Coraline: The History of The Beldam | Horror History


If you want to hear the unknown origins and
abilities of the Other Mother that we don’t see in the story, then stick around to the
end of this video. This lesson is sponsored by Audible. [INTRO] The Beldam is the dreaded seamstress that
inhabits a realm used for luring in unsuspecting children to feast on their souls. Welcome to Horror History, last episode we
talked about the history of Coraline Jones, so today’s I’ll be covering her antagonist,
The Other Mother, also known as The Beldam. The story keeps the Beldam mostly shrouded
in mystery, but it does leave little clues that we can use to learn more about the creature’s
past, it’s distinctive capabilities and moreover its purpose in the twisted world
it calls home. So who is The Beldam and how did it come to
be? In order to understand, let’s take it back
hundreds of years to the origin of the Other Mother. [HORROR HISTORY] It’s never explicitly stated how old The
Beldam is, but we can determine that by studying the souls of the victims she has captured. It seems she has been luring in children for
hundreds of years if not more. Perhaps her oldest victim is a little boy
whose ghost is discovered by Coraline when she’s locked behind the mirror. When he first sees Coraline he asks, “Art
thou—art thou alive?” The phrase is derived from Old English, and
it’s usage started to decline in the 17th Century. When Coraline asks if he’s a boy or a girl,
he can’t remember, but he says he used to wear skirts, but believes he was a boy. He may be speaking of a style called breeching
where boys younger than eight would be dressed in articles of clothing known as breeches,
and that practice was most common from the 1500s to the early late 1800s. I researched the year by year usage of some
of the other words the boy uses, like Governess, Tain’t, Scullery and Peradventure and determined
that the boy most likely lived between 1700 and 1760. It is possible that the Beldam is older than
that, but the boy is her first known victim. The word Beldam as we know it today actually
goes back to the 1660s, and refers to an old woman or witch, a possible clue about the
nature of the Beldam’s powers having something to do with witchcraft. The stone that Miss Spink and Miss Forcible
give Coraline to help combat the danger that she might encounter is an Adder Stone, which
is also known as a Hag Stone or Witch Stone. Coraline uses it’s magic to find the souls
hidden by the Beldam, so it makes sense that a witch artifact would need to be used to
combat against a witch. Additionally, the Adder Stone is said to be
made from the head of a serpent, the word “adder” actually refers to a type of snake. The Beldam has many spider-like properties,
and including the final form we see being and arachnid creature, and spiders are said
to be afraid of snakes. At least that’s what Harry Potter taught
me. “It is an ancient creature we spiders fear above all others.” Witches are often portrayed with the ability
to transform into an animal form, so it makes sense that The Other Mother’s true form
is a spider. It seems that the Beldam has the ability to
take almost any form it wants, so it’s possible that it only took the spider form at the end
because Coraline is afraid of spiders, however, some of her more intrinsic attributes
point to her true form being a spider, which I will point out as we go through her story. For example, the Beldam has been living in
this other world for 100s of years and using it to lure in kids so she can steal their
souls, which is at one point compared to how a spider weaves its web to capture flies. It’s never explicitly stated why she needs
these kids’ souls, but according to The Cat, “She wants something to love… I think Something that isn’t her. She might want something to eat as well. It’s hard to tell with creatures like that.” So it seems like she needs to lure in these
children so that she can eat them, or possibly capture their souls and slowly feast off them
for 100s of years. At the time Coraline’s family moves into
the house, the Beldam has captured at least three of these souls. Her world seems to be anchored to this one
particular house, because all of her victims seem to be kids who lived there; she doesn’t
seem to have the ability and travel to seek out new victims, which may explain why she’s
so desperate to capture Coraline. She also has the ability to manipulate her
world to make it more attractive to the kid that she’s trying to abduct. When Coraline moves in, she gets to work creating
the perfect world so that Coraline will want to stay there forever. She seems to be able to fabricate her own
realities, but “she couldn’t truly make anything,” she only had the ability to “copy
and distort things that already existed.” So she spends two weeks studying Coraline’s
behaviour and building a world that consisted of three wonders designed to entice the young
girl, like a theater that performs amazing and thrilling displays to counter the boring
old ladies downstairs, a spectacular mouse circus in place of the strange man living
above the Joneses, and home with delicious food and attentive parents as opposed to Coraline’s
real home, where he parents are always busy and the meals rarely cater to her palette. The Beldam built a gateway between the two
