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Don't Split Us Up
A group of siblings is threatened with separation by a divorce
, death, accident or what not. Depending on the show, one can sometimes expect them to go to extreme lengths
to prevent this.
Compare I Will Find You
. This trope is also commonly associated with Promotion to Parent
. Not to be confused with Never Split the Party
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In the backstory of Chrono Crusade, Rosette constantly dragged her brother, Joshua, out to play in the forest near the orphanage where they lived because she was afraid that Father Remington would split them up by taking Joshua to the Magdalene Order and leave her behind. Joshua himself wasn't quite as bothered by the idea of having to split up with Rosette, because he wanted to learn how to control his healing powers. Additionally, his powers didn't heal himself— he was often sickly and was afraid of Rosette having to put her life on hold to take care of him.
- In the backstory to Monster, the Lieberts only wanted to adopt Johan, but he insisted that they take his twin sister as well. They picked the wrong one.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Mokuba recounts how everyone wanted to adopt Seto since he was a genius, but he refused to go without his brother. Joey and Serenity also attempt this in their backstory, but are unsuccessful.
- The siblings from Maze Megaburst Space who takes their desire NOT to be split up to quite a... unique solution
- The Black Jack story The Two Jans is all about this. This being Black Jack, of course, they happen to be conjoined twins who share not only an entire body, but also most of their head.
- Seiya and his sister Seika in Saint Seiya, they were separated after Seiya was chosen to train to become a Saint. His main motivation after becoming one was to reunite with his sister who had gone missing afterwards.
- The main character of Papa no Iukoto o Kikinisai! adopts the three sisters because he doesn't want to see them split up.
- The reason Mii from Popotan doesn't want to stop time travelling when given the chance is because she wouldn't be able to live with her sisters that way. In the end, they still end up separating, but eventually reunite.
Films — Animated
- Averted in Despicable Me where the junior novelization says that the three girls "aren't technically sisters but they spend all their time together."
- Lilo & Stitch, where Social Services threatens to take Lilo away from older sister and guardian Nani.
Films — Live-Action
- In the American Girl Samantha books, when Nellie's parents die, Samantha helps her and her siblings run away from the orphanage and smuggles them into her (Samantha's) attic so that they'll be able to stay together.
- The problem is solved when Samantha's aunt and uncle adopt them.
- In Homecoming, the first book of the The Tillerman Family Series by Cynthia Voigt, four kids are abandoned by their mentally ill mother in a parking lot. The oldest girl leads them on foot to a cousin's house in the next state, where they're threatened with the prospect of one of them being put into foster care and another into institutional special ed. They go on for several more states to find their grandmother, who takes them all in.
- Henri and Clementa Tod in The Story Of Henri Tod. They were Jewish children in World War II and the resistance told them that they had to be sheltered separately. In this case they were split up. This gives Henri Tod a Failure Knight mentality that drives the plot.
- Joan Lowery Nixons Orphan Train books are about six siblings sent to Missouri by their mother and divided between four families. They all eventually end up in happy families, with only one child going to live with their mother when she moves out west and remarries.
- The sympathetic noble family in Tamora Pierce's Daughter of the Lioness books, which are set in a slave country, promise not to do this to any families when they're forced by the royal family to sell off most of their slaves and other property to prove they're not thinking rebellious thoughts.
- In C. S. Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, When Lord Bern buys Caspian, Lucy begs him not to split up the group, but he tells her he can't afford them all.
- In Passage to Zarahemla, after their mother's death, Kerra and Brock are to be separated, as the foster family that will take Brock doesn't have room for 2. So Kerra packs her stuff, Brock packs his, and they set off to Utah to find their missing dad's family.
- This kicks off one of the subplots in Uncle Tom's Cabin, when the slaveowner's wife is forced to sell the child of her maid. The maid, upon catching wind of this plan, promptly takes her baby and flees to Canada.
- One of the reasons Prosper and Bo are on the run from their aunt in The Thief Lord is that she only wanted Bo and was planning to send Prosper Off to Boarding School.
- Mentioned in several novels by Jacqueline Wilson:
- In Lily Alone, a young girl and her toddler-aged siblings are left alone at home when their mother goes on holiday and the appointed babysitter does not show up. The heroine fears that they will be taken into care and separated, so decides to hide out in the woods with the children so that Social Services can't check up on them.
- In Lola Rose by the same author, Lola is forced to take care of her younger brother alone while their mother goes into hospital for breast cancer surgery - she is afraid to let anyone find out in case she and her brother are taken into care and separated. She eventually gets help when she is able to trace their aunt.
