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Literature: Coraline

A 2002 novella written by Neil Gaiman. Coraline Jones is a girl with loving but distracted and inattentive parents. Having recently moved into a new home, she finds life boring. Then, one afternoon, she opens a mysterious door in her house. And behind that door lies a different world where Coraline finds doting parents who give her wonderful toys and home-cooked meals. But something oddly sinister lurks just beneath the surface...

A graphic novel adaptation was released in 2008. It follows the book almost exactly.

The Film of the Book was released in February 6 2009, under the same name.

The book is very, very, VERY much What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?.

This book includes examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Gaiman cites this as the reason the story is, ironically, scarier for grown-ups than for children. The Adult Fears go over children's heads, so they read it as an adventure story with some creepy monsters, delivering familiar Aesops such as "Be brave" and "Be Careful What You Wish For." Adults, on the other hand, get the message, "If you neglect your children, they might be kidnapped, mutilated, and murdered by somebody who pretends to be you."
    • Not to mention some of the creepy vibes the Other Mother gives off toward Coraline.
  • All-Powerful Bystander: The Other Mother.
  • All Take and No Give: The Other Mother just wants something to love other than herself... and feed, dress, and suck the Life Force out of.
  • All Up To You
  • And You Were There: Everyone in the Other World. Except the Cat, that is.
  • Animal Motifs: The novel describes the Other Mother using various bits of spidery imagery; she's made into a full-blown spider lady in the film.
  • Apologetic Attacker: The Other Father.
  • Bad Bad Acting: The illusion the Other Mother shows Coraline, of her parents coming home from a holiday to try and make her think her parents don't love her. Coraline actually doubts whether it was true or not...for about ten seconds.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: It's the tagline for The Movie.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: They just might try to sew buttons onto your eyes.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Black button eyes of evil.
  • Body Horror: Geez, where do you start?
  • Catch Phrase: Almost everyone Coraline meets on her first visit to the other world says "for ever and always."
  • Cats Are Mean: Downplayed, merely a...
  • Cats Are Snarkers: The Cat has a very smart aleck-y attitude.
  • Character Title: Coraline, starring Coraline.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • "Protective Coloration", anyone?
    • The well
  • Cool Gate: The wooden door leading to the Other World.
  • Creative Sterility: The Other Mother suffers from this — it's actually a major plot point.
  • Creepy Basement: CREEPY? Try absolutely terrifying.
  • Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: Coraline just had to go through the door...
  • Dark World: The Other World is a perfect example of this. Interestingly enough, it first tries to look like an improvement over the real world.
  • Defanged Horrors: Believe it or not. It's scary, but it's scary in a way that kids can usually handle.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: Perfectly sums it up.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The passageway between the worlds turns out to be one of these towards the end.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Other Mother.
  • Exact Words: The Other Mother swears on her right hand she'll let Coraline go if she wins their game. Technically speaking, by having her right hand follow Coraline after the Other Mother breaks her word, she's keeping up her end of the bargain.
  • Eye Scream: The Other Mother wishes to sew buttons into Coraline's eyes. She's done it to other children before Coraline, as well.
  • Face-Revealing Turn
  • Fairy Tale
  • The Fair Folk: The Other Mother is heavily implied to be this. Her other name, the beldam, is a synonym for witch, but might be a play on words related to a poem about a fairy that lures knights to her hill and sucks the life out of them. "Belle Dame" is homophonous, it being French for "Beautiful Lady" and "Step-mother" for that matter. And if we know anything about fairy tales....
    • One of the ghost children is also a fairy.
    • That stone-with-a-hole-in-it? That's a self-bored stone, which according to Celtic Mythology tradition would allow you to see through faerie illusions.
  • Fate Worse than Death: What happened to the ghost children, and what would happen to Coraline.
  • Femme Fatalons: The Other Mother.
  • Fisher Kingdom: Arguably, the Other World counts. After spending a night there, Coraline notes feeling cloudy and groggy, and only after touching the adder stone - which is stated to be protection against the Other Mother - in her pocket does she truly feel like herself again.