pockets of reality behind a blocked off doorway to another flat that had piqued Coraline’s
interest upon discovering it. There were other ways in and out of the world,
which are used by The Cat, but we never end up seeing any of them. When the illusion is ready, The Beldam uses
her magic to invade Coraline’s dream, making her see dark shapes that gather under the
moon and sing, probably to make her dreams seem more interesting than her reality and
make her appreciate the other world even more. One day Coraline’s curiosity gets the better
of her and she swipes the key to the unused door and opens it to find the passageway,
on the other side of which she meets her Other Mother. She is described as being taller and thinner
than her real mother, which paper-white skin, longer teeth, shiny black hair that drifts
as if blowing in a wind or a current and large black buttons in place of her eyes. She tells Coraline to go get her Other Father,
who is another creation of the Beldam. It does seems that there are other life forms
in the other world, but they are completely at the mercy and control of the Other Mother. The Other Father is the first example, but
he doesn’t have the same origin as The Other Mother. It seems he’s more of a featureless blank
slate life form that she has formed and manipulated to look and act like Coraline’s father,
and she’s given him black button eyes to sell the idea that the two of them are a couple,
just like Coraline’s real parents. The fact that The Other Mother sews together
these creations is another example of her similarity to spiders, who weave webs using
string, which they also use to wrap up their victims. The Beldam is the only life form of her kind
in the other world, but there are two other entities lurking in the dark whose origins
have never been fully elaborated on until now. If you want to fully experience the dark twisted
world of Coraline, the best way to do it is by listening to the audiobook on Audible. The audiobook is narrated by Coraline’s
legendary author, Neil Gaiman. I love listening to the story and knowing
that every line is being told exactly the way the author intended it. But I use Audible for so much more than just
diving deeper into Coraline. Pretty much any book you can think of has
a narrated version on Audible, but that’s far from the extent of their offerings — you
can also listen to podcasts, comedy performances, Audible originals that you’ll never find
in print and so much more. What I love about the service is that it can
be so hard to find the time to read a book in today’s world, but thanks to Audible,
you don’t really have to. It’s great for me when I’m making these
videos because I don’t have to stop every time I want to take notes, I can just have
it continue reading while I’m typing. And when I’m listening to a title for fun,
I can turn it on in the car, while I’m cooking, while I’m exercising, sometimes even while
I’m working and I get to hear so many great stories that I never would have had the time
for before. Just visit audible dot com slash czsworld
or text czsworld to 500-500. I’ll leave the link for you in the description. Again, that’s audible dot com slash czsworld. The Other Mother and Other Father tell Coraline
that everyone has a second set of parents, and this is all part of the lie created by
The Other Mother to make Coraline feel more comfortable staying in the other world. She sends Coraline up to play with the rats
in her bedroom. The rats are basically like henchman that
do all of Other Mother’s bidding. They entertain Coraline and stack on top of
one another to give a humanoid form to the clothes of the man upstairs. At first she thinks that this is simply The
Other Mr. Bobo, just as she has an Other Mother and Other Father, but by the end of the book
it becomes clear that The Other Mother doesn’t have someone to play that role, it’s actually
just the group of mice pretending to be a person. But there are two more human-looking “other”
forms that Coraline encounters in the Beldam’s world, which she encounters when she goes
downstairs to check out the theater that has replaced the flat of Miss Spink and Miss Forcible. Coraline learns that the performers did not
actually look like the old ladies when they take off the fat suits and reveal thin young
women with black button eyes. These would be the last two human characters
with buttons sewn over their eyes. So we have the Other Mother, who is the shape-shifting
Beldam herself, the Other Father, who doesn’t actually look like Coraline’s
father, and these two women, who are actually just wearing costumes to make them look like
Spink and Forcible. So who are these other life forms living in
The Beldam’s domain? We know that the Other Mother’s goal is
to eventually sew buttons over Coraline’s eyes, so what if these other people being
manipulated by her the bodies of the children she abducted over the years? The idea makes sense, because there are only
three of them, two female and one male, and we later find that the kids’ souls have
been removed from their bodies, and they continue to exist only as ghosts who can no longer
remember what they were like in life. While Coraline is busy inside the theater,
The Other Mother returns to the real world and kidnaps Coraline’s parents. She imprisons them inside of a snowglobe and
