YMMV / Earth's Children

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Is Jondalar really just someone that needed to find the "right" person to handle his "deep" emotions, as well as maybe maturing a little more than he did while flint-knapping with his father? Or is he a jealous, controlling, possessive, emotionally unstable man-child who could only find a lasting relationship with someone who has been programmed from childhood to subsume her own wants and needs to those of a man?
      • His most satisfying relationships have been: Zolena (the woman who taught him how to have sex), girls during their First Rites ceremonies (newly-pubescent girls who are culturally programmed to look at him as a special one-night-stand) and Ayla (who was taught that her own sexual needs were not important and that she should open her legs whenever a guy wants to screw her).
      • Whenever Ayla does anything that really asserts her independence, he goes positively ape-shit on her. It starts in Valley of the Horses when she stays out later than he thought she ought to be one night and just escalates to insane proportions during Mammoth Hunters. It doesn't really go away in Plains of Passage or Shelters of Stone, though it tones down a little because Ayla is more dependent upon him while they're traveling in areas she's unfamiliar with and once they arrive at his cave and she has to learn the ropes of Zelandonii life. But in Land of Painted Caves, Jondalar actually screws around with his former fiancée Marona because Ayla devotes more time to her zelandonia training than she does to him. Somehow, though, his affair is less objectionable than Ayla being practically date-raped by Laramar.
      • Before Jondalar met her, Ayla traveled alone from Clan territory on the peninsula to a secluded valley on the steppes. She was emotionally devastated from the loss of her adoptive family and son, and yet she not only managed to successfully keep herself alive during that journey, but she also scouted a place to live, hunted and gathered and worked hard enough to create and store everything she would need to survive a winter, fended off predators, discovered a new way to make fire, raised a filly and a lion cub to fully grown healthy animals that responded to her commands, and then Saved. Jondalar's. Life. All on her own with no help from anyone, based on nothing more than the skills she learned from the Clan and her own wits. And yet, Jondalar treats her like she's an idiot child who can't do anything on her own or she'll get killed. Fear for her safety is a pretty paltry justification for ignoring her abilities to that extent, and he does it more than once.
      • The very idea that Ayla might want to have sex with someone other than him, let alone might want to have a relationship with someone who sees her for who she is and loves her because of it, not in spite of it as Jondalar seems to, sends him into a BSOD. At the point in Mammoth Hunters when Ayla and Ranec get engaged, Nezzie (the male camp leader's wife) actually wonders whether or not Jondalar's just going to go out and drown himself in the nearby river. Strangled by the Red String? Or just unable to accept the idea that Ayla might decide, upon discovering that he's not the only man in the world, that he's really not all that and a bag of chips?
      • To be fair, Jondalar is actually a teenager for most of the series. He's stated to be around sixteen when he starts out on his journey in The Valley of Horses, meaning he's around eighteen when he first meets Ayla. Therefore, could his emotional outbursts be partly explained by hormones and a still-developing brain?
    • The nature of Ranec and Ayla's relationship, specifically in regards to Ranec. He is far more accepting of Ayla initially, but is that because he just overlooks or ignores her flaws? He repeatedly refers to her as "perfect", compares her to his people's goddess and believes she can do no wrong. He's known Ayla for even less time than Jondalar and immediately decides he's in love with her. He never seems to notice how unhappy and reluctant Ayla is about the whole situation, even though everyone else finds it obvious. Thus, begging the question: is Ranec actually in love with Ayla, or is he more in love with the ''idea'' of her and overlooks the flaws in their relationship so as not to lose her?
      • There's also some issues surrounding consent in their relationship. Whilst it didn't seem to be Ranec's intention to take advantage of her, Ayla seems to think (due to her Clan training) the first time that Ranec propositions her that she has to go with. Whilst she may find Ranec attractive, she does seem to feel obligated to sleep with him anyway at his request, with Mamut even reminding her at one point that she can actually say no if she wants to.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Arguably Jondalar. Is he a Jerkass Man Child who is undeserving of Ayla, or a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who genuinely loves Ayla and tries to become a better person for her in spite of his flaws?
