Deadly Powers by Paul A. Trout
Animal Predators and the Mythic Imagination

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In this illuminating and evocative exploration of the origin and function of storytelling, the author goes beyond the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell, arguing that mythmaking evolved as a cultural survival strategy for coping with the constant fear of being killed and eaten by predators. Beginning nearly two million years ago in the Pleistocene era, the first stories, Trout argues, functioned as alarm calls, warning fellow group members about the carnivores lurking in the surroundings. At the earliest period, before the development of language, these rudimentary "stories" would have been acted out. When language appeared with the evolution of the ancestral human brain, stories were recited, memorized, and much later written down as the often bone-chilling myths that have survived to this day.

This book takes the reader through the landscape of world mythology to show how our more recent ancestors created myths that portrayed animal predators in four basic ways: as monsters, as gods, as benefactors, and as role models. Each incarnation is a variation of the fear-management technique that enabled early humans not only to survive but to overcome their potentially incapacitating fear of predators. In the final chapter, Trout explores the ways in which our visceral fear of predators is played out in the movies, where both animal and human predators serve to probe and revitalize our capacity to detect and survive danger.

Anyone with an interest in mythology, archaeology, folk tales, and the origins of contemporary storytelling will find this book an exciting and provocative exploration into the natural and psychological forces that shaped human culture and gave rise to storytelling and mythmaking.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Paul A. Trout

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Paul A. Trout, professor emeritus at Montana State University, taught English for thirty-eight years. He has published widely on cultural and academic issues, and his articles have appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, Commonweal, the Christian Science Monitor, and other publications.
Published November 15, 2011 by Prometheus Books. 325 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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A former associate professor of English at Montana State University, Trout travels two million years into the past to a time when humankind's ancestors were prey, and returns with a provocative theory: our prehistoric ancestors turned to mythmaking as a survival strategy in the face of the consta...

Jul 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Deadly Powers: Animal Predato...

Portland Book Review

I bet you will find something that will interest you 5 stars for a cleverly devised mystery set in PDX a must read for the tween reader in your family It is interesting the power that predators have over the human imagination.

Jul 24 2012 | Read Full Review of Deadly Powers: Animal Predato...

Monsters and Critics

Foreword by Barbara EhrenreichAuthor of Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War,and Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.Devouring lions, giant bears, sharp-taloned birds of prey, deadly snakes, and snapping alligators-these and other animal predators in search of huma...

Jan 17 2012 | Read Full Review of Deadly Powers: Animal Predato...

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