hides it away on the mantle in the drawing room of the other world. At the end of Coraline’s visit to the theater,
her other parents greet her outside of the house and make the offer to let Coraline stay
forever if she can sew the buttons over her eyes. Coraline promptly tells her she’ll be leaving
now, and “her Other Mother’s hand scuttled off Coraline’s shoulder like a frightened
spider.” They tell her to come back soon, and she leaves. The Other Mother seals back up the doorway,
likely to let Coraline’s anticipation of returning to the world build before she reopens
it. Eventually Coraline returns to the Beldam’s
world to try to find her parents and The Other Mother tells her that her parents were bored
of her, and it is here that we learn of another magic ability she possesses for the purposes
of deceit and manipulation. She’s able to brush her hand against the
mirror and create an image of Coraline’s real parents. They appear to be going on vacation without
their daughter and boasting about how nice it is not to have Coraline weighing them down. Coraline doesn’t fall for the false image,
so the Other Mother resorts to a less psychological tactic by having one of her rats run into
the real world and steal the key to the doorway so that Coraline can’t get back out. The other parents go to bed, commenting on
how they’ll need their beauty sleep if they aren’t going to have a midnight snack. I’m guessing that snack was supposed to
be Coraline, and this is the first suggestion of the idea that The Other Mother needs to
eat in order to keep using her powers or spells. There’s some evidence of this the next day,
then Coraline wakes up and goes into the Other Father’s study, and he’s just sitting
there not doing anything at all. She also thinks “he looked less like her
true father today. There was something slightly vague about his
face—like bread dough that had begun to rise, smoothing out the bumps and cracks and
depressions.” The Other Mother is out in the garden during
this time, working on patching up the other passageways that exist between the real world
and the other world so that The Cat could not freely travel in and out. The Other Mother does not like the cat and
sees him as vermin. I think this is because she is afraid of him
and his wit, and going back to idea that her true form is a spider, cats eat spiders, so
it makes sense that she’d want to keep him out. The Cat claims there are passages that the
Other Mother doesn’t know about. Other Mother next encounters Coraline as she’s
returning from a walk and offers to play a game, which reveals another important trait
of hers, her love of games. It is likely that she loves games because
her primary targets seem to all be children. It seems she could have easily sewn buttons
over the eyes of Coraline’s parents, but elects not to, probably because they have
no nutritional value to her. She’s also a notorious manipulator, so games
are an excellent way for her to strike deals with her victims and cheat her way into winning
them. Coraline doesn’t fall for the idea of playing
a game on The Other Mother’s terms, so The Other Mother tries to convince her stay again, casually
eating beetles as she does so. “They’re cocoa beetles from Zanzibar!” This is the only thing we actually see the
Other Mother eating during the novella. She doesn’t eat any of the real food that
she prepares for Coraline, and it represents the metaphor of how she wants to consume Coraline’s
soul. And the Beldam
needs that soul to continue to thrive. Unable to get anywhere with Coraline, she
gets upset and claims Coraline has lost her manners by refusing to cave into her demands
and locks her in the area behind the mirror as punishment and keeps her there until the
following morning. During this time, Coraline meets the ghost
children, which teaches us more about what happens when The Beldam takes your soul. The victims have forgotten their own names
and identities; they are only able to remember trivial details about their lives and the
feeling of The Other Mother taking their lives, their joy and their hearts and leaving them
hollow. While Coraline is locked away, The Other Mother
scolds the creature she had created to play the role of The Other Father for telling Coraline
too much. She strips him of any remaining identifying
features and discards him in the dark in the cellar below the abandoned flat next door. She locks him in there and swallows the key. The next morning she retrieves Coraline and
brings her to the kitchen table for breakfast, hoping today would be the day that she finally
breaks her, but Coraline would surprise her with a challenge in a scene that teaches us
yet another secret about the true nature of the Beldam. Coraline challenges The Other Mother to a
game of hide and seek. If she can locate the souls of the dead children
and her parents, the Other Mother is to let her leave this world. Other Mother never planned on keeping her
word even though she swears on her mother’s grave to go through with it. We don’t know if a creature like The Beldam
actually has parents of it’s own, or a grave though, so this could be relatively meaningless. Coraline seems privy to that fact, so she
also swears on her right hand. I think this is a strategic move by The Other
Mother. There are many references to her spider like
hands throughout the story, Her hand is caught
