6 Favorite Brother-Sister Relationships in Fiction

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Romance.  Parent and child.  Sisterhood.  Brotherhood.  Sibling groups.  Friendships.  Partners.  Mentor and student.  Master and servant.  Leader and followers.

Personally, although I enjoy reading about many different kinds of relationships, I’m a big sucker for a strong brother-sister friendship, mostly because the trilogy I’ve been writing for almost 10 years, The Kraesinia Trilogy, centers around a brother and sister.

This kind of relationship is friendship, it’s family, and it contains the fun dynamics of opposite genders interacting, yet without the annoying angst of romantic tension.

Here are six of my favorite fictional brother-sister duos!

1. Simon and River Tam (Firefly – science-fiction TV show)

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River: “I remember everything. I remember too much. And some of it’s made up, and some of it can’t be quantified, and there’s secrets, and…”
Simon: “Hey, i-it’s okay.”
River: “But, I understand. You gave up everything you had to find me. You found me broken. It’s hard for you. You gave up everything you had.”
Simon: “Mei-mei, everything I have is right here.”

I love this pair so much.  Simon is a capable young doctor.  River is a brilliant girl who is traumatized and not right in the head after years of being experimented on secretly by a government program.  Not only does Simon leave behind his career and everything else to rescue her from the facility, but he diligently and tenderly takes care of her throughout the show, hides her from the government, keeps her out of trouble (when he can…that’s a job and a half), and searches for ways to heal her hurting mind using his medical experience.  River, meanwhile, also turns out to be a psychic with epic battle skills.  Basically, they’re both awesome.

2. Nicholas and Kate Nickleby (Nicholas Nickleby – classic novel by Charles Dickens)

“My darling girl,” said Nicholas as he embraced her. “How pale you are!”

“I have been so unhappy here, dear brother,” sobbed poor Kate; “so very, very miserable. Do not leave me here, dear Nicholas, or I shall die of a broken heart.”

“I will leave you nowhere,” answered Nicholas— “never again, Kate,” he cried, moved in spite of himself as he folded her to his heart. “Tell me that I acted for the best. Tell me that we parted because I feared to bring misfortune on your head; that it was a trial to me no less than to yourself, and that if I did wrong it was in ignorance of the world and unknowingly.”

“Why should I tell you what we know so well?” returned Kate soothingly. “Nicholas—dear Nicholas—how can you give way thus?”

“It is such bitter reproach to me to know what you have undergone,” returned her brother; “to see you so much altered, and yet so kind and patient—God!” cried Nicholas, clenching his fist and suddenly changing his tone and manner, “it sets my whole blood on fire again.”

I have always loved Nicholas’s fierce protectiveness over his sister and his determination to do anything for the welfare of her and their mother after their father passes away.  Both Nicholas and Kate are smart, upright characters on their own, and deeply devoted to one another.  When I first read the book, their relationship reminded me strongly of my book’s protagonists, Kevin and Catherine, though my characters are less dramatic and, uh, Dickensian.  Teenage males in modern books don’t just “burst into tears,” and the girls simply can’t “swoon” spontaneously at an emotional moment.  (Well, they could.  But they’d lose all reader respect.  Hahaha.)  Yet it works for Dickens…mostly because he’s Dickens.

3. Katara and Sokka (Avatar: The Last Airbender – youth fantasy TV show)

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Katara: “I will never, ever turn my back on people who need me! I’m going back to the village. And I’m going to do whatever I can!”

Sokka: “…Wait! I’m coming too.”

Katara: “I thought you didn’t want to help.”

Sokka: “You need me. And I will never turn my back on you.”

This relationship has more moments of snark and bickering than tender affection, I admit.  But Sokka and Katara are close, having been effectively orphaned by the death of their mother and the departure of their father to war.  They may have entirely separate agendas at times, but they also work well together, and never abandon one another in times of need.  Katara is the caring, motherly figure and often the conscience of their little traveling band, while Sokka is a fierce warrior and provides regular comic relief.

4. Aquila and Flavia (The Lantern Bearers – historical fiction by Rosemary Sutcliff)

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Aquila leaned against a tree and watched her, making a discovery.  “You have grown up while I have been away.”

She looked up, the flowers in her hands.  “I was grown up before you went away.  More than fifteen.  And now I’m more than sixteen – quite old.”

Aquila wagged his head sadly.  “That’s what I say.  I don’t suppose you can even run now.”

She sprang up, her face alight with laughter.  “What will you wager me that I do not reach the terrace steps ahead of you?”

“A new pair of crimson slippers against a silver buckle for my sword-belt.”  Aquila pushed himself from the tree-trunk as she swooped up the skirt of her yellow tunic with the flowers in its lap.

“Done!  Are you ready?”

“Yes.  Now!”

Flavia was half a spear’s length ahead of him as they reached the steps of the terrace before the house and whirled about under the old spreading damson tree that grew there.  “Well?  Can I still run?  I can run faster than you can now, and I’m a girl!”

