Former Shows & Episodes

Word Patriots

Mark Seinfelt

Word Patriots – Paul Trout’s “Deadly Powers”

Devouring lions, ravenous bears, and deadly snakes — these and other animal predators in search of human flesh are a staple of ancient mythology, along with their mythic counterparts — dragons, griffins, gorgons and more. The message is clear: for millennia our ancient human ancestors lived in very real fear of very real predatory animals. Our ancestors reflected the dangerous reality of their daily existence in the many myths wherein the animal monster lurks. My guest this week is Paul Trout, author of “Deadly Powers: Animal Predators and the Mythic Imagination.” Paul is a now retired associate professor of English at Montana State University, where he taught 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. “Deadly Powers” is an illuminating and provocative exploration of the origin and function of storytelling. Trout argues that mythmaking evolved as a cultural survival strategy for coping with the constant fear of being killed and eaten by predators. Trout argues that, beginning nearly two million years ago in the Pleistocene era, the first human stories functioned as warnings about man-eating carnivores. At this earliest period, before the development of language, these rudimentary stories were acted out in mime. Later, when language appeared, the stories were recited, memorized, and much later written down as the myths that have survived to this day. Anyone with an interest in mythology, archeology, folk tales, and the origins of storytelling will find “Deadly Powers” a challenging exploration into the environmental and psychological forces that shaped human culture and, possibly, gave rise to storytelling and myth making itself. If you would like to know more about my books, please visit my website: Also be sure to take a look at the Amazon page for “Deadly Powers”: