The scary and bizarre folk tale that inspired the movie «Coraline»

The true story of Coraline Jones

«She looks like your mother. She looks like your mother. Except she has big black buttons for eyes. Or she has glass eyes that glow in the dark.»

Coraline and the secret door film

This unique and somewhat spooky film tells the story of a young girl, Coraline Jones, who while exploring finds an unusual magical brick door in her family’s new home. The curious thing about this door is that it’s not bricked up when Coraline opens it, and through the door, she finds another World, almost exactly like her own world.

In this «Other World» Coraline finds her Other Mother, who has buttons instead of normal eyes. This Other Mother is more fun than Coraline’s’ real mother, at least at first… but then it becomes clear that she wants Coraline to stay with her forever and sew buttons on her eyes, just like her.

No need for more spoilers, in case you haven’t watched the movie, but suffice it to say that Coraline is a brilliant and scary story for children and adults (although, according to English author of short fiction Neil Gaiman, adults tend to find it more disturbing). But Gaiman is far from the first to realize that fake mothers have the potential to be monstrous.

The True Story of Coraline Jones

This Other Mom character was partly inspired by a strange and bizarre story by Victorian author Lucy Clifford called «The New Mom»

Clifford’s story has been retold in folklore collections such as «The Pear Drum», and Alvin Schwartz changed it to «The Drum» in his book «Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark». So the tale has been around for quite some time and this is how the real story of Coraline goes…

There are two sisters in this story, they’re called Blue-Eyes and Turkey. One day, the sisters meet a strange girl with an unusual instrument, which she calls a «pearl» and says there are a tiny man and tiny woman inside. Whenever she plays the pearl, they come out and dance, and the woman tells a secret.

The sisters want to see the little people dance, but the girl says she only shows them the naughty children. «Yes, to the naughty children, and the worse the children are, the better the man and woman dance,» said the girl.

She carefully placed the pearl under her mantle and prepared to go on her way. Then, Blue-Eyes and Turkey go home to their mother and little brother, and they start crying because they want to see those little people, but they don’t know how to be naughty.

When their mother hears they are planning to be naughty, she has a rather… strange response. «Then…» said the mother sadly, and as she spoke, her eyes filled with tears, and a sobbing nearly drowned her out «Then, I should go, leave them and send home a new mother, with glass eyes.

The sisters were scared, but they were sure their mother was lying, so they go out looking for the strange girl and her pearl again. The girl confirms to them that there is no such thing as a mother with glass eyes because «they would be too expensive to make.»

So Blue Eyes and Turkey decide to be naughty. They come home, break all their cups, and throw their bread and butter on the floor. Their mother is distressed and sends them to bed, but when they return to the strange girl the next day, she tells them they were not naughty enough.

Naturally, the girls continue throwing tantrums and making a mess, until the sisters are so extremely naughty that their mother says she’s going off the deep end, and even in some versions of the story, the girls beat up their little brother.

The sisters run after their mother, begging her to stay, but she runs off into the fields and disappears. They then return to the girl with the pearl for the last time… and surprisingly the girl assures them that they have not yet been naughty enough and that the little people have gone away.

«The little man and the woman are far away. Look, his box is empty,» said the girl. And then, for the first time, the girls saw that the lid of the box was up and hanging back and that there was no little boy in it.

The girl with the pearl eventually leaves too, leaving Blue Eyes and Turkey alone in their empty house. They wait and wait, but their mother never returns and one day unexpectedly they hear a loud knock at the door.

Filled with fear and trembling, Blue-Eyes leaned against the door while Turkey went to the window. Pressing her face against one side of the frame, she looked out. She could only see a black hat and a long, bony arm carrying a black leather bag.

A strange bright light could be seen shining under the door, Turkey’s heart sank and her cheeks turned pale, for she knew that it was the gleam of two glass eyes…

Turkey slowly crawled all the way to Blue-Eyes. «It is, it is, it is!» she whispered, her voice trembling with fear, «it’s the new mother! She’s come and brought her luggage in a black leather bag hanging from her arm!»

«Oh what shall we do?» cried Blue-Eyes, and again there were the terrible blows. «Come and put your back against the door too, Turkey,» cried Blue-Eyes «I’m afraid it’ll break.

At last, the sisters escaped into the forest where they decided to live, forever. Every now and then, when darkness has fallen and the night is quiet, Blue-Eyes and Turkey sneak up to the home where they were once so happy, and with beating hearts they look and listen; a blinding flash comes through the window, and they know that it is the light from the new mother’s glass eyes.

Although in this tale of Coraline’s true story, the girls are trapped with the new mother forever; the good news is that, in the film, Coraline Jones manages to return home, and reunite with her real mother.

What do you think about «The New Mom» creepy story?

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