    • Ayla herself. Is she a boring Mary Sue, or a well-developed, strong female character?
  • Broken Base: Aside from the Base-Breaking Characters mentioned above, fans tend to be divided over the later books. Some completely ignore everything after book four due to Seasonal Rot, whilst others still enjoy them even if the quality has dipped in comparison to earlier entries. Then there's the issue with Durc. Some fans hated that his story was never properly concluded, seeing as he was set up as a kind of Chosen One for the Clan. Others actually think this was appropriate, as the series follows Ayla's story, not her son's, and it's made explicitly clear that Ayla and Durc's paths diverged forever when she was banished. The only things readers generally agree on is that the first book is the best and that, regardless of the plot, the sheer amount of research into the Ice Age down to meticulous details is impressive in and of itself.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: When Ayla stands up to Broud at the end of The Clan of the Cave Bear after he curses her with death and gives him this speech: "I'm not dead, Broud. I won't die. You can't make me die. You can make me go away, you can take my son from me, but you can't make me die!"
  • Crowning Moment of Heartwarming:
    • In The Mammoth Hunters, Ayla starts teaching Clan signs to the half-Clan child Rydag. He approaches Nezzie, the woman who raised him, and makes a sign at her. She asks ayla what it means and when Ayla explains Rydag called her "mother", she's reduced to tears of happiness.
    • In The Shelters of Stone, when Jondalar introduces Ayla to his family, they start asking questions about her past. Ayla looks to Jondalar, as she knows that they may react poorly to finding out she was raised by the Clan and has a 'child of mixed spirits'. Jondalar merely smiles encouragingly at Ayla, showing he is no longer ashamed of her past and will support and stand by her no matter what others think.
    • In the first book, five year old Ayla making an effort to learn the Clan sign for 'mother' so she can make it to Iza, who is at first surprised, then moved by the action.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Many readers prefer to think the series ended with "Plains of Passage", book four. The fact that it took twelve years for the fifth book to be published and that Seasonal Rot kicked in pretty hard with that installment certainly contributes.
  • First Installment Wins: Even hardcore fans of the whole series agree on this.
  • Idiot Plot: The Mammoth Hunters, for some readers. It could be argued that half of the drama involving Ayla and Jondalar's relationship woes could've been solved fairly easily if Ayla and Jondalar had just...y'know, talked to each other like adults?
  • Moral Event Horizon: If he hadn't already crossed it, Broud does in the middle of The Clan of the Cave Bear when he rapes Ayla.
  • Narm:
    • "HE'S MAKING MY BABY" sent the scene from disturbing to hysterical.
    • In The Plains of Passage, there's a scene where Ayla and Jondalar see a pair of mammoths mating and then get inspired by it to roleplay as mammoths themselves when they 'share Pleasures'.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • The rape scene in The Clan of the Cave Bear. As if it weren't bad enough that it's actually happens, it is largely told from Broud's viewpoint, leading the reader to realise just how depraved and sadistic he is. And then you remember this guy is going to be responsible for the entire clan someday. On top of all that, after the first incident, Broud rapes Ayla several more times. She actually mentions he waits for her to get up so he can attack her. Meanwhile, the whole clan, including Ayla's family, just stand by and do nothing even though they can see she's being hurt, because they believe it's Broud's right and don't understand what's wrong. Keep in mind that that this is being done to a ten/eleven year child.
    • When Jondalar and Thonolan are attacked by a woolly rhino in The Valley of Horses. Imagine being stuck in the middle of nowhere, with your severely wounded younger brother. No one knows where you are, as far as you know there are no other people nearby who can help, and you don’t have the knowledge and materials to treat him. And on top of that, the smell of blood could attract any wild animals lurking nearby and you’re basically defenceless.
