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Rich Sibling, Poor Sibling

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They're (step)sisters, but you wouldn't know it.

As time went by, the chateau fell into disrepair, for the family fortunes were squandered upon the vain and selfish stepsisters, while Cinderella was abused, humiliated, and finally forced to become a servant in her own house.
Narrator, Cinderella

Two people are siblings and/or raised together. (Stepsiblings, half-siblings, and honorary or adopted siblings also count.) One is wealthy, belonging to high society. The other is an impoverished Butt-Monkey and a Princess in Rags (although the trope is not dependent on them being royal) who usually grew up in a rougher environment.

The nature of this dynamic is very situational. If Privilege Makes You Evil and Misery Builds Character, expect the rich(er) sibling to be an evil Rich Bitch, of which Cinderella is the Ur-Example. If there's a Lower-Class Lout in the equation, the poorer sibling will be vilified. Expect most versions to fall somewhere in the middle.

It's a sibling foil equivalent to Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor, with which it can overlap in cases of a Sibling Triangle. Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling can overlap with this, but it may be that the poor sibling is feckless (leading to their comparative poverty), or that the richer sibling is a bully. Compare Successful Sibling Syndrome, with which it can often overlap. However, this trope is about reality, special treatment, and/or material goods, rather than just feeling inferior.

Exactly how the characters end up in this situation is flexible. It may be a trigger for a Prince and Pauper type situation, or due to being raised by a Wicked Stepmother, or the siblings may have never met and Separated at Birth — it's common for one to have been adopted — whether happily or unhappily by wealthy people, and their sibling grows up in the foster system. This may also have occurred due to someone trying to Take a Third Option on One Twin Must Die. Sometimes it's because they are The Unfavorite, and in some cases, a Disinherited Child. In certain cases, they will be forced into literal service of their sibling, perhaps as part of a Cinderella Plot. May also have occurred in a Switched at Birth situation where some siblings are raised in a wealthy family (alongside an "imposter" from a poor family), and vice versa. Almost a given in any situation with a Hidden Backup Prince.

This trope can and often does occur in adulthood, usually with a Self-Made Man or someone who is still under the thumb of their wealthy parents, with the other being a Defector from Decadence. If so, it will be a frequent cause of Always Someone Better and/or Mutual Envy that may lead to the The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry. If it's played for heartwarming, expect it to align with Underdogs Never Lose and Rags to Riches, where the sibling who has been poor and/or mistreated will naturally rise or the richer character will receive a dose of Break the Haughty. The tone will be vastly different, but the premise is roughly the same.

Examples include:

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     Anime and Manga 
  • Digimon Frontier: This is subtly shown to be the case with Separated at Birth twins Koji and Koichi. While Koji isn't necessarily spoiled, he does enjoy a comfortable life living with his father and stepmother in a large house. Meanwhile, Koichi lives with his Struggling Single Mother and their apartment is shown to be quite shabby. This difference feeds into Koichi's initial envy and hatred of Koji.

    Fairy Tales 
  • Cinderella: Cinderella is raised alongside her two stepsisters but waits on them and is essentially imprisoned. But the Rags to Riches element occurs with Cinderella and she of course surpasses her stepsisters. She's also a downplayed example because she wasn't always raised by them, but ended up alone with a Wicked Stepmother.
  • In the Norse tale Why the Sea is Salt, a poor man begs for food from his rich, selfish brother. The rich brother only gives it to him on the condition that he journey to Hell. The poor brother does this... and comes back with a magic hand-mill, which grinds out anything he wishes for.

     Fan Works 
  • GF Serendipity: Stan Pines earned his millions by helping Fiddleford sell his laptops while his twin brother Ford wasted his college grant in a failed research and now lives in a dilapidated cabin.

     Film — Live-Action 
  • Big Business (1988) has this happen to two sets of identical twin girls. One twin from each set is unknowingly replaced with the other, so instead of two sets of twins, there is the same pair of sisters in two different families. One pair is raised in a small town, and the other by a rich family in New York City. The conflict comes when the rich sisters try to destroy the small town whether the other sisters live, causing the pairs to finally meet.
  • A classic subversion in Game Night. Handsome, charming Brooks is The Ace and a multi-millionaire. His brother Max is much less charismatic and apparently much poorer, although this falls under Pottery Barn Poor. It turns out that Brooks made all his money through drug smuggling and other illegal activities, and was motivated by jealousy of Max.
  • I Know Who Killed Me: Audrey Fleming was raised by wealthy parents who bought her from her heroin-addicted mother, is a Teen Genius, and a prodigy piano player. Her sister Dakota was left alone after her mother's death and strips in a local club.
  • Kapoor & Sons: Arjun wants to be a well-off and successful writer like his brother, but doesn't have a hit yet and has resorted to bartending to make ends meet while he tries to write his big break.
  • In Morozko, Nastenka is forced to work as a servant by her Wicked Stepmother while her stepsister Marfa is doted upon and lavished with presents. The stepmother goes as far as to purposefully smear Nastenka's face with dirt so that she wouldn't outshine Marfa.
  • Rags: Downplayed and zig-zagged with Charlie and his stepbrothers, Andrew and Lloyd. While Charlie is definitely worse off and is established as having no money to his name, thanks to being an unpaid employee of his stepfather's restaurant and little more, his stepbrothers aren't exactly rich. The business is failing, and while their dad favors them more than Charlie, he's still prone to yelling at them more than actually spoiling them. As for the stepbrothers themselves, the most spoiled and privileged is Andrew, who isn't yelled at nearly as often as Lloyd is, and who gives his own brother the shaft later on in the movie in favor of his own solo career.
  • Scream 3: Roman sees this as having occurred between him and his half-sister Sidney, which is why he stalked her, encouraged Billy and Stu's killing spree, and went on one of his own because he was a Child by Rape who was given up to the foster system and rejected by Maureen, his and Sidney's mother. It's a case of an Informed Attribute and Informed Poverty as Roman is a successful film director in the present.
  • Twin Sisters: When fraternal twins Lotte and Anna are orphaned at age six, they wind up separated, each raised by a different set of distant relatives. Anna is adopted by German pig farmers and winds up little more than a slave. Lotte is adopted by Dutch relatives and lives in a mansion, playing piano and going to university.
  • Whatever Happened To Baby Jane has several reversals through a Decon-Recon Switch that is at the heart of the story. First, Jane is the spoiled sister, as the beloved child star and vaudeville act while her sister Blanche is shy and reserved. Then, after Jane's act falls out of favor, she becomes The Alcoholic and Blanche becomes an acclaimed prestige actress who leaves Jane totally in her shadow. Then it gets deconstructed after Blanche's car accident, making her dependent on Jane, which Jane uses to torture Blanche and get her revenge.

  • Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves: Ali Baba and Kassim are sons of a merchant but while Kassim grew up to be a greedy merchant with a wealthy wife, Ali Baba is a woodcutter and marries a poor wife. However, when Ali Baba struck luck with finding a thieves' hideout and took some of the wealth, Kassim demand the location of the hideout. This ended up getting him killed when the thieves found him in their hideout.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm:
    • Thanks to her various "inventions", in terms of personal income, Myne is much better off than Tuuli, her older sister. It only becomes more extreme with her noble identity Rozemyne, even though the latter officially has no familial ties to Tuuli. Rozemyne's noble adoptive family is also technically better off than the noble family she was officially born into, making Rozemyne richer than her "biological" brothers.
    • As an apprentice merchant, Lutz is better off than his carpenter brothers.
    • Having this happen is built into how noble society works. Children who are born with low Mana compared to what is expected in their family are made servants in their own household, adopted into a lower-status family, or sent to the temple. All three of those options mean a lower status and less income compared to any siblings who are raised by their parents.
  • Big Little Lies: Max and Josh grow up as two of the wealthiest kids in Monterey because of Perry's money. Their half brother Ziggy, a Child by Rape to his mother Jane, grows up in considerable poverty due to Jane being a Struggling Single Mother.
  • In Brig Scarlet Flamingo, Baron Simon Canter is rich at practically a Fiction 500 level. His illegitimate half-sister Albertina is lower-middle-class, and he blackmails her into working as his unpaid housekeeper, threatening the lives of her husband and children. That's because her mother has been given a bit of money by Simon's father, and for Simon, any decrease of his rightful inheritance is a Berserk Button.
  • Cormoran Strike Novels: As his father Johnny Rokeby refused to acknowledge him, Strike grew up poor and shuffled around, although loved by his irresponsible mother Leda while Rokeby's other children, like Al, grew up in the height of luxury. Rokeby finally acknowledged Strike as an adult and wanted to bankroll Strike after he lost his leg in Afghanistan, who refused, making it an enforced trope.
  • In Die Pilgerin, Otfried is pampered by his father who believes in Heir Club for Men while his sister Tilla is ignored by him at best and mistreated, having only a very small allowance. Their father realises his mistake only on his deathbed when he sees Otfried just waits for him to die (and ends us participating in his murder), while Tilla, who was raised right by her old nurse, doesn't bear any grudge and cares for him.
  • Dublin Murder Squad: Feigned by Rosalind in In The Woods by way of a Wounded Gazelle Gambit. She claimed to her boyfriend and The Heavy, Damian, that she was being raped by her father with her sister Katy's encouragement and that Katy was the much-adored family favorite as a ballet prodigy while Rosalind was forced to take care of the mentally disabled youngest sister Jessica. Cassie even says that Rosalind gave Damian a Cinderella story. While it seems that her father preferred Katy over Rosalind, this seems to have had more to do with Rosalind's psychopathy.
  • Harry Potter: Harry Potter and Dudley Dursley are not brothers, they're cousins. However, they do live together, and while Dudley is pampered with excessive amenities and treats, Harry is made to do all the chores, is yelled at all the time, and hardly gets any luxuries.
  • In Les Misérables, Cosette is abused by her foster parents the Thénardiers while Eponine and Azelma are doted on by their parents. Gavroche, the son of the couple, is also neglected to the point that, in Paris, he went to live in the streets. Two other sons were rented out to a woman wanting to pass them to Gillenormand as his sons after the real ones died.
  • Little Darlings (Literature): Sunset and Destiny are half-sisters who share a father (rock star Danny Kilman). Sunset was born into wealth in Danny's marriage to a successful model Suzy, while Destiny was raised on a council estate and her mother was a cleaner. Although it's never explicitly confirmed whether Destiny is Danny's daughter, as Kate is obsessed with him and seems to mostly want a father for her daughter.
  • In Lottie and Lisa, the Solomon Divorce of the eponymous girls' parents leads to this. Spoiled, carefree Lisa (Luise in the original) lives with their father, a wealthy Vienna State Opera conductor, while her responsible twin Lottie, always very careful with money, is raised by their Struggling Single Mother.
  • Magpie Murders: Despite having been born the older twin, Clarissa and Magnus Pye's father changed the birth certificates so that Magnus would inherit everything, invoking Heir Club for Men. As a result, Magnus has the title and the house, while Clarissa is a spinster teacher.
  • Keith's backstory in My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! involved this trope. He's the son of a minor noble related to the Claes family and a prostitute. After he was sent back to his birth father's house at three, he was practically treated as The Unfavorite at best, and at the worst, he wasn't treated as a family member—he wasn't even allowed to call his parents "father" and "mother," and he wasn't allowed to dine at the same table with the rest of family. His half-brothers bullied him, with apparent parental authority.
  • Night Film: In a reference to Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, Marlowe and Olivia have undergone these switches. Marlowe was a highly respected actress while Olivia was a failure. However, after Marlowe got in a car accident, Olivia seduced her fiancé and married into his billions. Marlowe collapsed into alcoholism and plastic surgery addiction, has all failed marriages, and is ultimately broke and being secretly bankrolled by Olivia.
  • Sherlock Holmes: The villain of "The Priory School" is James Wilder, the Duke's illegitimate son who want to inherit his father's estate and fortune as opposed to his legitimate half-brother.
  • The Vicomte Of Bragelonne, a novel featuring the Man in the Iron Mask, was written by Alexandre Dumas, based on the speculation of Voltaire that a nameless masked prisoner at the time was an illegitimate son born of Anne of Austria, and sired by Cardinal Mazarin. This would make him a bastard half-brother to Louis XIV of France. The book chronicles the efforts of the musketeers to replace the incompetent and narcissistic Louis with his half-brother Phillippe. The latter at the outset is being held prisoner on the Isle de Sainte Marguerite, France's version of Alcatraz Island.
  • In The Year of the Rat, Ryska is a Child by Rape, abused by her adoptive father (the biological one never appears) and ignored by her mother, and the situation only worsens after her half-brother is born. At one point, when her father gives her a terrible beating (after she dares to argue when he once again blames her for her mother's rape), her mother only cares that the cries upset the baby boy. Ultimately, Ryska is sent away to work for wealthy relatives, and there, at least, she finds genuine friendship among the other servants.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Airwolf is piloted by Stringfellow Hawke, who performs missions for the Firm in exchange for their help in locating his brother Saint John Hawke. Saint John became Missing In Action during the Vietnam War and is presumed alive somewhere in Communist territory. The Firm is a "contractor" of the CIA, so they can leverage Stringfellow's covert operations into American intel gathering. Stringfellow normally lives as a recluse in a mountain cabin overlooking a lake, hardly looking destitute. Saint John turns up in the fourth season alive and intact, and he cleaned up nicely.
  • Arrow: This causes problems for Oliver Queen in Season 7 because—unknown to him—he has a half-sister Emiko from an affair his father had, who bitterly resents having to grow up in poverty while seeing Oliver living the life of a billionaire playboy. The resentment doesn't go away just because Oliver has lost his fortune and become the Arrow.
  • Bones: Hodgins was raised in a wealthy, upper-class family and became a millionaire himself. He has a long-lost brother who was institutionalized in a group home due to having a schizoaffective disorder that resulted in him being violent.
  • The premise of Broke: Elizabeth married a rich kid while her sister Jackie is a struggling single mom. In the pilot, Liz's husband loses his trust fund and they have to move in with Jackie.
  • Chocolate com Pimenta: Ludovico is a wealthy chocolatier while his paternal half-sister Jezebel lives at his home and needs a job at his factory to earn a living. This is handwaved by Ludovico reminding her that, unlike his mother, hers didn't have a fortune to bequeath.
  • Desperate Housewives:
    • Tom's daughter Kayla, born out of a one-night stand with Lower-Class Lout Nora Huntington, was raised alone by her mother. Although Lynette and Tom are among the most struggling Wisteria Lane residents, their life still appears very luxurious in comparison to Kayla and Nora's.
    • In addition to the children he had with Bree, Rex Van de Kamp also had Sam Allen from an early fling; he ended up being raised by a shop cashier. Invoked repeatedly by Sam who wants Bree to feel guilty that he never had what Danielle and Andrew did.
    • Gaby and Carlos's daughter Juanita was Switched at Birth at the hospital. While Gaby and Carlos are wealthy and their daughters are spoiled, their birth daughter Grace grew up in poverty as the daughter of two undocumented working-class parents.
  • In Gossip Girl (2021), maternal half-sisters Julien and Zoya come from vastly different backgrounds. Julien is rich and Zoya middle class. When the series starts, they've been talking for a few years behind their dads' backs (who think they don't know each other) and Julien pulls the strings to get Zoya a scholarship to her elite private school so they can meet and get to know each other in person.
  • The premise of Home Economics is that three siblings are all in different financial straits: Tom is a middle-class author married to a lawyer, his sister Sarah is a recently-fired social worker married to a teacher (poor), and their younger brother Connor is a wealthy entrepreneur.
  • Innocent (UK): In Series 1, Tara was a successful businesswoman and family woman before her murder, while her sister Alice was poor, including too poor to have more IVF (which Tara was funding). Gets a bit of Laser-Guided Karma after Tara's murder, when Alice adopts Tara's children and inherits her house and whole estate.
  • Twins Sutton and Emma got separated in The Lying Game, despite both being the daughters of a wealthy couple. Emma ended up in the foster system while Sutton ended up rich and spoiled.
  • The Pact: The wealthy Arwel owns the brewery and has a mansion as one of his multiple houses, and his sister Louie is a kleptomaniac who lives in a tiny flat and can't pay the blackmailers £1,000. She says she doesn't mind, and she's telling the truth because she knows Arwel got it due to their father's guilt over abusing him in their childhood.
  • Red Dwarf: In "Back to Reality", the crew are placed in a shared hallucination. In the hallucination, Lister and Rimmer are made to believe they are half-brothers, with Lister being wealthy and successful, and Rimmer being penniless and destitute.
  • Torn: Lori is kidnapped by the poor Joanna and is raised in relative poverty on a council estate and some less savoury acquaintances, although they are not a Lower-Class Lout and are shown to be extremely loving. In contrast, Lori/Alice's birth parents, are wealthy and raised their kids with the expectation of going to college.
  • Unforgotten: Downplayed but still present between sisters Marion and Elise in Season 2. Elise is very well-to-do and has young children, while Marion has a lot of angst about whether or not to have children and is constantly sabotaging her marriage and job prospects, despite working as a nurse. It makes a lot more sense once we learn that Marion was raped by her and Elise's father throughout their childhoods.
  • Veronica Mars:
    • Mac and Madison Sinclair were Switched at Birth. Madison's birth family, Mac's adoptive family, are "NASCAR trailer trash". The Sinclairs are one of the wealthiest families in Neptune and spoil Rich Bitch Madison.
    • We are repeatedly told this will have happened if Veronica is really Jake Kane's daughter from Liane's affair with him, and therefore Lilly and Duncan's "poor" sister. She isn't.
    • Season 3 briefly introduces Aaron's long-lost son Charlie, who was supported through a trust by some of Aaron's money but still grew up without Logan's opportunities and with a Struggling Single Mother. He becomes a teacher and tells Logan he has no interest in a relationship with him.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Japanese Mythology: Somin Shourai was a poor man with a wealthy younger brother, sometimes named Kotan Shourai. When the god Mutou-no-kami came to their houses seeking shelter for the night, Kotan turned him away while Somin shared his humble bed and meal. Years later, after Somin's death, Mutou-no-kami returned and visited his daughter, telling her to wear a shimenawa wreath around her waist then on. He then killed everyone in the area except for her with plague, revealed that he was Susano'o (or in some versions, Gozu-Tennou), and promised that anyone who claimed to be Somin Shourai's descendant would be spared in times of plague.

