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Deadly Powers: Animal Predators and the Mythic Imagination Hardcover – November 7, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 325 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (November 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616145013
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616145019
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #275,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Paul Trout advances a scintillating theory for the origins of storytelling, mythmaking, and ultimately, of modern folklore, fiction, and, yes, religion. We humans narrate our lives in these ways for the same reason we are afraid of the dark: it is full of predators (or the hardwired memory of predators) that would like to eat us. Replete with evidence from the natural world, the world of myth, and the work of evolutionary and cognitive science, Deadly Powers is variously provocative, smart, unsettling, and fun."
—Todd Tremlin, Author of Minds and Gods: The Cognitive Foundations of Religion

"Cave bears, saber-tooth cats, giant raptors, tigers, serpents, crocodiles: early humans lived in constant fear of being devoured by these powerful predators. Over the millennia, as we evolved from prey to hunters, the ancient dread and awe of predators remained embedded in myths about bloodthirsty creatures, as monsters, gods, benefactors, and models. Paul Trout’s deeply researched and compelling Deadly Powers reveals the visceral impact and survival of the primal human fear of dying by carnivore. A wonderful book!"
—Adrienne Mayor, Author of The First Fossil Hunters and Fossil Legends of the First Americans

"Rather than being on the top of the food chain, we humans have been mainly a prey species throughout most of our evolution. In this extremely well-written and entertaining book, Paul Trout shows us how predators have shaped our psychology in such a way that many of our cultural myths and the stories we tell have been shaped by the predators that stalked our early ancestors."
—Robert W. Sussman, Department of Anthropology, Washington University

". . . well-written, well-researched, and highly informative about the grisly predators that stalked us in our early days. Trout’s major contention is that scholarly works in this area have tended to underestimate the importance of radical fear ‘in the beginning’ and the myths that have sought to make it intelligible. Tender-minded readers may find parts of this book distressing, and that is certainly the author’s intention: you need a strong stomach to think about Day One."
—Dudley Young, Author of the Pulitzer-nominated Origins of the Sacred

"Trout has written an interesting and original exploration of our early history with predatory animals and our modern obsession with violence in the media. . . ."
—Merlin Donald, Professor emeritus, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, and author of Origins of the Modern Mind

About the Author

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.

More About the Author

Paul A. Trout (Bozeman, MT), now retired, was an associate professor of English at Montana State University 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.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on October 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
What was it like for our ancestors to dread the attack of terrible predators from land, sea, and sky? Huge birds of prey, giant crocodiles, maneating tigers and lions, voracious cave bears, all inspired tales of horror and imagery of monstrous creatures. This provocative book shows in vivid and gory details how human fears and ancient attempts to appease deadly animals much higher on the food chain led to exciting myths about monsters all around the world. The writing style is excellent and the illustrations are great (wish they could have been in color). Trout has really done some impressive research too. Highly recommend for anyone interested in mythology, animal - human interactions, anthropology, and early human storytelling.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E. Lee Zimmerman on December 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I've never been one to believe in evolution. Now, before you tune me off, just hear me out for a moment. I've never believed much in it because I've never truly understood how man - as a modern creature - couldn't psychologically have grown from, say, some earlier creature. Sure, I've seen the popularized picture - the ape to the upright man - but I've never grasped how the human mind - arguably the greatest instrument toward reason that we know of in the universe - could possibly be ignorant of where it came from. I've read enough to know that there's still the possibility of a `missing link' in the established evolutionary chain; still, fully understanding where the human brain and the powers of cognition figured into the whole equation was always a bit nebulous to me.

(As I've already established in other reviews, I'm no science nerd.)

It is precisely because of my unique place in the universe that I found myself immeasurably fascinated with Paul A. Trout's DEADLY POWERS: ANIMAL PREDATORS AND THE MYTHIC IMAGINATION.

I've always been fascinated with myths. Creation myths. Roman myths. Greek myths. Indian myths. Various tribal myths. I think that's because I've always believed that - trapped somewhere deep within a rationed and reasoned exploration of man's earliest stories - there has remain hidden slivers of reality. Once we can crack open this last crystal of secret knowledge, we can fully examine the pieces in order to unlock a truer understanding of where we began - as a people. I think Mr.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By aron row on January 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Travel back to pleistocene times, 2 million to 10,000 years ago, and view the food chain of that period. Populated by beasts more ferocious than imagination allows, picture sabertooth tigers, gigantic killer cats, serpents eighty feet long, and many more on land. The sea housed a sampling of crocodiles, alligators, sharks, snakes; while in the air giant raptors similar to those viewed in the film ‘Jurassic Park’ held reign. Primates and man were emerging and were easy fodder for these voracious predators. In this riveting account, Paul Trout traces the evolution of man as vulnerable victim to skillful hunter as survival from these ferocious feeders demanded. Not only were weapons essential to escape extinction, but the fear factor transformed the incessant anxiety into coping mechanisms that developed into mythological tales. The dramatic myths began with the origin of language and were verbal lessons recounting tales of the prevailing monsters. Many of these fearful creatures were deemed so powerful, they were made into gods. The book is a page-turner, and will appeal to those fascinated by the story of man as prey to the most spine chilling carnivores that actually ruled the earth earlier on.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Evelina on January 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The author’s idea is that a main element in forming human culture was the fear of being eaten. For thousands of years humans were prey for other animals. The fear played a significant role in the evolution of stories, myths, legends, and religious beliefs, which can be traced to our fear of predators who regarded us as meat, according to this entertaining and enlightening work. The pleistocene era was a reign of terror for us humans. The author believes that it must have been common to see human remains being eaten in trees, to witness people being dragged away screaming or being ripped open by claws.

The author categorizes the various beasts that hunted us: from the land, cats, hyenas, wolves, dogs, bears; from the water, giant snakes, crocodiles, alligators, lizards, giant barracuda; from the sky, condors and other flying creatures. These creatures or their ancestors used to be much bigger. Today they are much reduced in size.

People living in Asia and Africa are still threatened. Every year, hundreds or thousands fall prey to tigers, hyenas, alligators, etc. (and chimpanzees, as I saw in a TV documentary, which go after small children, sometimes snatching them from their mothers’ arms).

We still fear things based on our ancestral memory of the staring eye affixed on us by the hunter, the mouth stretched to show teeth, the claws grasping for us. We feared the night as many animals were night hunters; they could see better than we could at night.

How did we respond?
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