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Coraline Existed: The Chilling Novel Based on True Events

Its author, Neil Gaiman, claims that he based his novel on a strange event in his hometown.

Coraline is a film that caused a sea of nightmares to several generations of children. Despite being aimed at an innocent and young audience, the film deals with extremely dark themes, accompanied by disturbing images that are hard to forget.

Coraline is so dark that it is constantly attributed to the director and producer Tim Burton; however, this stop-motion film is actually the work of Henry Selick, who based it on a story by novelist and comic book writer Neil Gaiman, published in 2002.

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Coraline: The Novel

The story is about an 11-year-old girl, an only child who has just moved into a new house with her parents, who have a peculiar lifestyle, much more liberal than the norm. The parents begin to focus more on their activities and soon end up too busy to think about their daughter Coraline. The girl, taking advantage of these moments of distraction, finds a door to enter another world, where her “other” parents give her treatment and a life with which she feels much more comfortable and loved.

Her “other” mother is especially fun. At some point, Coraline must decide whether her life will continue in this “other world” or the real one. However, she will realize that the price of her stay is very expensive, and relationships are cruel in that world. Not to mention that people in this realm have buttons instead of eyes. Coraline must not let her real eyes be fooled by the promise of a bright and idyllic life in the land of the button eye.

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The Real Story Behind Coraline

Coraline is a brilliantly creepy story, although according to Gaiman, it is the adults who find it most terrifying. In his novel, the author also painted a portrait of how monstrous it can be to evade reality. The movie is very close to the novel, however, Neil Gaiman has assured on several occasions that it was based on a popular legend from his native Hampshire, United Kingdom.

The story is about an old woman who took care of her newborn orphaned granddaughter. The old woman overprotected the child for fear of losing her, to the extent that her neighbors had never seen the child out to play. The woman began to raise suspicions because of her radical upbringing, and several children organized to enter the mansion one night to meet the mysterious girl. However, the children were very upset, as they saw no signs of a child in the house, only a cradle. As they approached it, they were horrified to discover that there was what seemed like a baby with buttons instead of eyes.

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They quickly concluded that the child passed with its parents as well, yet her grandmother was clinging to her in complete dementia. After telling her parents, they had the old woman committed to a psychiatric hospital. The old woman wanted to take a doll to the hospital, claiming that it contained the soul of her granddaughter.

The New Mother Inspiration

The Other Mother was partially inspired by The New Mother, a strange story by Victorian author Lucy Clifford. Clifford’s tale has been retold in folklore collections as The Pear Drum, and Alvin Schwartz renamed it “The Drum” in his book Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

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The sisters are frightened, but they are also sure that their mother is exaggerating, so they go to see the strange girl and her pear drum. The girl confirms to them that there is no such mother. So Blue-Eyes and Turkey decide to misbehave; they break all their cups and throw the bread and butter on the floor. Their mother is distraught and punishes them. When they return to the strange girl the next day, she asks them for even more transgressive behavior, so the girls return home to do more smashing. Finally, their mother leaves them. little show that they began to misbehave. The mother warns them that if they continue with such behaviors she will leave them and send home a new mother, with glass eyes and a wooden tail.

The sisters are frightened, but they are also sure that their mother is exaggerating, so they go to see the strange girl and her peardrum. The girl confirms to them that there is no such mother. So Blue-Eyes and Turkey decide to misbehave; they break all their cups and throw the bread and butter on the floor. Their mother is distraught and punishes them. When they return to the strange girl the next day, she asks them for even more transgressive behavior, so the girls return home to do more smashing. Finally, their mother leaves them.

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So they go back to the pear drum girl one last time and she assures them that they still haven’t been naughty enough. The sisters are left alone in their empty house. They wait and wait, but their mother does not return. Instead, a glass-eyed mother arrives, in Clifford’s story, the “new mother” breaks down the door, and the girls flee out the back of their cabin, into the darkness of the woods, where they still live to this day, hiding from their “other” mother.

All three stories converge in that the “new” and “other” mothers are entities, and the children cannot trust them, because although she is almost their mother, but not quite. She is almost entirely human, and yet she is not. Fortunately, in Coraline, the protagonist finds a way to escape to the “other” mother, while in previous versions, the girls were trapped forever in the other terrifying reality.

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Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva

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