  • Glamour Failure: The Other Mother doesn't show up in mirrors. When Coraline asks her why, she simply replies that mirrors can't be trusted.
  • The Grotesque: The transformed Other Miss Spink and Miss Forcible and by the end, what's left of the Other Father.
  • Helping Hands: The Other Mother loses her hand, which goes looking for the key to the door.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: The creepy chant sung by the rats. Sadly absent from the film.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Miss Spink and Miss Forcible.
  • Impossible Task: Coraline has to find all 3 ghost souls to win the "game" the Other Mother agreed to play with her. Oh, and her missing parents, who are also lost in the Other World.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted when the fate of the three ghost children is shown. Played straight with Coraline herself.
  • It May Help You on Your Quest: The self-bored stone, courtesy of the Misses. They're good for bad things...or was it lost things? Anyway, it might help...
  • Kid Hero: Coraline.
  • Knife-Throwing Act: The Other Miss Spink and Forcible perform this with Coraline.
  • Lean and Mean: The Other Mother. This is always the case in the book, but in the film she starts off being identical to the real Mrs. Jones and switches to this trope when Coraline starts screwing things up for her.
  • Magical Land: The Other World.
  • Mind-Control Eyes: Everyone in the Other World (under the Other Mother's control) has buttons for eyes.
  • New House New Problems: The book starts with Coraline and her family moving.
  • No Name Given: The cat is only ever known as "the cat". According to him, cats don't have names, and they don't need them because unlike humans, they know who they are.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: The cat.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Excellently evoked for a lot of the scares.
  • The Obi-Wan: The cat.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: If Coraline doesn't find her parents and the souls of the ghost children, she has to stay in the Other World.
  • Papa Wolf: Coraline tells the Cat a story of how she and her father stumbled into some bees, her father told Coraline to run, while he stayed behind to be the one getting the majority of the bee stings.
  • Parental Love Song: the "twitchy-witchy" song, in which Coraline's father expresses his affection by telling her (goofily) the things he'll do for her and the things he would never do.
  • Parents in Distress: Coraline's parents are kidnapped by the Other Mother and she has to challenge the Other Mother to save them.
  • Plot Coupon: The souls of the Ghost Children.
  • Plucky Girl: Coraline.
  • Police Are Useless: Coraline calls the police to report her parents kidnapped, but is told to go to bed by the cop. Understandable, since she told him her parents were stuck in a mirror...
  • Pun: After her parents disappear, Coraline remarks to Miss Spink and Miss Forcible that she thinks she's become a "single-child family".
  • See-Thru Specs: The stone with the hole in it.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Semi-subverted. The Other Mother has put her Mother to to grave, "And when she tries to get out, I put her back in". So the Mother of Other Mother isn't exactly dead, by for all intents and purposes, she is.
  • Sore Loser: After Coraline finds the first soul, the Other Mother sends a roaring wind indoors to slow her down. She also has no intention of letting Coraline go, whether she wins or not.
  • Stylistic Suck: Coraline's Story.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The other mother tells Coraline she shouldn't listen to ghosts because they don't exist and everyone knows ghosts are liars.
  • Talking Animal: The cat.
  • Threshold Guardians
  • Toys
  • Trapped in Another World: Coraline in the Other World (eventually and temporarily). As for the ghost children, they're stuck there until Coraline can find their souls.
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Vague Age: Seems to be the case with Coraline. The illustration for the first chapter makes her look like a teenager, but the story she writes on her father's computer is the work of an eight-year-old.
  • Vampire Invitation: Children can't have buttons sewn into their eyes unless they agree to it.
  • Wicked Stepmother: The Other Mother.
  • Wicked Witch: The Other Mother.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Discussed. Coraline tells her parents a story about confusing alien abductors by wearing a wig and talking in a foreign accent.
  • Yandere: The Other Mother.
  • You Dirty Rat: Good world = mice. Bad world = rats. Simple.
  • You Won't Feel a Thing: At one point the Other Parents tell Coraline this when they try to convince her to let them sew the buttons on her eyes. Coraline doesn't believe them for an instant.

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