Posts Tagged ‘films’


6 Favorite Brother-Sister Relationships in Fiction

December 8, 2014


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 angst of romantic tension.

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

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


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)


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)


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)


 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)

Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 11.42.45 AM

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?


Why Katniss Everdeen Has No Hope – But We Do

November 26, 2014

A common beef Christians have with dystopian stories is that they are hopeless.  It’s common because it can be very true – dystopias are designed to display a reality where all feels lost, where people feel crushed and hopeless, and evil has all the power.  So it makes sense that books and movies in this genre will feel hopeless.  Usually, a dystopian novel will showcase hope and resilience by the end, but not every author intends to leave that kind of “mood” with their reader (more’s the pity – I hate unhappy endings).

Of course – we Christians say – the answer is obvious.  “Put God in the book!”  Without God, of course there is no hope.

But we’re not the authors, and we can’t change the existing stories from what they are.  However, we can learn from them and we can pay attention to what makes them hopeless, as a reminder to us of Who give us true, abiding hope, and show Him to those around us.

The helpless Mockingjay and her helpless idols

I just finished watching Mockingjay: Part 1 in theaters.  Awesome movie!  I’ve never been disappointed at any of The Hunger Games films…they are all brilliantly executed and thrilling.

However, as I was watching I finally put my finger on why Katniss bothers me as a character.

She displays the exact opposite of the message I am trying to express with my own trilogy.  My characters, especially Kevin, wrestle with the reality that sometimes defending a great cause is more important than defending loved ones.  His trust in himself and his ability to protect his sister have to erode, leaving him with God as his only recourse, a far greater strength.  Until he can “let Catherine go” and turn her over to God with his trust and hope, he is fractured in his fight against a brutal enemy.  It’s a theme that has emerged slowly and gradually as I continue to hammer this story from a rough into a diamond.

Katniss, on the other hand, has always been obsessed with her loved ones.  In the first movie, we see an example of beautiful self-sacrifice as she gives herself up to save her sister – so she starts well.  But as the series winds on she grows increasingly paranoid and reckless to protect people, more so in Mockingjay than in the other two.  The thought of a loved one in danger sends her into screaming fits, and she irrationally clings to beloved individuals over important causes.  I imagine if one of them was in danger on one side, and a thousand people dying on the other, she’d go to the aid of the one family member, leaving the thousand to perish even if she had the ability to save them.  One can easily argue that she has PTSD and mental health issues as a result of the trauma she endures, and that’s a fair assessment, but I think her trauma only exacerbates her pre-existing obsessions.

For all her self-sacrifice and the hero she is portrayed to be, Katniss is actually very self-centered.  Family and boyfriend(s) are her idols which she protects at all costs.  We get the impression that if all of them were to die, she would totally crumble because she had no reason left to live.

Because she really doesn’t have anything left to live for!

There is nothing left after your idols, if you have no hope in God.  Furthermore, with no sovereign Lord to trust, ultimately you have nothing but yourself to protect your loved ones.  It is painfully obvious to the audience, as well as Katniss, that ultimately she can’t protect them.  She is one human being, powerless against forces all around her that are using her as a pawn for their agendas.

As a story, it’s brilliant.  But I can’t help wondering over and over again as I watch it, “Why doesn’t she just lay down and die?”

At one point President Coin comes to speak to her, and remarks that “whatever’s keeping you going, you still have it, and that’s why you’re still here” or something to that effect (pardon my paraphrasing, as I have only seen the movie once).

What is keeping Katniss going?  What does she have?

I don’t see much of anything, except her family and friends, who she can’t ultimately protect, and who could easily die.  No wonder she has no hope.

I’m not as strong as Katniss Everdeen.  I’m sure, if I was in her place, I would be tempted many times to just give up and die.  I don’t have her fiery rebelliousness, or her defiant streak.  I could play the part, but when things got harder I’d just want to give myself up.

But I know I wouldn’t.  Because my strength is not in me – it is in the Lord.  And in Him, we don’t have to obsess over our loved ones!  We can know they are in God’s hands, pray for them, and have confidence that no matter what happens, one day we will see them again beyond the grave, rejoicing before the Lord in perfect glory and peace.

So that’s why Katniss Everdeen has no hope.  Not only does she have no greater God to look to, but all her existence is wrapped up in the people she loves.  And fragile, helpless human beings make for lousy gods and goddesses that are easily toppled.

Our world is a dystopia too

Did you ever think of what it must have been like for Christ to step out of the glory of heaven, totally empty Himself, and become a frail human baby?

A birth in a stable, a filthy manger for a bed.  Parents of relative poverty.  A nation crunched under the sandaled foot of Rome.  A power-hungry ruler who orders all baby boys murdered in his quest to destroy you.  It’s a bleak picture, not exactly the soft, sweet “Silent Night” we sing of in Christmas Eve services.

Yet Christ gave His life here for this world, over and over again in selfless service, and ultimately on the cross, pouring out His blood for the redemption of many.  Like Katniss, He volunteered, but not as tribute – rather as an atonement for our sin.

And because of Him,

“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” – 1 Peter 3:13-15b

We have that hope within us, that one day this world will be made new.  We hear news of riots, and murders, and government corruptions, and racism, and wars, and natural disasters, but we have an eternal and powerful Hope that will never fail us, never let us down, and never leave us behind.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We can’t give Katniss hope.  But we can rejoice, especially in this Christmas season, that we have it in full abundance.

This is my Father’s world;
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world!
The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heav’n be won.
— Martin Luther