To Save Humankind Kill Off the Hero’s Journey

Document Type


Date of Original Version



In Narratives of Human Evolution, Misia Landau revealed that late 19th and early 20th century fathers of human evolutionary theory, including Charles Darwin, unconsciously conformed their stories to the key structural elements of Russian folktales, as identified by Vladimir Propp. Dunsworth argues that the habit—within science, academia, and throughout popular culture—of projecting a hero’s journey onto lineages that blend and weave across deep time is fundamental to the perpetuation of sexist, patriarchal, and racist (all untrue) reconstructions of human origins and human nature, which we continue to enact to our peril and to the planet’s. In this presentation, Dunsworth will break down the hero’s journey into its parts and compare them to the facts we can glean from the rocks and the old bones. In the end, the hero’s journey does not triumph.

This presentation is based on a chapter in Dunsworth’s book that she is writing under contract for Viking/Penguin (2025).

This document is currently not available here.