Literary Twins

Even identical twins have their own differences.”
~ Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Our twin nephews recently had their second birthday and although we couldn’t celebrate with them, it got us thinking about twins in literature, particularly in children’s books. I used to want twins myself, as you were done with one pregnancy, but now I’ve seen it in practice – hats off to all the parents out there with two (or more) at the same time!

Twins provide a lot of fun in stories. They play tricks on everyone else, get mistaken for each other and cause constant confusion. This may be why so many children fantasise about having a twin – there are just so many opportunities for mischief!

I’ve chosen some of the twins that I particularly liked to read about when I was younger, but no doubt there are hundreds more.

Jessica and Elizabeth ~ Sweet Valley High

What can I say about Jessica and Elizabeth? They were the twins that made me wish I had a twin. Both girls were beautiful and popular, but very different. I associated more with Elizabeth – reliable, fond of reading and writing, academic… but I always wanted to be Jessica. I felt that my twin would’ve been like her, saying and doing all the things I wanted to do, but knew I shouldn’t.

Jessica felt like a heroine in a tragic, dramatic love story. She lifted her chin and turned away. It was all over.

Two-Boy Weekend ~ Francine Pascal

I didn’t read all of the books, but a few incidents have stuck with me: the moped accident; the ex-con wanting revenge on the twins’ dad and the boyfriend switching. The twins taught me a lot about family, relationships and life in general. Reading up on them a few months ago (after a Buzzfeed quiz), my friend and I were shocked to find out that Jessica had married Todd! It just seems so wrong…

Marilyn & Carolyn ~ The Babysitter’s Club

Many school holidays were wiled away with the adventures of the Babysitter’s Club. When I started reading them I wanted to be Kristy, but gradually I decided that Stacey was cooler (I do love New York). This book spends a lot of time on Mallory, as she faces her own challenges with growing up… and of course she is the one tasked with controlling the twins who have just moved to Stoneybrook. The twins appear in several books, but start their BSC life by causing chaos by switching name bracelets – the wrong twin goes to a piano lesson – and not respecting the poor babysitters.

Anyway, they must be smart to have invented their twin talk.” “Twin talk?” Dawn repeated. “Yeah. You know, their private language,” I explained, and Dawn nodded. “They can just babble away in it.”

Mallory and the Trouble with the Twins ~ Ann M. Martin

I really enjoyed the book but I couldn’t understand the girls’ names. WHY would you give your twins rhyming names? It’s utterly ridiculous. They’ve stuck in my mind because I jokingly said I would call my own twin girls Marilyn and Carolyn… and my family took me seriously. But the twins finally calm down and convince their parents to stop dressing and treating them the same (again WHY?), so that their personalities can shine. And Mallory gets to have her ears pierced (which I could relate to as I didn’t get mine done until I was 13)!

I’ve also just remembered there’s a new series of the BSC on Netflix…

Henry & Harriet ~ The Famous Five

I absolutely loved the Famous Five when I was little (and still have the full collection). My siblings and I would pretend we were them and even convinced other families when we were on holiday. I was always George, even though I’m now probably way more like Anne. But in Five on Finniston Farm, the gang meet the two Harries.

They were exactly alike! The most twinny twins I’ve ever seen! thought Anne in amazement.

Five on Finniston Farm ~ Enid Blyton

They are described as looking and dressing the same, so as a reader when you visualise them in your imagination they are… until you realise that they can’t be, because they are actually Harriet and Henry! I know fraternal twins can look alike (the Olsen twins still flabbergast me), but it bugs me to this day! I’ll leave it to Enid Blyton’s creative licence, as it wouldn’t be half as good if they didn’t look alike!

Viola & Sebastian ~ Twelfth Night

Again, we have the issue of fraternal twins and mistaken identity, but as Shakespeare was writing more than 400 years ago, I’ll let him off. Although I first saw Twelfth Night when I was quite young, it remains one of my favourite Shakespearean comedies. In this play, the bard uses the twins to confuse and befuddle everyone in Illyria. Viola, disguised as a boy named Cesario, falls in love with Orsino; he in turn is in love with Olivia, but she has fallen for Cesario!

Conceal me what I am, and be my aid for such disguise as haply shall become the form of my intent.

Twelfth Night ~ William Shakespeare

This is perhaps the epitome of love triangle as it seems that none can be happy. Yet, when Sebastian appears (prompting a hilarious duel), all is resolved and they live happily ever after. I’m very much an advocate of experiencing a play, rather than reading it (this is where schools go wrong), so if you’re a Shakespeare-sceptic, please go and watch one of his comedies and see if it changes your mind.

Are you a twin? Or did you want to be one when you were younger?
Which books about twins are your favourites?

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