    • Crossing the glacier, which forms the big climax of the fourth novel. Not only is it freezing, but it’s completely barren of food and water, the ice is so sharp it can cut horses’ hooves open, if you run out of supplies you’re screwed, it takes days to cross, there’s no shelter from the elements and climbing down it can be just as dangerous as going up. And as if that weren’t bad enough, there are hidden crevices everywhere, which can open up without warning or are basically invisible until you’re right in front of them. Falling down one is almost always a death sentence, and Ayla nearly does. She’s only saved because she manages to land on a narrow ledge and has Jondalar with her to pull her up. If she’d been alone, or broken a limb, she’d be screwed.
    • Ayla being Called by the Earth Mother. She goes on an insane drug trip and runs blindly into a series of caves, with no torches, food or appropriate clothing. After having coming back to her senses, she lost underground, cold, hungry and completely alone with little hope of finding her way out on her own…and, although she doesn’t realise it at the time, she’s suffering a miscarriage too.
    • The visions Ayla has whenever she takes the psychotropic mushrooms. Not only are they frightening and incoherent, but each time she under its effects, she comes comes close to...well, it's not made entirely clear what would happen, but most characters are under the impression that if she isn't brought back in time, her spirit would be lost inside some great dark 'void', the very prospect of which is terrifying.
  • Seasonal Rot: Many readers considered Shelters of Stone to be the weakest book of the series until The Land of Painted Caves was released and lowered the bar.
  • Sequelitis: Readers tend to think this started with The Valley Of Horses.
    • Arguably, the main problem is that, whilst the first book always had something going on, most of the action in the sequels (especially the last two books) is mainly relegated to beginning and end, meaning some readers can find getting through the entire book (which are very long) tedious. Some of the plots, such as The Mammoth Hunters and particularly The Shelters of Stone focus mostly on relationship drama and the like, and so come across as 'soap opera-y', which doesn't sit well with some readers.
  • Squick:
    • Some of the sex scenes have this effect on some of the readers.
    • The graphic description of Jondalar's injuries from the cave lion attack.
    • The Ayla's gruesome Screaming Birth in the first book, combined with Nightmare Fuel, as Ayla is only eleven at the time.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • The Downer Ending of The Clan of the Cave Bear, especially the part that has Creb walking back into the cave because he can't bear to watch Ayla being cursed with death and Ayla finding him dead beside his sister's grave after the earthquake..
    • Rydag's death in The Mammoth Hunters.
    • Thonolan and Jetamio's tragic love story.
    • The part towards the end of The Land of Painted Caves, where Ayla learns she had a miscarriage and then wishes the Mother would take away her psychic abilities and return her baby to her instead, is pretty gut-wrenching.
    • The part in The Valley of Horses, where Ayla creates a snow sculpture of Brun and pretends to talk to him, then sits cross-legged and waits for him to tap her on the shoulder to give her permission to speak. He doesn't of, course, because it's a sculpture, and after several minutes of waiting, Ayla realises this and has a break down, smashing the sculpture and raging against the heavens before collapsing in tears because she's completely alone.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: The subplot introduced in the fourth novel, where after meeting and rescuing Guban and Yorga, Ayla and Jondalar raise the possibility of trading with their clan. Jondalar actually brings it up with Willomar in the next book and he seems interested in the idea, which could’ve lead to some very interesting interactions between the Clan, the Zelandonii and Ayla. But…as of the sixth book, nothing seems to have come of it and Yorga and Guban are barely mentioned, even though several years have passed. It would arguably have added another exciting plot branch other than Ayla training to become a zelandoni and relationship drama, and it would’ve been nice to focus on the Clan again, as they haven’t been prominently featured since the first book, also bringing Ayla’s story 'full circle', in a manner of speaking.
  • Too Cool to Live: Creb, the Genius Cripple / Cool Old Guy shaman and Ayla's unofficial dad. Even though he's Killed Off for Real in the first book, he's so cool he keeps popping up in dreams and such in subsequent books.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/YMMV/EarthsChildren