In recent years there has been an increasing interest in the gifts of storytelling. Through the TED upheaval we have been familiarized with the powers of storytelling as a learning tool, as a way to connect with others, and as a healing tool.
The healing aspect of storytelling is usually emphasized through the art of sharing stories, rarely do we hear about the healing and creative potential of story listening. This is particularly true of fairytale-style stories, who by their very format, tap into collective and often unconscious rules and cycles of our time.
This potential is unleashed when we approach these stories as “Snow White” mirrors that come to life as the right question is asked. As an example lets use Ratatouille (2007), a tale about Remy a young rat with ambitious culinary skills. In itself, the story is lighthearted and warm, telling of new beginnings and growth through friendship. Yet through an different lens it speaks of the archetypal succession needed to become an authentic entrepreneur.
The story centers around 4 archetypes: the child, the archetypal male, the archetypal female, and Willing Sacrifice. Each prominent character has exiled one of this archetypes and thus has lived an incomplete life, one cut off from creative potential and consequently incapable of bearing the personal and collective transformation that marks a true entrepreneur.
Remy: The main character, it is Remy´s alchemical decision to follow the yearning of his child self (his love of food) into the feminine realm of creative expression (food preparation) that unleashes a series of events that will allow each character to reclaim their individual wholeness.
Child Archetype: Although this character is not embodied by any one character, it is portrayed at the beginning of the story by its taking place in the country side, representative of the innocence and child-like state of Remy´s creative potential. Here Remy conjures his culinary experiments away from the stern gaze of his militant father (the colony leader) yet is afforded comfort and protection of the colony. This is necessary stage for all entrepreneurial dreams, yet often it is breaking out of this stage that is the most difficult.
Skinner: This character represents the shadow aspect of the child, refusing to abandon the security of Gusteau´s legacy he becomes greedy, tyrannizing, paranoid and wary of change and creativity. He lives in a constant state of fear that finally causes him to lose his place int he Gusteau´s group. This dark child lives in the entrepreneurs who lose sight of the soul of their projects, who stop learning, risking and contributing; yet it is a stage that invites us to release the parts of ourselves and our projects that no longer serve us (Willing Sacrifice).
Remy´s dad: the head of the colony. Although this figure gets limited character development it portrays the patriarchal archetype. His emphasis on safety, the good of the colony, efficiency and upholding traditions are in agreement with values that are esteemed in a masculine society, and it is also what Remy is expected to become. In fact many of the challenges that Remy will face deal with shaking off the shadow cast to him by this patriarchal figure, and yet we can also deduce that Remy´s tenacity, discipline and sense of duty stem from the same root.
This patriarchal struggle is also evident in the conspicuous lack of female characters in the movie. Ironically, Remy first becomes an outcast due to his love of aesthetic, creative and nourishing experiences, all traditionally female qualities. This love is mainly expressed in food preparation… also a stereotypical female realm. Arguably Remy´s epic story reflects his path towards reclaiming his female energy, thus eventually reinstating balance in the masculine colony.
Ironically this epic path also reflects the entrepreneurial constant journey between the action-oriented male requirements and the creative, personal, flexible female qualities of entrepreneurship.
Auguste Gusteau: The source of inspiration for Remy´s love of cooking, he later appears as a figment of imagination in Remy´s mind. This figure acts the part of the trickster, poking Remy´s courage and curiosity to test new waters, offering enticing advice at the right time yet disappearing when things unfold which allows Remy to grow his own strength.
Alfredo Linguini: A caring, playful boyish figure, who lives a restricted life and is often confused and frustrated. Linguini represents the perils of rejecting male strength, in his case brought by the absence of a father figure. While Remy´s dad shows the dangers of embracing a solely masculine persona, Linguini portrays the wounded male who can feel his own creative potential yet lacks the direction and discipline to bring it to fruition. Through his child-like admiration he is able to climb the defenses of Colette (his chef teacher) and with his caring nature he is able to forge a relationship with Remy. Towards the end of the movie, when Ego is awaiting his meal at Gusteau´s, we see him make his first leap towards embracing his strengths as he finds a way to use his skating skills to ensure the clients are served and the front runs efficiently.
Anton Ego: An uncharitable and grim food critic. Ego first represents a force of adversity that challenges Gusteau´s restaurant, Linguini´s creations and, as Remy is revealed as the cook, their culinary future. As a figure Ego is disconnected from his child self which has caused him to lose his joy and with it his capacity to connect with others as well as with their creations.
The turning point for Ego is when Remy´s Ratatouille dish succeeds in reconnecting him with that disowned self, he changes from a closed heart critic to an ally who puts his power and career on the line to defend the vitality of Remy´s creation. Hence incarnating the figure of Willing Sacrifice. Along with his career he sacrifices/releases his pain and at the end we see him being able to enjoy food, jokes and anticipating the surprise of Remy´s talent. All marks of a healthy connection to his child self.
Through the stages of child idealism, female creativity, male perseverance, change/sacrifice and completion (unity). All entrepreneurs most follow the symbolic steps of Ratatouille: outsmarting their personal “Skinners” (fears), finding their “Colettes” (allies), and winning over their “Egos” (adversaries) to achieve the expression of their dreams and of their authentic selves.
Though it might take many shapes and forms there are few things that can create ripples of change as profoundly as birthing a project that gives voice to who we really are and the world we want to be, so to all of you who are in this path… congrats and good journey!
“It is not for the faint of heart. You must be imaginative and strong hearted. You must try things that may not work. You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul.”
~ Disney’s Ratatouille