  • Blood Brothers: The entire plot is based around two brothers who are raised in drastically different circumstances, with Mickey being raised in a poor and rough house while Eddie is raised with a rich and spoiled lifestyle. Mickey gradually goes mad from the stress of his life, and when he learns of their blood relation, he kills Eddie out of jealousy before he's gunned down by police.
  • Cymbeline: Imogen grew up as a princess. Her brothers, who were all kidnapped as babies, live off the land. Downplayed in that Imogen is a Princess in Rags early in the story as she runs away to escape her Wicked Stepmother.
  • In Il trovatore, di Luna is a wealthy count and his younger brother Manrico, having been kidnapped as a baby, is a poor troubadour.
  • In Jenufa, the results of such an upbringing have extremely negative consequences for both siblings. Steva is a spoiled, selfish Born Lucky playboy, heir to the Buryja mill. His stepbrother Laca has been The Un-Favourite of the family since childhood and is forced to work on said mill to earn his keep because Grandmother Buryja has pocketed Laca's inheritance; all of this leads to Laca growing into a bitter, resentful, and violent man.
  • King Lear: Bastard Bastard Edmund states that he is the "poor sibling" to the (true-born) Edgar's "rich sibling", although it gets ironically reversed when Edmund chases Edgar out of Gloucester's good graces by framing him.
  • The Pillowman: Katurian Katurian's adoring parents spoiled him while keeping his brother Michal locked up on the other side of his bedroom wall and torturing him. Exaggerated in that they specifically did this to encourage Katurian to write darker and darker stories.
  • In The Twelve Months, the main character is kept on bread and water, given rags to wear and forced to do all the hardest chores by a Wicked Stepmother, while her stepsister is pampered and constantly given the best food and clothes. In the finale, the tables are completely turned: the main character gets rich gifts from the Twelve Months and becomes the sole mistress of her household, as her stepmother and stepsister are turned into guard dogs.