- The Illustrated Mum is about Star and Dolphin's mother Marigold, who suffers from bipolar disorder. Despite Marigold's increasing inability to take care of her children, Star is very careful to avoid attracting attention from anyone because she believes that social services would separate her and Dolphin. The trope is played with when both girls are taken into care (separately) and social services find a way to place them in the same foster home so they can be together.
- One of The Baby-Sitters Club mystery specials was based around the girls undertaking work experience at a local shopping mall. They eventually discover that mysterious thefts from the mall were committed by three children, who have been secretly living there since their mother went into hospital - they are afraid of being separated by the local authorities.
- It's only part of an experiment, but in The Thirteenth Tale Adeline and Emmeline react very badly to being separated. Adeline even goes into a catatonic state.
- This is a concern for The Boxcar Children. They assume when their parents die that they'll either be split up or adopted by the grandfather their parents hate and they believe is abusive. By the end of the first book, they're all adopted by the grandfather who they find out is actually quite nice.
- Galaxy of Fear takes place six months after Tash and Zak Arranda lost their families on Alderaan. Tash, being the more responsible sibling, develops separation anxiety and a fear of abandonment. She swore to herself that she would never lose anyone else like that, and whenever she's apart from her brother for too long she starts to worry that something's happened to him - with good reason! Horrible things are constantly happening to both of them! She reacts very negatively to even suggestions of a more permanent parting.
Live Action TV
- Bonanza: Toward the end of Season 14, the episode "The Sound of Sadness" saw a dirt farmer (Jack Albertson, of Chico And The Man fame) make an ultimately successful attempt to adopt two orphaned brothers. Before the adoption takes place, the requisite drama sees numerous families want to adopt the older, stronger of the two boys, but not the younger one, a tiny boy who has multiple disabilities, including muteness. Griff King (Tim Matheson in an early TV role) played an influential role in swaying the hard-nosed adoption director's initial decision to split the boys up.
- Little House on the Prairie: At least two episodes:
- "Remember Me," a two parter from midway through the second season. The Sanderson children are faced with separation when a family wants to adopt the boys as farmhands, while Harriet's wealthy cousin wishes to adopt little Alicia. At the last minute, Mr. Edwards and Grace Snider marry, and adopt all three.
- "A Silent Cry," from early in Season 7, a rewrite of the Bonanza episode described above. Michael Landon's script was adapted for the show simply by crossing out names and replacing them with newer ones, and slight changes to the dialogue. Houston (Dub Taylor, playing the cantankerous caretaker of the Blind School) and Adam Kendall play the central roles here.
- This is the basic premise of Party of Five, with the oldest of the five siblings becoming their guardian to avoid seeing them split up in foster care.
- There was also a television series called On Our Own, in which the eldest brother, not yet of legal age, had to crossdress and pose as an older relative so that he and his siblings wouldn't be separated.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one subplot was how Buffy was trying to make sure that Dawn didn't get taken away from her. Also, technically they weren't family, but Willow and Tara kept a robot-Buffy to hide the fact that Buffy had died in order to keep Dawn with them.
- In Birds of a Feather Sharon and Tracey find out that they were both adopted, their parents were only going to adopt one child but decided it would be wrong to split up the sisters.
- When the Fantasia split up in Maddigan's Quest episode "Plague", Timon and Eden insist on staying behind with their infected baby sister, even when Garland reminds them that by doing so, they're threatening the entirety of their home town.
- The real-world versions of Hansel and Gretel in Once Upon a Time are fighting to stay together after their mother's death. Emma has to find their father and convince him to take them before Regina makes her take the kids to Boston to be put in foster care.
- An episode of Life has a pair of siblings living in a mall where a murder was committed because they're afraid that if they go into the foster system they'll be split up. Dani finds their aunt who adopts them.
- Firefly, partly. It is also about saving River from a Place Worse Than Death.
- An early Bones episode involves two brothers in the foster system who worry about getting split up.
- Suikoden IV: This plays a critical role in Akaghi and Mizuki's backstory: after their clan was conquered, they were going to be sold as slaves. When Mizuki was about to be sold without him, however, Akaghi made a huge scene, attracting Mister Ramada's attention. Ramada went on to buy and employ the pair, earning their gratitude.
- One time Arthur and DW's parents were arguing and Arthur imagined what would happen if they split up and neither parent wanted to take them - they'd have to live in an orphanage.
Arthur: Please, sir, may I have some 'Ore?
Mr Ratburn (as Mr. Bumble): 'ave some 'ore? 'ave some 'ore? (puts a rowboat oar in Arthur's bowl) that's some oar! I'm hysterical! I should get paid more.
- Later quoth Arthur: "We've got to avoid getting sent to an orphanage at all costs. Especially one that's set in the 1800s."