in the closing door, causing it to break off of the arm, and it continues to crawl around
with a mind of its own. What if the Beldam is actually just this hand? We know that she has the ability to create
false worlds and and false people, so it’s possible that the arms, torso, legs, neck
and head were all just for show to give Coraline a false sense of security. So she had no issue betting on her mother’s
grave because she likely doesn’t have a mother and no issue betting on her right hand,
because that would really just be freeing her from the rest of her body. After making the deal, The Other Mother disappears
until Coraline has found two of the three souls of the lost children. With each soul found, the world flattens,
loses its form and contorts. The once bustling theater becomes abandoned
and derelict. I think that without possession of those souls,
which she slowly feeds off of for power, she’s unable to keep up the illusion of the perfect
world she had set up. She starts to fear that Coraline will find
all of the souls, and appears again to throw her off course. She regurgitates the key to the empty flat
and implies that Coraline will need it in order to find the final soul, which is of
course, a lie, but Coraline goes to investigate it anyways. Inside, Coraline comes across a giant dead
spider in the bathtub. We don’t have any information on any possible
other members of the Beldam’s species, but I have to wonder if this is what happens when
one of them doesn’t get children’s souls to feed off of. In the basement, she encounters the thing
that was once The Other Father and the Other Mother seems to be influencing his actions,
trying to get him to hurt Coraline. “Run, child. Leave this place. She wants me to hurt you, to keep you here
for ever, so that you can never finish the game, and she will win. She is pushing me so hard to hurt you. I cannot fight her.” More nervous than ever, the Other Mother sends
her rat spies to go retrieve the final soul from where it’s hidden upstairs, but she’s
able to retrieve it and confront her back in the other drawing room. Other Mother plans to trick Coraline into
forfeiting the soul, but Coraline tells her she thinks she knows where her parents are
hidden: in the passageway between the two worlds. Other Mother opens it to show her that she
was wrong which would prove her to be victorious and earn her the right to see buttons over
Coraline’s eyes, but when she turns back, The Cat is flying though the air towards her
face. It scratches and attacks her just long enough
for Coraline to slip through into the passage The Beldam screams out, “No!” in an inhuman
voice and reaches out to stop the closing door, but it pinches her wrist and servers
her hand, which I theorized could be the real form of the Beldam. The hand crawls around her Coraline’s world
in search of the key so that she would not forever be locked out of the other world where
the rest of its body remained. That night it was unable to get into Coraline’s
room and instead goes downstairs into the flat of Miss Spink and Miss Forcible and attacks
one of their dogs, leaving a long gash in his side. The next day Coraline came to visit the old
ladies and the hand heard her say that she’d be playing out beyond theold tennis court,
and it realized she have the key with her. To be honest, I’m not sure how it heard what
she said, because last time I checked hands don’t have ears, but the point is, it secretly
followed her to the spot where it knew she’d be alone. It arrives to find a tea party with Coraline’s
dolls set up on a platform with the key in the center. When it went to go steal the key, it realized
that the picnic blanket was on no platform at all, it was stretched over the top of an
open well, and the hand of the Beldam fell into its depths before Coraline sealed the
lid once more. It’s unclear if a creature like The Beldam
would be able to survive such a fall, or how long it would survive until the next person
comes along and opens the well. It seems reasonable that if it did survive,
it would be able to scale the wall like a spider, but it’s unlikely that anyone would
open the well again for several years. The Beldam is mysterious but horrifying creature. It reminds me a lot of the creature from IT,
from it’s shapeshifting abilities, to its final form as a spider to its need to feed
off of young children to sustain itself. Another Stephen King connection relates to
The Shining. The actress who plays the young version of
the woman in Room 237 is named Lia Beldam, and she, similarly to the Beldam in Coraline,
takes a pleasant form to try to win the love of her victim before revealing her true nasty
self. This two-faced personality is yet another
reason that stop motion was the perfect choice to make the film version of Coraline. The faces of each character had to be replaced
in order give them a variety of expressions, and over 15,000 faces were used. If you want to learn all the secrets hidden
within Coraline, check out the playlist on the left, and don’t forget to use my link
in the description to listen to the audiobook over on Audible. and if you love horror, remember
to subscribe to CZsWorld world for new horrors every week, ring that. deathbell for notifications, and I’ll see you
in the next one. Assuming we both survive.

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