If you have seen Henry Selick’s Coraline, the chances are that you are still haunted by the button eyes and the arachnoid “Other Mother”. But if you’re a children’s literature geek like me, you also know that Neil Gaiman’s original story is even more disturbing.
Coraline Jones is a young girl who has just moved into a new home, and is pretty dissatisfied with the whole deal. Her parents are always busy working and never seem to have time for anything else, so it seems as though microwave dinners and playtime alone are the best she’s going to get. On top of that, her new neighbours are strange, to say the least, and she is bored with, well, everything.
This is when our blue-haired protagonist stumbles upon a ‘portal’ to an alternate dimension, in which she meets her ominous-looking ‘Other Mother’ and ‘Other Father’. Despite their unnerving appearance, they seem to compensate for all her dissatisfactions with the real world – they give her attention, good food and introduce her to her eccentric neighbours. Everything seems better in this reality – until things go wrong, of course. The Other Parents want little Coraline to sew buttons into her eyes. To do that would mean that she could stay in this reality forever. The Other Mother goes from zero to villain real quick when Coraline protests, however, kidnapping Coraline’s real parents and holding them ransom. Coraline finds herself plunged into a sinister rescue mission.
So, you’ve seen the title to this article and most likely audibly sighed. How can an innocent children’s story be about the Devil? Simple, really – it’s not really a children’s story. It’s a dark tale dressed as a children’s story. By the end of this piece, I can guarantee that you will walk away CONVINCED that Coraline is satanic in nature, as we break down six undeniable proofs that the Other Mother is actually Satan.
Let’s break it down…
Traditional stories of Satan usually paint him as the tempter or temptress. Satan entices you to give into temptation and sin, and people often fall for his charm. This is exactly what the Other Mother does. She entices Coraline and coerces her into thinking that the Other World is a better reality than hers. She tempts Coraline with amazing food, loving attention and great friends. This brings us nicely onto the next point….
The Devil’s game has been long-sussed – everything is an illusion and cannot be trusted. The Other Mother appears to be the absolute queen of illusions here. She constructs the entirety of the Other World, creating characters that resemble Coraline’s real-life relations and manufacturing situations that will again, entice her. Even her appearance is an illusion.
Satan is often presented as a shapeshifter too; he can change his form at will and uses this to his advantage. We know from Coraline-canon that the Other Mother morphs into other beings until eventually her spider-like ‘final form’ is reached and her horrifying true identity is revealed.
Ah yes, the old”selling your soul to the Devil” story. This trope can be dated back to Ancient Greek mythology and Theophilus of Adana, although many attribute it to the Faust legend. Ultimately, the idea of the Devil being a deal-maker is not new. Almost always, the price of the deal is not particularly advantageous to the other party, as Satan profits the most and the deal is generally a fallacy.
The Other Mother offers Coraline a deal much like this – she can stay in the perfect Other World… If she sews buttons into her eyes. It later transpires that this is just a ruse to allow the Other Mother to steal and feast on her soul; like she did to the ghost children.
Gates to Hell
Hell is the Abrahamic religious concept of the underworld. The underworld is also sometimes called the netherworld or the OTHER WORLD. Coraline shows an alternate reality called the Other World.
Conclusion? The Other World in Coraline is actually Hell.
I would also point out that in the story, there is a portal to the Other World, through a locked door. This could be seen as a ‘gate to hell’ – defined as a location in our world believed to be a portal to the underworld.
Eyes are a recurring motif in Coraline. The eyes, also known as “the window to the soul” are what the Other Mother collects. A cypher for souls is the key to fuelling her power, much like the Devil ‘collects’ damned souls in Hell.
This one is a little tenuous, but bear with me. So, in Neil Gaiman’s novella, the Other Mother confirmed that she also had a mother –
“I swear it,” said the other mother. “I swear it on my own mother’s grave.”
“Does she have a grave?” asked Coraline.
“Oh yes,” said the other mother. “I put her in there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back.”
Okay, so how does this relate to Satan? Well, in Satan’s backstory, it is often told that he used to be an angel, named Lucifer. After a dispute with God, Lucifer was cast out of Heaven and became the Hell-bound fallen angel Satan that we know today.
Essentially, Coraline shows us a gender-bent and extended version of this.
Some interesting parallels can certainly be drawn here. For example, The Other Mother’s mother (God) had a dispute with the Other Mother (Lucifer) and the Other Mother was cast away. Sound familiar?
What the above passage does also imply is an extension on ye olde Lucifer-God debacle – the Other Mother killed her mother.
So that’s it. I’ve convinced you all, right? You can thank me later for enriching you with this knowledge…
Now it’s your turn – let us know your favourite fan-theories in the comments below!