Most of us know that Luke Skywalker’s twin sister is Princess Leia Organa, but did you know that Hello Kitty has a twin sister named Mimmy? Or that Mario and Luigi are fraternal twin brothers? Did you remember that Superman’s biological father Jor-El has an identical twin brother named Nim-El? Even Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard had a twin!
Stories of twins date back to Romulus and Remus of Roman mythology, as well as the Olympian god Ares and his twin sister Athena. Multiples in fiction have given us The Wonder Twins from Super Friends; Dr. Seuss’ Thing One and Thing Two; sweet Raggedy Ann and Andy; triplet chipmunks Alvin, Simon and Theodore; superheroes He-Man and She-Ra; the creepy Grady Girls from Stephen King’s The Shining; twin Transformers named Mudflap and Skids; and even Alice’s Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
Sometimes the fact that a character has a twin isn’t central to the story’s plot, but it adds opportunities for twists and intrigue. A few of my favorites are Sheldon Cooper of the CBS television sitcom The Big Bang Theory and Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium novel series.
Multiples are a source of fascination for fictional writers. They offer storytellers an ideal mechanism for presenting common yin-and-yang contrasts. Remember when Austin Powers discovered Dr. Evil was his twin brother? Funny stuff, but thankfully art doesn’t always imitate life.
William Shakespeare is credited with some of the oldest twins in literature. In 1601, Shakespeare created Viola and Sebastian in Twelfth Night. Two sets of identical twins are central to the plot of mistaken identities in Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors.
Hansel and Gretel are often portrayed as twins, although it isn’t clear in the original tale by the Brothers Grimm published in 1812. Charles Dicken’s Nicholas Nickleby, published in 1838, featured identical twin brothers Charles and Ned Cheeryble who, as the name implies, offer a kindness and generosity that ensures Nicholas a happy ending.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, feature a number of multiples. Another fantasy series is A Song of Ice and Fire by George Martin – its popularity led to the television adaptation Game of Thrones. Other popular novels involving multiples include the Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga, Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles and Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides.
Looking to young adult novels, we find identical twins Sam and Eric, featured in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, who are so in sync they are known as Samneric. Jessica and Elizabeth are central characters in Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High series, which includes several hundred books written primarily by ghostwriters. The television series quickly became popular, as well as numerous other Sweet Valley book and TV spin-offs.
Popular twins Fred and George Weasley are found in the Harry Potter series. Born on April Fools’ Day, Fred and George are fun-loving yet trouble-making. A running joke throughout the novels (all made into movies, of course) is that they look so alike even their parents can’t tell them apart. Twins Padma and Parvati Patil are also J.K. Rowling’s creations.
Children’s books also feature plenty of adventurous multiples, including triplets Snipp, Snapp and Snurr and The O’Sullivan Twins. Erich Kastner’s 1949 novel Lottie and Lisa features twin sisters separated shortly after birth who, as teenagers, are reunited at summer camp and begin a quest to reunite their divorced parents (the basis for The Parent Trap Disney films).
One of the longest running series of children’s novels is The Bobbsey Twins written by Edward Stratemeyer under the pseudonym Laura Lee Hope. First published in 1904, the series had about 100 books to follow over the next 100 years. The books tell the adventures of a family with two sets of twins.
More recent novels with characters who are multiples include Liane Moriarty’s Three Wishes , Claire Fuller’s Unsettled Ground and Scott Turow’s Identical, among many others.
Comics have produced more twin tales than perhaps any other genre. Multiples found in comic books have included the Apocalypse Twins; Lightning Lass and Lightning Lad from planet Winath where twins are common; Northstar and his twin sister Aurora; as well as the mutant supervillanous Kleinstock triplets.
The list goes on to include Ferro Lad and his twin brother Douglas, members of the Legion of Super-Heroes; Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver of X-Men; Green Lantern’s boy-girl twins Jade and Obsidian; the Great Gambonnos, identical twin acrobats who work for the Circus of Crime; Billy and Tommy in WandaVision; and superheroine Mary Marvel, twin sister of Captain Marvel.
Let’s not forget these enemies of Spider-Man: two supervillains named Fusion who became a radioactive two-headed being after a nuclear accident. Luckily, both personalities remained intact and Spider-Man was eventually able to separate them.
Too many? We’re not done yet! The Collective Man is an identity shared by the Tao-Yu quintuplet brothers. They possess the mutant power to merge into one body and also share a psychic link that allows them to communicate telepathically.
Twins Lance and Cally Stone believe their fates are set by a comic book – they are the main characters in the television series Dark Oracle. Skins offers twin sisters Emily and Katie; and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia gives us twins Dee and Dennis, and the new series Dead Ringers features twins. Niki Sanders one of three identical triplets on NBC’s Heroes. In the more later Heroes Reborn, Claire’s twin children Malina and Tommy team up to save the world.
Since identical twins share DNA, numerous crime dramas have used multiples for clever plot twists. You’ll find plenty of multiples in comedies as well: Phoebe Buffay from NBC’s sitcom Friends spun off from her identical twin sister’s character Ursula on Mad About You.
The Simpsons has a few multiple sets: Marge’s older sisters Patty and Selma Bouvier, and Bart’s classmates Sherri and Terri Mackleberry who are later revealed to have a third triplet.
Daytime soaps have given audiences plenty of multiples over the years, probably because they naturally add intrigue and interest. Too many to list here, but know that the characters are countless and plot twists are endless.
In the live-action sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch that began in 1996, Sabrina was an only child, but she had an evil twin (somehow by different parents) named Katrina Spellman. Background trivia: Sabrina actually debuted in the Archie’s Madhouse comic strip and also appeared in the Archie Comics’ animated series and TV sitcom.
Younger viewers can’t turn on the television without catching a set of multiples: from Liv & Maddie and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody to Dipper and Mabel Pines on Gravity Falls. And many of us remember Jesse and Becky’s twin sons on Full House, Nicky and Alex, who are all grown up on the series Fuller House.
For many decades, we’ve enjoyed Daisy Duck’s triplet nieces April, May and June, and Donald Duck’s triplet nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. Current animated series include CatDog, Shimmer and Shine, The Powderpuff Girls who are triplets with superpowers, Princess Amber and Prince James on Sophia the First, Kim Possible’s younger twin brothers, twin steam locomotives in Thomas & Friends, Phil and Lil on Rugrats, and Dora the Exporer who has younger twin siblings.
A few adult comedies centered around multiples include Big Business, Twins and Stuck on You. Don’t forget the henchman twins in The Matrix Reloaded.
Many Disney movies feature multiples: The Bimbette triplets fawn over Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Si and Am are twin Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp, Flotsom and Jetsam are eel minions in The Little Mermaid, then Cloak and Daggar appear in The Little Mermaid II. Pixar offered identical triplet boys in Brave, twin Mazda Miatas Mia and Tia in Cars, and twin pill bugs Tuck and Roll in A Bug’s Life.
Disney has called multiples all sorts of annoyingly wonderful names, including triplets Fluffy, Muffy and Tuffy; twins Zin and Zang, triplets Ned, Jed and Fred; and the Twirley Twins named Chaz and Jaz.
Many of the situations fictional multiples find themselves in, thankfully, are far beyond the scope of reality. Soap operas have offered as many unrealistic plot twists as science fiction! No matter where we see them, or what their superpowers may be, both live action and animated multiples sure are fun to watch, aren’t they?
by Sara Barr
(originally published 2016, revised 2023)
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