The Dark Figures

First of these is that, more consistently than in any other type of plot the Rags to Riches story first introduces us to its hero or heroine in childhood, or at least at a very young age before they have ventured out on the stage of the world. As yet they are not fully formed, and we ware aware that in some that in some essential way the story is concerned with the process of growing up.

When we first see them in this initial state, it is always emphasized how the little hero or heroine are at the bottom of the heap, seemingly inferior to everyone around them. Often they are the youngest child and disregarded for being so. They thus begin in the shadows cast by more dominant figures around them, who not only can see no merit in them but are usually deeply antagonistic to them.

These ‘dark’ figures who overshadow the hero or heroine in the early stages of the story fall into two main categories. Firstly they may be some adult figures, often acting in the place of a parent, such as Cinderella’s wicked stepmother, who replaces her loving real mother; or David Copperfield’s cruel stepfather Mr Murdstone and his grim sister Miss Murdstone, who replace his real parents when they die; or Jane Eyre’s guardian Aunt Reed, and the fearsome Mr Brocklehurst who takes her away to an orphanage. Secondly there are those figures nearer to the hero or heroine in age and status: Cinderella’s vain, scornful stepsisters, Joseph’s hostile older brothers, who want to kill him; the Ugly Duckling’s fellow ducklings who, along with the other animals of the farmyard, jeer at him for his awkwardness and ugliness.

Whichever of these categories they fall into, these dark figures are always presented in the same light. In their scornful attitude to the hero or heroine, they are both hard-hearted and blind: they can neither feel for them nor perceive their true qualities. They are also, like Cinderella’s stepsisters, wholly self-centered: vain, puffed-up, short-tempered, deceitful, concerned only with furthering their own interests. Later in the story, other ‘dark’ figures may emerge to stand between the hero or heroine and their ultimate goal: as we see in David Copperfield’s rival for the hand of Agnes, the treacherous Uriah Heep; or in Jane Eyre’s egrerious suitor St John Rivers. But these characters are typified by precisely the same negative qualities; they are defined by their egocentricity, their blinkered vision, their incapacity for true, selfless love.

What we see in the ‘dark’ figures of Rags to Riches stories is thus a combination of characteristics already familiar from our first plot, Overcoming the Monster. Psychologically, they share the same essential attributes as the monder. And against this we see the hero or the heroine themselves set in complete contrast. The hero or heroine begin the story largely unformed, in the shadows cast by the more dominant figures around them. But it is central to the story, as they gradually emerge from these shadows toward the light, that the hero or heroine are not marked by these same hard, self-centred characteristics. We always see them as a positive against the overshadowing negative: and in this sense, as the story unfolds, they do not change their essential character. All that happens is that they develop or reveal qualities which have been in them, at least potentially, all the time: to the point where, by the end of the story, two things have happened.

Firstly, all the dark figures have either been discomfited or have just faded away. And secondly, the hero or heroine have at last emerged fully into the light, so that everyone can at last recognize how exceptional they are. It is this which has essentially been happening in the story, and the fact that their material circumstances may also have gone through such a transformation – e.g., that they have exchanged their original poverty and rags for riches and fine clothes – is only an outward reflection of what has inwardly happened to them, lending it dramatic emphasis.

Even in the simplest folk-tale versions of the Rags to Riches plot, we can see how carefully this point is brought out. By the end of the story, no one ever doubts that the originally derided and humble little hero or heroine should be worthy of their final glorious destiny, however improbable it might have seemed from their circumstances at the beginning that they have already revealed along the way qualities which show their true inner worth. When Cinderella goes to the ball and meets her Prince for the first time, it is not just the magnificent clothes in which she has been dressed by her fairy godmother which catch every eye; it is her innate beauty and obvious sweetness of nature, which fine clothes have only helped to ‘bring out’ (it is a telling detail at the end that when the Prince finally sees  her in her rags, he at once recognizes her as the girl he loves; she does not need external trappings to be seen as beautiful in the eyes of the right person).  Similarly, when Aladdin is decked out by the genie of the lamp in all sorts of splendor for his wedding to the Princess, the formerly scorned little urchin win all hearts by his generosity and noble bearing, and astonishes his prospective father-in-law the Sultan by his ‘eloquence and cultured speech’,  his ‘gallantry and wit’.

Yet obviously these dazzling young heroes and heroines are not exactly the same people that we saw, unhappy, confused and rejected, in the earlier scenes of their stories. What has happened to them is that they have at last revealed or developed what was potentially in them all the time. They have matured. They have grown up. They have fully realised everything that was in them to become. In het best and highest sense, they have become themselves.

An example of a Rags to Rigs story which makes this point particularly clearly  – because, stripped down to this essence, the story consists of very little else – is Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling. Being a duckling, the hero can hardly make the journey from literal rags to literal riches. But he is certainly looked down on by everyone at the beginning, and almost our entire interest in the tale centers round the contrast between that long initial period of misery and confusion when he suffers because he does not know who he really is, and that final moment of joyful self-realization when he flowers into his true self as a beautiful swan.

In the majority of Rags to Riches tales, however, the joy and perfection of the central figure’s final state are also expressed by those two other ingredients which equally have nothing to do with literal riches, but which are so fundamental to the world’s storytelling that they are almost synonymous with our notion of a ‘happy ending’.

The first is that, somewhere along the way the hero should have met the girl of his dreams, a beautiful maiden or ‘Princess’. The heroine has met her handsome ‘Prince’. Nothing more profoundly conveys our sense of resolution at the end of the story that they should be united ,two lovers brought together in perfect love.

The second is that the hero, or the newly united pair, should then succeed to some kind of kingdom, inheritance or domain, over which they can rule. There we can leave them, with the sense that, after a long period when it seems that dark forces and uncertainty ruled the day, everything has at last been brought or restored to where it should be. We may at this point be told that ‘they lived happily ever after’ and we do not necessarily need to know anything more about them: because we have reached that mysterious central goal in storytelling, where everything seems to be perfect and complete.

What Can I Expect?

Here’s an outline of “The Seven Stories of Your Life itinerary.

Journey Outline


The Dark Power: From Shadow into Light


  • 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


  • The Ego Takes Over
  • Losing Your Plot
  • Going Nowhere
  • Why Sex and Violence?
  • Rebellion Against ‘The One’
  • The Mystery


  • 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.


  • tickYou are a creative professional who is interested in developing yourself and your creative business.
  • tickYou 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.
  • tickYou want to learn more about how to tell yourself a more powerful story, learn about blind spots, and get feedback.
  • tickYou are curious and want to engage in an interactive learning journey with Peter de Kuster.
  • tickYou 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).


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)



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.

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Sessions will take place travelling with Peter a world city like Paris, Rome, Florence, Barcelona, Amsterdam, London, Antwerp, Venice, New York, Berlin, Madrid.

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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.