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Literature / Lottie and Lisa

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Lottie and Lisa (original title: Das doppelte Lottchen) is a German children's book by Erich Kästner, written in 1949.

Loud, sassy Luise Palfy from Vienna and shy, responsible Lotte Körner from Munich meet in a summer camp for little girls in the Alps. They are shocked to realize that they look completely alike, except for the fact that Luise's hair is curly while Lotte's is braided. Luise doesn't take it well that someone else is walking around 'with her face' and they get off to a rather bad start. However, over time they become friends and learn a lot about each other: They are both being raised by a single parent (Luise by her father and Lotte by her mother), they were both born in the same city, and they will both turn ten on October 14th of this year... They soon figure out that they are actually twins and their parents separated years ago, splitting them up, and agreed to never tell the girls that they had a sister.

Luise and Lotte want to get to know their mother and father respectively, so they hatch a daring plan: Luise goes to Munich in Lotte's place, and Lotte goes to Vienna in Luise's. Things don't run smoothly, though. "Lotte" has apparently forgotten how to cook during the holidays, is suddenly slapping one of her classmates, and is generally much less of a wallflower than she used to be. At the same time, "Luise" doesn't like her favourite food any more, has started to look after her father's household, and is much better at maths. Things take a turn for the dramatic when the girls' father decides to remarry and Lotte suddenly stops writing to Luise, who starts to worry about her sister.

If this all sounds kind of familiar, both films titled The Parent Trap were based on it. It has also been adapted as a film under its original title (a Truer to the Text version that retains author Erich Kästner as narrator and uses actual twins), as Twice Upon a Time and as Hibari's Lullaby (a Japanese telling). There's also an anime version by TMS Entertainment, made in 1991.

Lottie and Lisa contains examples of:

