At first sight it might seem that the process whereby the hero or heroine of a Rags to Riches story eventually reaches this goal is fairly simple. But the more systematically we examine such stories, the more we may be struck by the way the hero or heroine’s emergence from the shadows is rarely presented as a simple, unbroken climb. In fact there is usually a particular moment in the story when, after an initial improvement in the hero’s or heroine’s fortunes (sometimes so great that it might in itself seem the cue for a happy ending), they suddenly hit a new point of crisis, when all hopes of a happy ending seem to have been snatched away forever.
A central moment of crisis and despair is in fact so natural to the pattern of the Rags to Riches story that there are few examples where in some form or another it does not appear. Even in the Ugly Duckling there is no moment when the hero’s spirits are at a lower ebb than after his first glimpse of the ‘kingly’ swans: a prevision of the unthinkable glories life might hold. But then the swans disappear, leaving the duckling alone to face the hardships of a long, terrible winter. He has never been so cold, short of food or miserable. It is only when he has been through this last greatest ordeal that at last spring arrives, bringing with it the miraculous moment of his transformation into a ‘kingly’ swan himself, ‘the most beautiful of them all’.
Similarly in Cinderella, there is no moment when everything seems more hopeless for the heroine than after her third visit to the ball. Three times she has left her rags and ashes to dance with the Prince, winning universal admiration and catching a glimpse of the unthinkable happiness life might hold for her. Now, as she returns to her miserable, imprisoned life as a maid-of-all-work, with no prospect of ever seeing the Prince again, all seems blacker than ever. But of course, in her headlong flight from the palace on the third visit, she has left behind her dainty slipper; and, quite unknown to her, the Prince has found it, and sent out far and wide across the kingdom to see whose foot the slipper will fit. As with Arthur and the sword in the stone, the trying on of the slipper is a version of that motif familiar from many of the world’s myths, legends and folk tales, ‘the test which only the true hero, or heroine, can pass.’ Cinderella comes through her ordeal triumphantly. The Prince at once recognises her in her rags, and they proceed to the traditional happy ending.
In each of these examples we see the same essential structure to the story, as it falles into two distinct stages, separated in the middle by the central crisis. First there is the initial rise in the hero’s or heroine’s fortunes, as they are taken out of their original state of helpless misery and may have a glimpse of the glorious state they might one day attain Then comes the terrible crisis, when all seems lost again. Then comes the second half of the story, which shows them being prepared unwittingly for their final reversal of fortune, their final emergence into the light and the glorious state of completeness at which they arrive at the end.
We can already see this pattern at work in by far the earliest example of a Rags to Riches story of which we have record, the story of Joseph from the biblical book of Genesis When young Joseph’s jealous brothers, after first planning to leave him to die in the desert, then sell him into slavery in Egypt, he eventually rises to rule as an overseer over the household of Potiphar, the captain of the king’s guard. This is an important position, and considering Joseph’s earlier plight, when he faced death in the desert, it might seem like a miraculous happy ending to the story. But just then Joseph is falsely accused by Potiphar’s temptress wife of attempting to seduce her. He is thrown into prison and his life seems irrevocably in ruins. Only after a long time of utter despair is Joseph’s talent for interpreting dreams (the very thing for which he had nearly been murdered by his brothers) quite unexpectedly brought to the attention of Pharoah himself. Through this he is eventually raised up to infinitely greater heights as chief minister, the second most powerful man in the kingdom. But even then, as Joseph enjoys his position of immense wealth and splendor, there is a crucial piece of unfinished business remaining before the story can come to a completely happy conclusion: Joseph’s rift with his brothers. As famine stalks the land of Israel, they come to Egypt pleading with this mighty, powerful figure to be given enough corn to survive. At first Joseph rejects them, until he is so moved by the sight of his youngest brother, ‘little Benjamin’, who had not been party to his earlier persecution, and by the thought of his aged father Jacob starving back in Israel, that he relents. He gives them the food they need. Only when he has passed this final test, and been reunited with his family in a state of love and forgiveness, can the story end on an image of complete resolution.
