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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 Palffy 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.

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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, yes, The Parent Trap was based on it.


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Lottie and Lisa contains examples of:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: This being a children's book written in the 1940s, it's very sublte, but there are some instances of adult themes being referenced:
    • The painter Gabele throws a cloth over the painting he is working on when Lotte-as-Luise comes to visit him because scenes from classical antiquity are not always "appropriate for children". Made hilarious in the 1950 movie as he does hide the painting he is currently working on... only to have several other paintings of naked women around the flat.
    • It's mentioned that when the parents were still married, the father often left the mother alone with the twins to compose... and "practise singing" with pretty opera singers. She apparently didn't think much of it and asked for a divorce.
  • 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.
  • Judgment of Solomon: Played With. Lotte-as-Luise had a dream where the two sisters' father threatened to saw them in half, while mother begged him to allow her to keep both of them. In the end, they settled for a metaphorical Solomon Divorce (which is what had really happened).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. At the end of the book they delight in the idea of switching at school for fun.

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