  • Age-Stereotypical Food: The mischief-making Luise loves pancakes, but the more mature and responsible Lotte, while posing as Luise, announces she'll eat what her father eats from now on.
  • Alliterative Family: The parents are named Luiselotte and Ludwig. The twins' names are Luise and Lotte after their mother.
  • Always Identical Twins: The twins look exactly alike, save for their different hairstyles (a Justified Trope, since the story hinges on it).
  • Animated Adaptation: It got an anime in 1991 called Watashi to Watashi: Futari no Lotte (or "I and Myself: The Two Lottes"), as well as a German animated movie titled after the book in 2007.
  • The Bully: Anni Habersetzer always picks on the smallest girl in Lotte's class so Luise-as-Lotte thinks that she deserves some decent slaps.
  • Coordinated Clothes: Lotte brought two dresses of the same kind to camp, and each girl wears one, complete with matching braids, for dinner. They wanted to confuse and amuse other children and their camp supervisors.
  • Daddy's Girl: Luise is very close to her father.
  • Don't Split Us Up: The twins were too young to do this the first time they were separated, but now that they know about each other, it's their greatest wish to stay together as a family.
  • Heroic BSoD: Lotte doesn't handle the charade quite as well as Luise does. Not only doesn't she have her sister's natural sass and cheekiness to defend herself with, but her situation is plain more stressful — especially when she faces the prospect of getting Irene Gerlach as a stepmother and is too smart to fall for the woman's false friendliness. Finally, after trying and failing spectacularly to talk both to her father and to Irene, Lotte feels so overwhelmed and powerless that she has an emotional breakdown, develops a fever and ends up bedridden and apathetic. Thankfully she recovers when Luise and their mother show up in Vienna, the charade is over and most of the stress vanishes.
  • Identical Stranger: The people running the camp first think that Luise and Lotte are examples of this. Mrs. Muther mentions reading about a tailor who looked exactly like King Edward VII, especially since they both had the same kind of beard. The King summoned the tailor to Buckingham Palace and had a talk with him, and at his wish, the tailor had to shave off his beard.
  • Identical Twin ID Tag: Luise's hair is curly, Lotte's is braided. Since this is the only difference in looks between them, it's very easy for them to switch roles for much of the book. By the end, they have gone back to their preferred hairstyles.
  • Identical Twin Mistake: The girls switching places is so successful that they are only found out by complete coincidence. They look exactly alike except for their hairstyles which are easily disguised. However, they are also very different in personality and have to work hard to maintain their charade, which causes especially Lotte a lot of stress and anxiety. They would probably have been found out due to their different personalities and lack of knowledge about each others' lives had it not been for the fact of the parents being distracted by their own problems. Their looks, however, are so identical that they themselves cannot distinguish between each other in a photo.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ludwig Palfy. He's rather self-centered and often immature, bordering on an Innocently Insensitive Manchild at times (and the Lemony Narrator isn't shy about letting the readers know this!), but he does care very deeply about his daughter(s), and at the end of the day, when he realizes he's done someone wrong, he is ready to admit it and make amends.
  • Judgment of Solomon: Played With. Lotte-as-Luise has a dream where the two sisters' father threatens to saw them in half, while mother begs him to allow her to keep both of them. In the end, they settle for a metaphorical Solomon Divorce (which is what had really happened). The dream then takes a bizarre turn when Lotte gets so confused that she doesn't know which one of the sisters she actually is and laments that's she's been reduced to "a mere half."
  • Kids Play Matchmaker: Downplayed. In the modern film versions, when the twins find out their father is going to marry they decide to intervene and get their parents back together. However, the book having been written at a time when children were supposed to stay out of grown-ups' affairs, the twins pursue the parents' reconciliation much less actively than in the adaptations. Their original goal is mainly to get to know the parents, not get them back together, though they sometimes secretly dream of it. The only thing they can do to achieve the parents getting back together is plead for them to reconcile (and for Irene Gerlach and the father not to get married before that), and they, especially Lotte, are aware that they have hardly any real influence on the situation. It mostly all comes together when the mother arrives in Vienna and the parents spend time together again and see how they've changed as people.
  • Lemony Narrator: Erich Kästner's narration is lively and personal, often inserting snarky asides about the situation or about the characters (Ludwig gets by far the most Take That! comments towards him) or talk directly to the readers, wondering whether he used the right words or even chastising himself for writing a nonsensical sentence. At one point, before going into the parents' backstory and why they got divorced to begin with, he pauses to deliver an Author Filibuster about how wrong it is for parents to try and "shield their children from harm" by refusing to talk to them about certain topics — instead of just trying to explain things in ways the kids can understand.
  • Mouthy Kid: Luise is a good kid, really, but she can never resist being cheeky — not even when she's impersonating Lotte, who is very much not a Mouthy Kid, can she keep her sassiness completely in check.
  • Parental Bonus: Children reading the book might not understand why the painter Gabele feels he needs to hide the painting depicting a scene from classical antiquity from Lotte-as-Luise, but parents will know what is meant. Then there's the references to Irene Gerlach being a "real woman" who "knows how to make use of herself".
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Luise is very loud and sometimes bratty, and much more outgoing than Lotte, who is calm, shy and very responsible to the point of being almost as (and, on occasion, even more) mature than her father and Resi, the housemaid.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Lotte, who is calm and mature, is the Blue to Luise's wild and carefree Red.
  • Separated at Birth: Not right away, but they were both still very little and don't remember each other.
  • Solomon Divorce: One of the earliest notable examples.
  • Theme Twin Naming: The twins' names are alliterative. As a bonus, they are actually both named after their mother, who is called Luiselotte.
  • Thinly-Veiled Dub Country Change: In a sense; The Hebrew translation of the book changed Lotte's hometown from Munich to Zürich. At the time, Israel had a "Germany Taboo" not unlike the Nuclear Weapons Taboo in Japan today.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Luise is a loud and wild tomboy, while Lotte is obedient, quiet and used to doing housework to help her mother.
  • Twin Switch: The twins don't switch for fun or mischief but out of a serious fear that they will never get to know their mother and father, respectively, since they were Separated at Birth and only met by coincidence. The switch going unnoticed is facilitated by the parents being distant in case of the father and constantly working in case of the mother. That's not to say everything goes completely smoothly; even if they're trying very hard to keep their roles going, nobody can avoid noticing that "Luise" is suddenly a lot more mature and domestic, or that "Lotte" has become more of a troublemaker.At the end of the book they delight in the idea of switching at school for fun.
  • Twin Test: The twins put on identical dresses and wear their hair the same way one day at summer camp. They then challenge the other campers to figure out who is who. No one manages it by looking at them, but since their personalities are very different, one girl has the idea to pull the hair of one of the twins. When this earns her a slap, everyone knows it was wild-tempered Luise and not the shy Lotte.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Lotte, to the point where the narration dryly points out that she's more mature than her father. The trope isn't played completely straight, though, because it becomes increasingly obvious that even though Lotte is very mature for her age she is still a ten year old girl and there are things she simply isn't prepared to handle.