    Video Games 
  • DmC: Devil May Cry: After their mother's death and their father's imprisonment, Dante and Vergil were separated from each other. Vergil was adopted by a rich family while Dante ended up in an Orphanage of Fear and lives in a trailer as an adult.
  • The Yorigami Sisters from Touhou Project. The older sister Shion is a goddess of poverty, and thanks to her Power Incontinence is constantly surrounded by curses and bad luck. As such, she barely has any money. Meanwhile the younger sister Joon doesn't have Shion's problems, instead she has the power to expedite another person's financial consumption. Being the magical equivalent of a Gold Digger, she's living a rich and hedonist lifestyle. Their profiles point out that neither of them are actually rich, though, since Joon spends money as fast as she obtains them.

     Web Original 
  • Fluffy Pony: One common theme is bad mother fluffies, who have a litter of foals and consider one the best, who they spoil and who often ends up as evil as their mother, and one the worst, who they treat badly.

     Western Animation 
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers has the episode "Pound of the Baskervilles" in which the Rangers are blown into the Baskerville mansion during a storm. There, they discover that elder son and jerkass Howard Bask roams the house, while younger son Roger Bask is compelled to live in a servants' shanty, doing laundry for sustenance.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: Ed lives in the basement, and has the stairs taken away if he's grounded, keeping him out of the main house. Meanwhile, his younger sister Sarah lives in a room full of toys and fancy frilly things, and her go-to catchphrase to Ed is "I'm telling Mom!" So it's pretty clear who The Un-Favorite is.