- An Animaniacs episode spoofs this when Wakko eats too many meatballs and Death comes to drag him away.
Yakko: Oh, pleeeeaase don't separate us, Mr. Death! We love each other! We're a family! A set! Like Civil War chess pieces from the Franklin Mint!
- An episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks did this with the Chippettes. The girls stayed with the boys and Dave for a few days while a social worker tried to find a foster home for them, and they got along horribly with the boys. It wasn't until the social worker said that the only option was to split up the girls (since, as she explains, many people can't afford to take in siblings together and can only adopt one,) that they start to get along.
- All three girls are later put under the care of kind Mrs. Miller, who does live quite near Dave and the boys, and is quite willing to take in all three.
- Pound Puppies (2010): "Quintuplets". A group of pups are determined to stay together and want to be adopted all together. When the Pound Puppies have a tough time trying to find them an owner and discuss splitting up the siblings, the puppies decide to run away from the pound to stay together. In the end Lucky convinces them to return to the pound but works to find an owner for them. Eventually the puppies end up getting adopted by a family who has a set of quintuplets of their own.
- In The Simpsons episode "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" the family decide to get rid of the 25 puppies. When Lisa sees how they don't like to be broken up, Marge points out that she can't see anyone buying all of them. Mr. Burns is willing and plans to make a tuxedo out of them. He eventually decides not to kill them and raises 25 champions at the dog track.
Announcer: 25 dogs, 25 world champions which so far have earned their owner over ten million dollars. I'll bet whoever gave him those dogs is kicking themselves now.
- In the Recess episode "The Biggest Trouble Ever" the gang accidentally destroys a statue and is almost sent off to seperate schools as punishment. Even Principal Prickly and Miss Finster thought this was going too far.
- In his history of Nile exploration, Alan Moorehead says that some Arab slavers in the region would go out of their way to avoid doing this. If so then Even Evil Has Standards.
- Averted, of course, in American slavery. Families were split up all the time, often deliberately since uprisings became less common if individual slaves cared more about themselves than their fellow slaves. In fact, "'Til death or distance do you part" was common in marriage vows at the time.
- By comparison the Janisary Tax or Blood Tax, which was sort of an Ottoman version of The Academy, on a massive scale was explicitly designed to do this. The point was to prepare youths from conquered countries as bureaucrats and soldiers and it was felt necessary to separate them from connections.
- It's called the devshirme, and it wasn't so much about 'conquered' countries as the fact that it was against shari'a to enslave Muslims, so they gathered their military slaves from the populous Christian provinces, and then converted them. Lots of people who made it up the ranks knew perfectly well who their families were and did things to help them out, but the system didn't really break down until the devshirme stopped being collected and the Janissaries became hereditary and, promptly, corrupt as hell.
- The Ottoman elites were Turks, which in those days still evoked 'having their origin in the steppes of Eurasia,' and there was an ethos against 'awlad al-Arab' being involved in military ventures. Fighting—especially command—was a ethnically defined employment. Caucasians, Georgians, Circassians, Kipchaks—but not Arabs.
- Most families really didn't want to give their kids up, though some were eager for their children to have the opportunity to run the empire. But either way, the tax was designed not to tap anyone or anywhere flat, so siblings would not tend to be together.
- There's one memorable case of an Ottoman governor who'd been trained in the palace school after being taken in devshirme and his full brother, the Orthodox Christian bishop of a neighboring district. They had pretty good relations.
- The Sullivan brothers, during World War II. Unfortunately, there wasn't a happy ending.
- Which is why they now discourage close relatives from serving together.
- There's a similar policy in the British military. In World War One and earlier conflicts, the British Army often mustered "Pals battalions": all the young men in a single town or Close-Knit Community would enlist together, and the army would form a platoon or unit consisting entirely of young men from a single community who had known each other their entire lives. This tradition was stopped following the disastrous Battle of the Somme in World War One, because of the devastating effect on the community back home when such a unit sustained heavy casualties. Men who enlist together (whether brothers or merely friends) are now nearly always assigned to different units.
- There is always a risk of this happening when parents are deemed unsuitable and children are sent to foster care.
- Also sometimes happens in full-on adoption, not just foster care. Many social workers and adoption agencies will try to keep siblings together, but many families looking to adopt are only looking for one child, either for financial reasons or simply because it's easier to care for one child than two or more.
- Additionally, sometimes children's other needs can be best met by adopters if they are split up. For example if an older child has been used to stepping into the role of parent for their younger siblings sometimes the only way to ensure they have a childhood is for them to be adopted seperately.
- Kurt Vonnegut adopted three of his sister's children after they were orphaned. He states they had only two requests - to not be divided, and to keep the dogs. He acceded to both.