Aquila caught her by the wrist.  “You have sharp, hollow bones like a bird, and it is not fair.”  They flung themselves down on the step, panting and laughing…

This story, set in ancient Britain, is perhaps not as well known as the others I list here, but it’s one of my favorite books of all time.  The writing is beautiful and all the characters so real.  To be fair, Aquila and Flavia are separated for most of the story so we only get small glimpses of their relationship, but they are beautifully sweet toward each other.  The two of them are said to be so inseperable that their tutor once declared they should have been twins and it was cruel of fate to require Aquila to wait two years for his sister to be born.  I love to see a sibling relationship where there is no envy, meanness, or competition (beyond fun races, of course!).

5. Eomer and Eowyn (The Lord of the Rings – fantasy trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien)

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 And he looked at the slain, recalling their names.  Then suddenly he beheld his sister Eowyn as she lay, and he knew her.  He stood a moment as a man who is pierced in the midst of a cry by an arrow through the heart; and then his face went deathly white, and a cold fury rose in him, so that all speech failed him for a while.  A fey mood took him.

“Eowyn, Eowyn!” he cried at last.  “Eowyn, how come you here?  What madness or devilry is this?  Death, death, death!  Death take us all!”

Here is another sibling pair grown close through the loss of their parents.  Eomer and Eowyn were orphaned young and taken in by their uncle, the king, who raised them as his own.  Both hold high responsibilities as nobility of the Rohirrim.  We don’t get to see a lot of their relationship, given that they are side characters in a much, much greater plot and they are usually busy doing separate things in different places…like saving the people of Rohan and fighting for all of Middle-earth, for example.  But we see touching glimpses of their closeness, like Eomer’s utter grief when he discovers his sister fallen on the battlefield and believes her to be dead.

6. Carda and Michelle Chase (The Spacetime Legacy – urban fantasy series by K.M. Carroll)

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His twin sister Michelle sat at the kitchen table with a fork, a glass of milk, and an entire coffee cake.

Carda gestured at it in outrage.  “You took the whole cake?”

Michelle shrugged with a mischievous grin.  “I’m not getting a plate dirty, right?  Grab a fork.”

I don’t have a screen cap or anything for this story because it isn’t a movie – EVEN THOUGH IT TOTALLY SHOULD BE.  Carda and “Mish” are redheaded twins who discover they have magical powers, battle powerful villains, and save the world, then kick back and have pizza on the couch together afterward.  I loved this relationship for its casual, down-to-earth realness.  If Nicholas and Kate Nickleby are the dramatic, swooning, sobbing Dickensian example of siblinghood, Carda and Michelle perfectly embody the modern sib-set – more likely to poke sarcastic fun at each other than fall in each other’s arms and cry, but fiercely devoted best friends who always have each other’s backs.

* * *

Most of these siblings remind me a little of my own characters, Kevin and Catherine – and in some cases they were inspirations in the very development of my characters!  They all have a special place in my heart.

Are there any other awesome, close fictional brother-sister duos I should know about?  Please let me know!  What’s your favorite kind of relationship to read about?

Leave a comment

18 Comments

  1. Seana

     /  December 8, 2014

    One of my other writer friends and I were discussing our love of great fiction with a sibling relationship focus. I’m familiar with most of these, but will have to check out a couple! 🙂 Might I add Ender and Valentine from Ender’s Game? Also, a fun read about 2 brothers and a sister is The Expeditioners by S. S. Taylor.

    Reply
    • Ah, yes, Ender and Valentine have a sweet relationship! Although, they do have another brother, but he is hardly a part of it. I’ve never heard of The Expeditioners – I’ll have to look that one up!

      I’m thinking of doing a “Favorite Fictional Sibling Sets” post sometime in the future…so I can do the Pevensies, the Weasleys, and others like them. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Ahhhh – Yes, the Nickleby siblings do remind me of Kevin and Catherine!

    Reply
  3. This was great! I, too, love Simon and River. They’re the best. I also love Eowyn and Eomer, though they’re relationship is better fleshed out in the book. Thanks for making me tear up by quoting the moment Eomer thinks she’s dead. If you ever read any of the E. Nesbit books she had great sibling relationships. So did Gregor the Overlander. 🙂 Great article!

    Reply
    • It’s been far too long since I read LotR – or watched the movies, for that matter! I need to return to Middle-earth…soon.

      Yes, I agree about E. Nesbit! I’m thinking of doing a follow-up post about sibling groups, and I’d definitely include them, as well as the Pevensies! There are more examples of sibling groups in fiction than brother-sister duos, interestingly.

      Reply
  4. TvT

     /  April 6, 2015

    🙂 🙂

    Reply
  5. Hemanth

     /  July 11, 2015

    How about Amy and Dan from the 39 Clues?

    Reply
  6. So glad River and Simon were on the list, I was about to scream if they weren’t

    Reply
  7. Zed

     /  April 1, 2017

    So good to find this and valuing family relationships. There are siblings in “The 100”, in “Killjoys”, “Divergent” and other recent scifi films/tv series.

    Reply

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  • About Bethany A. Jennings

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