Equally it is by no means just in the older and more traditional forms of the Rags of Riches tale that we see this pattern of the story’s division into two ‘halves’ interrupted by a ‘central crisis’. We are just as likely to find it in versions as far removed from the world of the traditional folk tale or biblical legend as could be imagined.
What Can I Expect?
Here’s an outline of “The Seven Stories of Your Life itinerary.
PART I THE SEVEN GREAT STORIES OF YOUR LIFE
- Why Do We Need Stories?
- The Basic Stories
- Once Upon A Time
- Overcoming the Monster
- The Essence of the Monster
- The Purpose of the Monster
- Not Completely Human
- The Thrilling Escape from Death
- Rags to Riches
- The Dark Figures
- The Central Crisis
- The Dark Version
- Rags to Riches: Summing Up
- The Quest
- The Call to Adventure
- The Hero’s Companions
- The Journey
- The Trials
- Visit to the Underworld
- The Helpers
- Voyage and Return
The Dark Power: From Shadow into Light
PART II THE COMPLETE HAPPY ENDING
- The Twelve Dark Characters
- In the Zone
- The Perfect Balance
- The Unrealized Value
- The Drama
- The Twelve Light Characters
- Reaching the Goal
- The Fatal Flaw
PART III MISSING THE MARK
- The Ego Takes Over
- Losing Your Plot
- Going Nowhere
- Why Sex and Violence?
- Rebellion Against ‘The One’
- The Mystery
PART IV WHY WE TELL STORIES
- Telling Us Who We Are: Ego versus Instinct
- Into the Real World: What Legend are You Living?
- Of Gods and Men: Finding Your Authentic Story
- The Age of Loki: The Dismantling of the Self
Epilogue: What is Your Story?
About Peter de Kuster
Peter de Kuster is the founder of The Heroine’ s Journey & The Hero’s Journey
Peter is founder of the Heroine’s Journey and Hero’s Journey project where worldwide thousands of professionals shared their story of making money doing what you love. He wrote 50+ books. Peter has an MBA in Marketing, MBA in Financial Economics and graduated at university in Sociology and Communication Sciences.
IS THE HERO’S JOURNEY FOR YOU?
- You are a creative professional who is interested in developing yourself and your creative business.
- You are aware that there are no quick fixes. Learning is a journey that works when you are fully committed to it. A guide like Peter de Kuster can bring awareness and help you navigate, but in the end it’s you who is in charge of your growth.
- You want to learn more about how to tell yourself a more powerful story, learn about blind spots, and get feedback.
- You are curious and want to engage in an interactive learning journey with Peter de Kuster.
- You are motivated to work in-between journeys on yourself (e.g. working on questions that will help you develop new storytelling, mindsets, skills, and behaviors).
WHAT’S YOUR QUEST-ION?
The Hero’s Journey is all about your development. To make the most out of your journey with Peter, we ask you to prepare topics to work on with him. These topics can serve as a starting point for further in-depth exploration.
One Hour Virtual Coaching for Euro 150 (excluding VAT)
One Day Journey for EUR 1,200 (excl. VAT)
Two Day Journey for EUR 2,150 (excl. VAT)
Three Day Journey for EUR 2,950 (excl. VAT)
BOOK THE HERO’S JOURNEY
Who can sign up for The Hero’s Journey?
Creative professionals who wish to improve their storytelling, mindset(s) and develop their leadership skills.
What language do we speak in the journey?
Can I bring my own topics?
Yes, you get to choose your own topic.
Are journeys confidential?
Yes. Peter will not share anything that is discussed in the journey.
Where will the journeys take place?
Sessions will take place travelling with Peter a world city like Paris, Rome, Florence, Barcelona, Amsterdam, London, Antwerp, Venice, New York, Berlin, Madrid.
How do I sign up?
Send Peter an email to email@example.com
How do I pay?
After you booked The Hero’s Journey by sending an email to Peter you will receive an email with info how to pay.
How do I book and reschedule a journey?
Once we’ve received your payment, our Program Coordinator will book your journey. She will also support you with rescheduling journeys if needed.
What is your cancellation policy?
Individual journeys can be postponed up to one week before the journey.