll she used to lure the Sweet Ghost Girl and modifies it to resemble Coraline (its unknown why she didn't do the same for Wybie). The doll later ends up in Mrs. Lovat's trunk and discovering its eerie resemblance to Coraline, Wybie decides to give it to Coraline as a "gift". Initially creeped out, Coraline nevertheless plays with the doll whilst exploring the apartment. As Coraline explores the living room, she discovers that the doll lying in front of the small door by itself. Requesting her mother to unlock the door with the button key, Coraline is disappointed to discover that the door has been bricked up, most likely by Mrs. Lovat.
At night, Coraline is awaken by a group of rats, who lead her to the door downstairs. She discovers that the bricks have been replaced by a colourful corridor, which she curiously crawls through. In the Other World, Coraline meets the Beldam, currently under the disguise of Mel Jones. She finds her more warm and attentive than her real mother and eventually meets the rest of the button-eyed duplicates of her neighbours, including the Other Wybie, who is mute. Afterwards, the Beldam offers her a chance to stay in the Other World forever by giving her a present.
Coraline opens the present and discovers a pair of buttons, a spool of thread and a sewing needle. Realising what this would gruesomely entail, Coraline refuses the offer and plans to return to home. She tries to leave the Other World in a non-suspicious manner but the Beldam already knows this and blocks all the exits to the real world. Eventually, Coraline confronts the Beldam in the living room to let her go home. However, the Beldam "disciplines" her by throwing her into the dark chamber behind the mirror. Inside, Coraline meets the ghosts of the Beldam's previous victims, who recount their stories and plead her to find their real eyes.
Coraline tearfully promises to find their real eyes moments before the Other Wybie drags her out of the chamber, whose mouth is stitched into a horrific grin by the Beldam for failing to smile. She relieves his injuries and despite being aware of what would happen to him, the Other Wybie sacrifices himself to assist Coraline in escaping, which is ultimately successful. The Beldam, however, overhears them downstairs and finds the Other Wybie, kills him and hangs his clothing on the flagpole on the apartment's rooftop.
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 horrible, 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. As the Cat escapes back to the real 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.