Fiction is littered with examples of sibling rivalry as well as unity and there are many throughout the world of fiction where a sibling relationship is core to the plot. It is one of the most interesting aspects of character-driven literature to demonstrate the contrasting characters between brother and sister, brother and brother and sister and sister. Here are ten of the most interesting examples from the world of literature.
1. The Bennet Sisters
The story of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Is as much about all five Bennett girls as it is about the developing romance between Mister Darcy and Lizzy. All of the girls feature quite heavily in what is supposed to be a romance of two people. Jane, the one who is considered the most beautiful is rather naÃƒ¯ve and trusting. Mary is bookish and rather silly, and is Catherine is also described as such. The only other true animated character is the headstrong Lydia who ends up eloping with Mister Bingley.
2. Cinderella and her Step Sisters
The quintessential sibling rivalry which sees the poor Cinderella cruelly treated by her wicked stepsisters was popularised by the brothers Grimm. She is kept in the house to do all of the housework while the sisters live the high life amongst the great and the good of society. Yet, following a wish Cinderella is transformed into a princess for an evening. She has to race away when the clock strikes midnight but leaves behind a glass slipper that leads the Prince on a quest to find the girl. When he tracks her down he asks her to marry him much to the annoyance of the wicked stepsisters.
3. Hansel and Gretel
The most famous brother and sister duo in all of literature, their story sees the children sent into the woods by another wicked stepmother. This is where they find a house made of sweets and cakes ‘ a child’s delight. Unfortunately, it is owned by a wicked witch who eats children. The pair eventually makes their escape by outwitting her and tricking her to climb into her own oven. Though the story dates back much earlier, it too was popularised by the Brothers Grimm.
4. Ghanima and Leto
Although the third book in the Dune series, Children of Dune focuses far more on Alia, the sister of Paul, the true chemistry lies between these non-identical twins (brother and sister) due to the unusual nature of their ‘pre-born’ gifts. There is a degree of teen angst of a pair with the weight of the universe on their shoulders as they cope with being orphans, are unique in their abilities, attempt to evade their auntie’s tyranny and the stress of the possibility of their father’s return. Their roles were portrayed perfectly in mini-series from 2002.
5. Cain and Abel
There are many tales of siblings in The Bible but there is none that springs more immediately to mind than this story of deception. The two sons of Adam and Eve, Cain was the first person to be born and Abel was the first to die ‘ having been murdered by his brother. It is not fully explained in the text why this murder took place but it is generally believed that Cain was jealous because God refused his offering.
6. The Pevensie Children
The four main protagonists of the Narnia series are siblings living in the house in which the magic wardrobe is discovered. Peter is the eldest and eventually becomes the High King of Narnia. Susan is the level headed one who goes on to become known as Gentle Queen Susan. Edmund is tricked into betraying his siblings in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe but becomes King Edmund the Just. Lucy is the first to enter Narnia and is the one who believes in Narnia the most.
7. The Weasley Family
The most famous siblings in modern literature, the ginger-haired children that attend Hogwarts consist of Harry’s friend Ron, the twins Fred and George, the humourless and square Percy and the younger sister Ginny (whom Harry would marry in later life). They are pure bloods, meaning that their magic bloodline goes back many generations and most feature very prominently as the series progresses.
8. Faramir and Boromir
Two brothers who feature quite heavily in The Lord of the Rings, Boromir is one of the nine of the ‘Fellowship’ who set out on the journey to Mordor to destroy The One Ring. His desire to take the ring for his kingdom is quite apparent and he is killed when the group are ambushed at the end of the first book. Faramir, the out-of-favour younger brother is charged with defending the city in Return of the King. He respects his brother but learns a few hard truths in the final book.
9. Oliver and Edwin
Though not full brothers, one of Oliver Twist’s antagonists throughout the novel is his half-brother whose mission it is to destroy Oliver; he plots with Fagin to corrupt the boy. The reason is that Edwin is legitimate and Oliver is not. He is a bitter and twisted man who in the end must flee to America where he eventually dies in prison. Oliver survives all attempts to kill him by Bill Sykes and Edwin and is free to live his life.
10. Castor and Pollux
Twins born when Zeus disguised himself as a swan and seduced Leda, the pair were considered in most Greek mythology to be the protectors of humanity and the patrons of the sports, giving an extra boost to those who needed it pursuing physical activity. They both offered assistance in Jason’s search for the Golden Fleece and feature prominently in many other tales.
This list is not exhaustive; there are many examples in literature that explore the relationships between siblings and twins. Tales of petty or even deadly rivalry are just as prominent as siblings standing united as symbols of what is good about family ties. What is most interesting is how the characters contrast and drive plot and especially how characters adapt to events around them.