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Monsters have gone a long journey in literature, have become more complex, and finding new ways of scaring readers out of their wits. However, a substantial number of these antagonists borrow from their predecessors, the case of the Other Mother from “Coraline” as the logical evolution of Count Orlok from “Nosferatu” being the case in point. Both Count Orlok and Other Mother act as prime antagonists to the story. The main feature that makes them both scary is how they assimilate to the people around them. Both Count Orlok and the Other Mother possess the ability to mimic normal people but still are have more powers than these people, yet the disturbing relatability of Beldam’s motives and the terrifying goal of haunting the spirits of her victims makes the Other Mother a far more terrifying creature.
Orlok posses as a nobleman, so Hutter is not even suspicious in the first place. Only when he reads the Book of Vampires he starts to suspect Orlok was a vampire. This ability to blend with regular people is what makes the monsters terrifying in the first place. The Other Mother tricks children into making bargains in which they put their soul at stake, which is quite similar to the idea of a deal with a devil. The victim of Beldam that Coraline encounters points to the Other Mother’s power to possess souls quite unambiguously: “Flee, while there’s still air in your lungs and blood in your veins… flee while you still have your mind and your soul” (87). In addition, the difference in the ultimate goals of each character sets them miles apart from each other. Count Orlok is frightening in his insatiable lust for blood, yet the fact that the Other Mother selects specifically children as her target makes her character much more insipid and terrifying.
Therefore, as the main antagonist, the Other Mother seems far more sinister and frightening than Count Orlok. Where Orlok represents an evil but blind force, the Other Mother is cunning and calculating in her pursuit of children’s souls. It should also be borne in mind that Count Orlok also does not have the benefit of being a relatively new character such as the Other Mother. Having been a long-established character in the pantheon of literature monsters, he has lost the sense of unpredictability and the unknown threat. Nonetheless, Count Orlok still remains a scary entity due to the
The end goal of each character also separates Count Orlok from the Other Mother, making the former surprisingly less petrifying. Count Orlok’s ultimate objective is disgusting to an average reader, yet the concept of vampirism in its basic representation of drinking a victim’s blood is ultimately physical in its essence: “Did not the master of the castle suck blood out of his hand and neck?” (Shepard 92). The Other Mother, in turn, purses the souls of her victims, which suggests eternal suffering for those that cross her way. Therefore, the Other Mother becomes the epitome of a monstrous entity, embodying both the incessant pursuit of her victims and the threat of the unknown source of her powers. With the blanks that the author deliberately leaves in the description of her powers, the reader fills the empty spaces with their own interpretation of what is truly terrifying.
However, both characters share a sizeable amount of characteristics that make them genuinely disturbing. The ability to drain the lives of their victims is what makes the two monsters particularly similar to each other. Arguably, Nosferatu can be seen as the source of inspiration for the creation of the character of the Other Mother due to the similar nature of their powers. While Beldam’s ability to drain lives from her victims is admittedly much more subtle than the actual drinking of a person’s blood, the cornerstone idea of preying upon innocent lives is represented in both monsters. In fact, Nosferatu’s obsession with blood is paralleled to the insatiable bloodthirstiness of war battles, which makes Count Orlok a metaphor for war, in general: “The war was drinking the blood of millions” (Shepard 85). Despite the fact that Beldam’s victims are arguably more sympathetic as children compared to the people killed by Nosferatu, the general idea of the entity that can easily overpower its victim and consume the latter’s essence afterward is genuinely horrifying.
Apart from the force that drains the life powers of its victims, both the Other Mother and Count Orlok have a very obscure and quite mysterious origin. None of the stories explicitly states from where the antagonists emerged or how they became monsters. The vague details of their nature, such as the presence of the entity that follows Coraline as she climbs through the corridor and that is somehow connected to Beldam, add to the mystery and amplify the terror that both antagonists instill into their victims. Specifically, in “Coraline,” Gaiman alludes to the entity that is far more sinister and ominous than Beldam: “Whatever that corridor was was older by far than the other mother. It was deep, and slow, and it knew that she was there” (Gaiman 131). Since Count orlok does not have the same menacing flair of omnipotence and omnipresence, the fear that he produces does not linger as long as the one that Beldam exerts.
Exploring the character of the two villains further, one will have to concede that their motivations and needs were entirely different in the first place. Count Orlok was driven by a basic need of hunger and lust for violence to “nourish themselves on your blood” (Shepard 109). Although one could argue that the simplicity and bluntness of his motives were what made him truly scary, the desire to kill people for the sake of drinking their blood devalues the horror that Nosferatu produces. The rationale behind the actions of the Other Mother was much more sophisticated and, to an extent, even sympathetic: “’She wants something to love, I think,’ said the cat. ‘Something that isn’t her’” (Gaiman 69). The described rationale can be interpreted as the misplaced need for attachment that has reached the levels of unequivocal abuse. The assumption that the Other Mother is motivated by the need of experiencing an emotional connection that stretched beyond her egotism makes Beldam both disturbing and slightly more redeemable than Nosferatu, who represents evil and fear in their purest forms. Unlike Count Orlok, the Other Mother experienced what could be described as love, even though it took an incredibly vile and insipid form.
The nature of Orlok and Beldam is quite similar in the type of influence that they produce and the fear that they exert, yet the intensity thereof and the motives of the antagonists set them miles apart from each other. Although Beldam incorporates the inherent characteristics of Count Orlok, such as the ability to capture the souls of her victims, the nature of the monster in “Coraline” is more insidious than the one of the vampires from “Nosferatu.” Both monsters share numerous characteristics ranging from an obscure origin to the power that they have over people, yet the fact that Beldam attacks much younger victims, the mysterious connection to the unexplainable entity in the corridor, and the weird abusive intention to seek out something to love makes Beldam a new and more frightening kind of monster.
Gaiman, Neil. Coraline. HarperCollins, 2009.
Shepard, Jim. Nosferatu. Open Road Media, 2015.