The Hero Journey in Paris: How and Why We Live Stories

We start this story at the Musée Rodin where powerful stories reside.

We are storytelling creatures. Listen to people talking in a restaurant, at the water cooler, or at a party, and you will quickly find that the majority of what they say is in the form of stories. We connect by telling each other stories. We can better understand ourselves by recognizing and exploring our life narratives. Your life story is the tale that you repeatedly tell yourself about who you are, what you want, what you can and cannot do.

Before the second year of life, we are sensitive to the tone of stories lived around us, and we have already begun collecting thousands of images that resonate emotionally with us in some important way. At first the plots are inconsistent and illogical – much as our dreams contine to be. By elementary school, we follow particular rules about the beginning, middle and ending of stories, so they begin to make sense. By adolescence, we tell ourselves consistent stories about our lives that define who we are, how we come to be that way, and where we are headed. We see events that we can recount as vignettes of our central life narratives.

Although there are as many variations of life stories as there are individuals, people tend to create narratives according to a finite number of templates. In The Hero Journey: the Seven Stories of Your Life I make a compelling case based on a great stories in literature for seven types of stories (e.g. the quest, overcoming the monster, comedy, etcera). Others have identified fifteen or even thirty-two narrative types. The point is that while we may argue whether some story types are really variants on other types, there are a very small number of general narrative forms in world literature.

In the first part of the twentieth century, the psychiatrist Carl Jung recognized the universality of characters and situations. Just as there are certain musical tones that sound resonant across cultures, there are similarly a universal set of roles, situations and themes that are recognizable by everyone. These universl templates are called archetypes, which is derived from the Greek archetyps, meaning molded first as a model. Jung and may after him, saw that these stories which recur in literature and art are the same narratives we as humans live. For example, we all recognize the love story whether we encounter it in a movie, an opera, or a novel. And when we fall in love, we experience for ourselves what that story is about. When we are in a loving relationship, we not only learn major life lessons (in this case about intimacy, sensualitiy, pleasure and commitment). While each love is different, there is a deep pattern that transcends these differences. When we understand the stories and recognize their universality, we can connect with each other at deeper and more conscious levels, using the archetypal stories as the foundation.

This is why people talk about life journeys, even if they have never outwardly left the town where they grew up. People connect immeditately to a journey story from another culture, finding resonance with the characters and the form and the phases of the journey, even if the particular details are not familiar. Such stories influence people for good or ill. Archetypal stories can provide breakthroughs in insight and move people toward harmony and success, but such stories are equally able to tempt people toward less productive, even destructive behaviors. Either way, an understanding of the archetypal narrative can enhance insight or enable people to break free of destructive patterns.

The archetypal stories described in this Hero Journey in Paris are those associated with the hero journey model for the individuation process (the process of finding yourself and connecting to your depth and your full potential). They are named by the primary character in each story: Dreamer, Independent, Warrior, Caregiver, Discoverer, Lover, Rule Breaker, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Sage and Jester.

Next stop: Example of a Mythic (Archetypal) Story – Le Pere Goriot by Balzac

About Peter de Kuster

Peter de Kuster is the founder of The Hero’s Journey & Heroine’s Journey project,  a storyteller who helps creative professionals to create careers and lives based on whatever story is most integral to their lives and careers (values, traits, skills and experiences). Peter’s approach combines in-depth storytelling and marketing expertise, and for over 20 years clients have found it effective with a wide range of creative business issues.


Peter is writer of the series The Heroine’s Journey and Hero’s Journey books, he has an MBA in Marketing,  MBA in Financial Economics and graduated at university in Sociology and Communication Sciences.